How the media injected black men with syphilis

March 23, 2008

When Malik Shabazz spoke for the New Black Panthers on talk shows last week in regards to Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s racial comments, he stated the US gov’t infected black men with syphilis according to the Tuskegee Experiment. Conservative pundits didn’t know how to rebuttal him. They couldn’t deny the Tuskegee Experiment took place between 1932 and 1972 where over 300 poor and mostly illiterate black sharecroppers were denied treatment for syphilis. It is one of the more shameful chapters in US history, alongside slavery and lynching.

However, it’s disconcerting pundits didn’t argue a crucial fact. Black men were NOT injected with syphilis. The men who volunteered to participate were already infected. The ethically unconscionable and monstrous act by federal researchers was denying them proper treatment of penicillin. Instead, the subjects were informed they had “bad blood” and were studied like lab rats to examine how syphilis would take its toll over the course of years.

But Shabazz was not the only one to have uttered this dangerously misleading inaccuracy without question. Obery Hendricks, professor at the NY Theological Seminary, stated on The O’Reilly Factor “we do know the government injected black men with syphilis.” Journalist Ed Gordon also stated “the government was giving syphilis to black men” on Hardball with Chris Matthews. Woefully inaccurate statements, which can’t be excused as “taken out of context”, have now become, for some, absolute truth.

Extreme fear of political incorrectness coupled with ignorance has muddied the waters of a needed dialogue once again on mainstream news channels. It’s no wonder we have yet to achieve a rational and peaceful resolution between blacks and whites as well as the left and right, when those in the media who speak to millions of viewers each day and earn just as much per year don’t do their homework.

As the battle for network ratings continues on the issues of racism and politics, it’s amazing no one has touched upon another study from the Tuskegee Institute to addresses the utter irony behind Rev. Wright’s hateful berating of Condoleeza Rice as “Condoskeeza” or Colin Powell as “Colonel Colon” for their Republican partisanship. Between 1880 and 1951 over 3,437 African Americans were lynched in the US. These crimes occurred not only due to the deep-rooted hatred in states along the Cotton Belt, but mainly because lynching wasn’t considered a federal crime.

Yet, during that same time, 1,293 white Americans were also lynched. Nearly all were Republicans who no doubt defied the Southern Democratic agenda of segregation. Also known as the Dixiecrats, this was the Democratic base Franklin D Roosevelt didn’t want to upset in order to pass his New Deal programs. This was the reason why FDR, nowadays viewed by many as a Democratic demagogue, never signed anti-lynching legislation during any of his four terms in office. Ultimately, some of these programs granted unions power to lock blacks out of the labor force during the Great Depression.

It wasn’t until after 1948 when Harry Truman introduced anti-lynching legislation that lynching finally became a federal crime. Truman, the same president who dropped the atomic bomb and inspired Rev. Wright to state “God damn America” (and break with the Third Commandment no less) for Americans supposedly not even batting an eye to the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Just another obscure and ironic historical fact that shows life isn’t as black and white or left and right as the mainstream media would have us believe.

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