Recognizing Racism in Tuskegee

[A foreword: Yes, I’m well aware that Mr. Goldberg is actually writing this to try to keep Rev. Wright in the news. Which makes this particular op-ed of his an even more gratuitous example of douchebaggery. Yes, I said douchebaggery.]

Do I really need to tell anyone that Jonah Goldberg doesn’t know what racism is? I mean, aside from Jonah himself.

In his op-ed titled Liberals should stop telling tall tales about Tuskegee , he rightly points out that the Tuskegee “experiments” did not purposefully infect Black men with syphillis. Fair enough. He accurately points out that it involved a “callous disregard for the humanity and integrity of the patients. They were told they were getting ‘treatments’ when they were merely being studied. They were lied to, treated as objects rather than citizens.”

So the subjects – all Black – were treated as outside the Hippocratic oath. They were allowed to suffer from a treatable disease.

They were treated as subhuman.

That, my friends, is racism.

That is racism that was perpetrated and defended by the U.S. government.

Mr. Goldberg hides behind the statement “Among the scholars who’ve studied Tuskegee, there’s a lot of debate about how much – if any – racism was involved in the experiment.” That sort of oversimplified analysis – assuming that racism is the same as individual hatred – is sickly ironic, as it strikes at obvious examples while leaving structural racism wholly intact and excused.

After all, those doctors were just following orders. Right?

We deserve a more intelligent discussion of racism. We cannot forget that racism is systems and processes, not just people. Over at Resist Racism, there’s a timely post quoting Michael Omi expanding on this very point much more elegantly than I. Take a few minutes and read it – at the very least so you don’t make a fool out of yourself like Mr. Goldberg has done.

Edit: [Cute – after alleging that Tuskegee was part of the New Deal in his syndicated column, he now recants that online. Contact your local paper and have them print that too.]