Sunday, March 30, 2008

One Step Removed

Another title for this writing might be "How can a black person trust white people, ever?" What follows are my thoughts about the statement by Obama's pastor that the U.S. government has deliberately infected blacks with AIDS. The genesis for this contention by Reverend Wright is the Tuskegee experiment. In that experiment the federal researchers refused to treat a group of black men who already had syphilis, long after a cure had been found. Instead, these men were treated like laboratory animals as researchers studied the course of the untreated disease over decades. While it is true that the government did not literally infect black men with syphilis, it is appropriate to suggest that a medical doctor who takes the Hippocratic oath, in effect, does deliberately kill black people if that doctor deliberately withholds a known cure from this group of men under the guise of advancing the state of knowledge about the disease.

People are now outraged about Rev. Wright's invocation of the Tuskegee experiment as the basis for his statement about AIDS. Commentators see it as an unfair connection, not because the experiment was morally wrong, but because it is being cited as a study whereby the U.S. deliberately caused syphilis in the Tuskegee men. In the Huffington Post, the following conclusion appears: "To invoke the Tuskegee experiment to suggest that the government invented AIDS to kill black people, as Rev. Wright did... that dishonors the truth. There is no excuse for it. It must stop." I see this as a distinction without a difference. It is the net result that counts. A man dying from syphilis after forty or more years of the deliberate withholding of treatment dies from a disease that is "caused" by the people who withheld treatment.

The point is this; It is not far fetched to suggest that a disease now raging through the inner city black communities has been caused by federal authorities when the conditions for this epidemic are similar in kind to the immoral neglect of the Tuskegee men. Whether acquired by infected needles or sexual activity, the disease is running rampant. It is not a stretch to suggest that the inability of uninsured inner city blacks to get proper treatment for AIDS is exactly analogous to Tuskegee. To white people reading this, ask yourself one question; If an epidemic occurred in your suburban community among people of your skin color, would you not blame federal authorities if they withheld proper treatment for you or your loved ones for "causing" this situation to exist. I suspect I know the answer. As a quantum leap, I also think it would be unfair to decide who the next president of the United States will be on a gigantic distortion of the import and meaning of a spiritual counselor who invokes such claims in a manner comparable to the parables of Jesus.

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