Tuskegee is on our mind!

In early April of this year, two French doctors suggested on French television the idea of testing a vaccine against coronavirus in Africa. The two were not your ordinary physicians. Camille Locht is the head of research at the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) in Lille, while Jean-Paul Mira is the head of intensive care at the Cochin hospital in Paris. The French doctors raised the question during a TV debate of whether a tuberculosis vaccine would prove effective against coronavirus and suggested testing it in Africa, where there are virtually no resources to contain or stem the virus. Paradoxically, the number of coronavirus infections and deaths in Africa – even up till now – pales next to that of Europe or the U.S. The significance of their suggestions was not lost on either the scientific world or keen observers. To them and to like-minded people, Africa and indeed black people are fertile ground for human experiments on novel drugs as well as a dumping area for electronic and any other waste.

Tuskegee is on our mind!

From 1932 to 1972 the U.S. Public Health Service, in collaboration with the Tuskegee Institute, conducted an “ethically unjustified” experiment on the progression of syphilis on some 600 black men without their consent.

Some white establishments and institutions strongly believe that the dehumanizing of black people in every conceivable shape and form is a natural preserve, prerogative and bona fide right.  There have been drug and vaccine clinical trials and experiments on unsuspecting Africans/blacks, especially the youth, by the U.S. and the Western pharmaceutical conglomerates, in some instances without official consent and approval from host countries or in connivance with corrupt institutions and authorities, keeping the public on the blind side of these activities. Even where there is official approval, drug developers and their interests do not factor in the unique socio-cultural tendencies and leanings of the target audience. 

Not only are black people used as pawns and guinea pigs for health experiments and trials, but we are at the receiving end of stigmatization when it comes to infectious diseases. During the HIV/AIDS pandemic many black people, especially from Haiti and Africa, were stigmatized and lost their jobs in the U.S. and other countries.

Information technology and social media have brought to the world’s attention stigmatization of Africans in the Peoples Republic of China, the Arab world, and elsewhere with respect to the coronavirus pandemic. The concurrent dehumanizing of Africans in these places is notoriously unreported in local media outlets for fear of state-sanctioned retributions. Unlike in the West, an independent and free press is a mirage in China and most Arab kingdoms. But the little that we’ve seen through social media speaks volumes. If that trend were observed in Africa, African diplomats would quickly be summoned to the foreign services of their host countries and lectured on “human rights” abuses in Africa.

In June 2015 Pamela Newkirk, director of undergraduate studies at New York University’s Arthur Carter Journalism Institute, in an OPINION piece on CNN, brought to the limelight the September 1906 case of a 103-pound, 4-foot-11-inches African youth named Ota Benga who was brought from the Congo and caged in an iron monkey house at the Bronx Zoo, New York City, for public exhibition. 

But the Bronx Zoo madness was not the first or the last of Africans being caged as fair exhibits. The last human zoo exhibit happened in Belgium about sixty-two years ago at the Brussels 1958 World Fair where Congolese men, women, and children were displayed behind a bamboo fence called the “Congolese Village.” White revelers threw money and bananas over the fence to the caged Africans. Other European cities such as London, Paris, Oslo, and Hamburg preceded Belgium in these dastardly acts. Prior in 1897, the notorious yet powerful king Leopold II of Belgium brought in about 267 Congolese to be exhibited in fanfares in Brussels. Like Tuskegee, London, Paris, Oslo, Hamburg, and Brussels are still on our minds!

With all its havoc, pain, and misery, the COVID-19 is a tolling bell for black people. The proverbial dawn bell is extolling Africa to stand up on its own feet or perpetually linger at the bottom rungs of the world’s economic ladder. Until and unless Africa does that, the continent will continuously be treated as a laboratory and its citizens as rats!

“Black Lives Matter.” But it all comes down to leadership with spines. That’s what Africa needs most!

Posted by on May 13 2020. Filed under Editorial. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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