Healthcare acquisition depends on several factors, which are categorized under both financial and structural frameworks. However, the chapter focuses on the African American retaliation to medical discrimination, especially during the mainstream segregation era, a period that played a significant role in promoting the socio-economic and political framework that the minority groups in the U.S. enjoy today.
The organization dubbed the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People which was a medical civil rights movement and Black Panther was established to protest against the discrimination on black people in America. These organizations responded to the distinctly dangerous risks posed by segregated medical facilities, professions, societies, and schools. They demonstrated against the poor healthcare services and medical maltreatment they received. What is more, the desegregation of the healthcare system and the medical profession was the goal of African American health activism while integrationism was the unifying principle of black health advocates for much of the 20th century. This position was ardently endorsed in the writings and speeches of prolific and well-informed black thinkers like W. E. B. Du Bois, who insisted on Blacks’ right to full inclusion in health services in the U..S. society. The desired change led to the reduction rates of mortality and morbidity in the black community.
African American activists’ retaliation to the different types of racism in the health department and medical institutions took many forms mostly because the health needs of black communities were often significant (Alondra26). However, even as social conditions gradually improved for the segregated African Americans, their health status remained greatly compromised compared with the favored whites, McBride states. Additionally, the strife and persistence of black women health activists were crucial in the eventual creation of the Provident Hospital and Nurses’ Training School in Chicago with the initiative and support of both white philanthropists and black medical professionals such as Daniel Hale Williams, a co-founder of the National Medical Association (NMA). The NMA was the African American physician’s association established to not only eliminate the segregation practices of the American Medical Association but also to pioneer the improvement of the health of black communities and black medical professionals.
Mr. Booker T Washington’s visit to Virginia after founding the first ‘negro health week’, an initiative that inspired health consciousness in black Americans, built a national infrastructure of health education and coordinated local initiatives into a nationwide campaign, which facilitated the occasion for the airing of his convictions about the importance of health in Southern racial politics. He stated that “Wherever the Negro is segregated, it usually means that he will have poor streets, poor lighting, poor sidewalks, poor sewage, and poor sanitary conditions generally.” And that “Segregation is not only unnecessary but, in most cases, it is unjust” (Alondra 29).
According to Alondra (42), another strategic tactic used to curb medical discrimination was the ‘Politics of knowledge ‘that incorporated two emphases. The ﬁrst was internal-scientiﬁc knowledge and concerned health activists’ setbacks in invalidating the biased biomedical theories about the anatomy of black bodies. The second one outlines extra-scientiﬁc knowledge and involves activists’ recognition that the knowledge claims derived from biomedicine are often related to discrimination originating from outside the healthcare sector. Intellectuals, scientists, and health advocates challenge theories of black people being biologically inferior to white people. These professionals viewed the racial susceptibility debate as a waste of time and focused their efforts on the urgent and practical issue of improving their communities’ health using the strategies of institution building and integrationism.
For an organization that came to be characterized by its raucous and audacious fight against the status quo, it is surprising that the Black Panthers sought inclusion into mainstream medicine. The movement also managed to penetrate other fields like politics and would at times seek to change the medical–industrial complex both from within and from without the system and therefore mobilizing many lines of attack to dismantle forms of medical discrimination and foster social health for the poor black minority.
Nelson, Alondra. Body and soul: African American Response to Medical Discrimination before 1966. University of Minnesota Press, 2011.