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Biased Science as the Oppressor in the Tuskegee Syphilis Study

The social desire for the existence of a superior group consisting of the healthy, productive, and admired; is a human pursuit. In American interracial dynamics, there is some awareness of the social injustices that prevail among minority groups, in this case, African Americans. With the incorporation of science, specifically the theories of Social Darwinism, and the combination of superiority endeavors, the categorization of “primitive peoples,” for African Americans highlights the social organization the made study acceptable during the 1930’s. The Tuskegee Syphilis Study explicitly presents the injustices that a biased interpretation of science can bring onto communities, but additionally the scapegoating and medical oppression evident in the explanations of medical phenomenon’s and diseases then and unfortunately now.  “[African Americans], it was argued, could not be assimilated into a complex, white civilization…..the Negro race in America was in the throes of a degenerative evolutionary process.”  In a situation such as the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, white medical professionals whose proclaimed “education,” and “common knowledge” heightened them at the level of superiority to their “subjects” were the core of the medical injustices endured by the African American males. “Cranial structures wide nasal apertures, receding chins, projecting jaws all typed the Negro as the lowest species in Darwinian hierarchy.” The combination of “professionals,” using “scientific theory,” and racist racial dynamics, allowed for science to be the oppressor, and research to provide insight not on medical findings but on interracial dynamics in the United States medical system.

This situation is a clear explanation of the side effects of science. Because science is connoted to facts, it is easier to oppress and control masses. If one is not “formally educated,” one cannot provide explanations of science.  This oppression is the source of trauma. The deceit of African American men because of their “primal,” and “illiterate,” is oppression of knowledge spiraling into a laundry list of traumatic events.  The exploitation of their disease for the purpose of a doctor obtaining medical merit and publications in a journal is their trauma. The violence enacted was not with weapons or jabs but rather with their dehumanization of a man, “they were robbed of their procreative powers.” By deceit and oppression from a “superior,” the African American man, was violently removed from even having their own jurisdiction on their body and reproductive parts, highlighting that trauma and violence exist only when there is a victim.

Frania Mendoza

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One response to “Biased Science as the Oppressor in the Tuskegee Syphilis Study

  1. downeyshay ⋅

    The way Brandt’s article explained the extreme manners by which the most respected and seemingly most professional individuals have systematically and deceitfully perpetuated structural violence, in this case the unethical and flat-out inhuman practice of withholding proper medical treatment to those in need, only reminds me how far society has yet to progress before we truly are a nation founded to protect the dignity and worth of all men. You are so right when you said that science can be deceptively used as a weapon of oppression. But what makes science so dangerous is the fact that it is so easily disguised as something aimed at protecting the dignity of man through something like health care, while in reality that same scientific endeavor may be part of the structural violence it was said to challenge. Unfortunately, it is only when this deception can be recognized by others of the same “formally educated” capacity that the scientific oppressor can be punished for his violent act toward a fellow man.

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