By Rachel Fenton
I stand in the intersections of my marginalized identities, black and female, as I watch the progression of the Covid-19 vaccinations roll out.
I sit behind the screen as I watch
friends, clinicians, professionals of all kinds,
post receipts of their vaccinations online with pride.
In the same breath, I watch the disproportionate statistics of how few black and brown bodies receive the vaccine in comparison to their white counterparts.
I stand in the intersection of scientific progression and ancestral oppression.
I stand in the intersection of psychology and American citizenship.
I listen to the prevalent message to vaccinate.
I watch, I read, I listen—and yet, with every post, every article, every recommendation, I feel uneasy.
Something within my soul is unsettled.
I hear the voices, and I hear the suggestions, and as the push to get vaccinated rings louder with each passing day, the United States’ history of structural oppression against these very same bodies, the bodies that served as a testing ground for their experiments is becoming more silenced.
In my black body
I hear the voices of condemnation and mocking if I were to not receive the vaccine.
Those who are well meaning say, this is nothing like the Tuskegee experiment
this is not a target to black and brown bodies
we are all receiving the vaccine
we all win
we’re all receiving the same vaccine
we’re all equal!
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
A collective fear in a deadly virus
a vaccination receipt
does not erase the USA’s history of structuralized racial inequality.
It. Does. Not. Erase. The. USA’s. History. Of. Structuralized. Racial. Inequality.
To hold onto such a reductionist viewpoint—a fantasy—is a disservice for those who are still living in fear
in their black and brown bodies.
Medical professionals are quick to mock those who are hesitant to receive the vaccination.
This elitism penetrates every aspect of the healthcare system.
Physicians are quick to mock the “conspiracy theories”—as though they are all the same
Yet remain slow to confront the roots from where they may stem.
Scientific evidence, the proof that the vaccination is safe and effective, is easy.
What good is proof without acknowledgement of the same proof, the science, that was used to degrade and dehumanize?
A disproportionate demographic representation of individuals used in clinical trials to prove the safety and efficacy of the vaccination.
causes black or brown bodies
to question their hesitation.
I am disappointed with psychology.
With the community’s response to the vaccine.
By falling in unquestionable line with the medical community with little to no attention to the power of collective fear based in historical reality.
COVID trauma does not erase historic racial trauma.
I am an African American woman
beginning a career in psychology.
If you hold the idea that a black or brown individual is misinformed
for not receiving the vaccine
do you think they will express their opinions to you as a patient?
The solution is not in a headline
!!black health care professionals receive vaccine!!
!! black woman helped to develop vaccine!!
Sit in it for a little while.
Before we realize the solution is acknowledging
Racism is what causes my hesitation to even share my perspective as a black woman
because of the “angry black woman” stereotype
Racism is what causes me and many others to remain silent in the face of racialized oppression
I am pulled to differentiate race and racism.
Race is a social construct.
A hierarchical system that the USA has used for centuries to maintain inequity.
There is no biological foundation to race.
Racism is the product of race.
It is a nonsensical system.
Favoring certain communities over others.
We report on diabetes and cardiovascular disorders
but fail to acknowledge the racist practices that create the conditions that make this possible.
Our system is broken.
We’ve attempted to patch up a deep and festering wound.
It never heals
We need to change the operating structure
Vaccination endeavors in black and brown communities have to be approached differently.
To help patients
we need to decolonize our minds
we need to be antiracist.
Acknowledge. Your. Racial. Biases
!! Be intentional!!
Address ways in which praxis in healthcare neglects black and brown bodies.
Get on with a radical examination.
Take a liberatory approach that is oriented towards the marginalized
We can’t go
from point A
to point Z
without handling America’s very lethal history of racialized oppression.
A successful fight of this pandemic will require the USA’s confrontation of the racial epidemic that’s prevailed for far too long.
Change cannot come forth without trust
A fruitful fight will take an instillation of trust within black and brown communities
Working towards a resolve means that we must eradicate racism!!
The USA’s longest standing virus
I have read New Voices: Vaccination Covid – The United States’ Mission to Fight a Pandemic in the Midst of a Lethal Epidemic, by Rachel Fenton, and I have found it to be “Right on!” You cannot get many Black people to join in the “rush”, “enticement”, and “threats” to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by using the old tricks of flashing pictures and statements of Black celebrities and some Black people in the field of health. Gaining trust is a key factor in all of us dealing with this successfully. If you read the book, Medical Apartheid by Harriet A. Washington, you’d be hesitant too. Trust may come with time, enough of it to have successful trials of testing for the vaccines the way most scientific research is done. Trust may come when serious attention is paid to systemic racism in its many forms and when it is no longer a threat to the lives of Black and Brown and Red and Yellow bodies. And believe it or not, to White bodies as well because we are all affected by hate, illness, and the epidemic of racism… a toxic mix that prevents all humanity from evolving to its highest heights. And my words are not to encourage or discourage people from getting vaccinated. I support free will and choice after being well informed with the truth. Thank you Rachel Fenton for your article, which seemed like poetry and a freedom to speak out.