By Dallas Weekly Staff – America has a long legacy of inflicting medical malpractice on marginalized groups. African slaves were sought to clear the swamps of the Carolinas because of the malaria risk. Black slave women were operated on without anesthesia by the “father” of gynecology, J. Marion Sims. The desire to escape slavery was designated as a mental disorder. Native Americans were purposely diseased with infected blankets. Puerto Rican women were routinely sterilized. Then there was Tuskegee, probably the most infamous example of purposeful medical malpractice in American history.
The historical fact of the matter is that medical conditions that appear to be prevalent within marginalized groups are rarely considered worthy of “universal” attention until the dominant group is affected in greater numbers. That’s why sickle cell disease is rarely mentioned as “needing” a cure, and why AIDS was ignored until prominent gay white men began dying. Once their numbers were controlled, the higher prevalence of new AIDS cases among black women was again ignored.
So now we are facing a deadly pandemic that has been revealed to have a devastatingly disproportionate impact on the Black community. The nation’s response to this discovery? A president who downplayed the gravity of the disease for months while seeking scapegoats for his incompetence. But worse, governors across the former Confederacy — where, by the way, the majority of Black Americans live — defiantly, even aggressively, denouncing sensible public health mandates (masks) while forcing essential workers (many of them Black) into workplaces without adequate PPE. Thus, risking the lives of our community even more.
So it should come as no surprise that Black people have seen enough and heard enough to be wary when those who have demonstrated a lack of concern over our health now insist that our low levels of participation in vaccine trials (roughly 3%) may be problematic, which in turn, is lowering trust in taking vaccine in such an environment.
However, America’s Black doctors and nurses — represented by Charles Drew University, Howard University, Meharry Medical College, Morehouse School of Medicine, National Medical Association, National Black Nurses Association, the Cobb Institute, the National Urban League and blackdoctor.org — who make up the Black Coalition Against COVID-19, are spreading a different message.
They are promising Black America that they have got our backs on this. This is a global effort that has to be eradicated amongst entire populations, and they are not about to allow our (and their) communities to be “Tuskegeed” when it comes to 21st century vaccine development. They’ve got their eyes on the ball “from the lab to the clinic to the boardroom” and will help the Black community get through this pandemic safely, regardless of political shenanigans.
To that end, BCAC has recently produced a video that we at the Dallas Weekly believe has a message and sentiment that needs to go viral in our community. Help us share this contribution initially published by the Washington Informer under the title: Black Doctors Urge Community to Get Coronavirus Vaccine, Avoid Holiday Gatherings.
Dear Black America,
WE LOVE YOU. We affirm that Black Lives Matter.
And as Black health professionals, we have a higher calling to stand for racial justice and to fight for health equity. In the spirit of unconditional love for every Black American, we have locked arms in an initiative to place the health and safety of our community at the heart of the national conversation about COVID-19.
Respect for our Black bodies and our Black lives must be a core value for those who are working to find the vaccine for this virus that has already taken so many of our loved ones. Our colleagues across health care know that we are urging our community to take safe and effective vaccines once available. However, for this to be successful, they must do more to earn your trust, now and in the future.
We are on the front lines of care delivery and in key decision making roles, from the lab, to the clinic, to the virtual boardroom. We urge you to hold us accountable. Please wear your mask. Continue social distancing, handwashing and avoiding indoor events until vaccines are widely available.
With the holidays around the corner, we want nothing more than to break bread with our loved ones. But tradition cannot stand in the way of our health. We also ask you to join us in participating in clinical trials and taking a vaccine once it’s proven safe and effective. We know that our collective role in helping to create a vaccine that works for Black people — and that we trust — has an impact on our very survival.
Please visit BlackCoalitionAgainstCovid.org/loveletter to learn more about the work we are doing to keep our beloved community safe. We will keep you in our hearts while we work to create a world that is healthier and more just than the one that we know today.
America’s Black Doctors and Nurses
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