Racial Characteristics In Dr. Linda Clayton's We All Bleed

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We All Bleed Red: Racial Conceptions of Biology and Medicine The role of racial characteristics in American medical thought is explored by Dr. Michael Byrd and Dr. Linda Clayton in their journal article, “Race, Medicine, and Health Care in the United States: a Historical Survey.” Drs. Byrd and Clayton start their article by defining “race” and “racism” in its different contexts, moving from historical ideas of race as subspecies to metaracism— defined as systematic racism, devoid of individual thought or racial malice The foundational assumption of the author’s argument is that “Black intellectual and biological inferiority has been an assumption in Western scientific and lay cultures for more than a thousand years.” (Byrd, 145) They observed…show more content…
They provide the exotic “other”, a juxtaposition with the Greeks who were perceived as the model of a civilized people, a literary trope that dates back to Herodotus and can be found in other Hippocratic texts, such as The Sacred Disease. The Greek author asserts that there is a certain “…feebleness of the Asian race” resulting from their “…mental flabbiness and cowardice.” (AWP 160) This, the author claims, leads them to be less warlike and be supportive of a monarchy—characteristics that would have been anathema to a Greek and would have placed Asians as mentally inferior to the Greeks. This emphasis on the inferiority of their mental condition is a theme that has been continued in by white authors in Western medicine with its views of Africans. Byrd and Clayton note, “A virtually universal assumption of black inferiority at the social, religious, and scientific levels also served to rationalize, legitimize and intensify medical participation in…the slave system.” (Byrd 185) This provided the justification for medical professionals to engage in racism towards their patients and their justification for not promoting African American medical education. Their underrepresentation in the medical profession remained fairly constant at two percent for most of the 20th century. (Byrd 205) The continued survival of racist beliefs in the medical profession was could…show more content…
The body cavities of Scythian’s were described as “extremely moist.” (AWP 164) Europeans who lived in warm lowlands had “bilious, rather than phlegmatic” constitutions. (AWP 168) The author goes as far as to state, “…the Scythian race is as far removed from the rest of mankind as can be imagined….” (AWP 163) These descriptions in the text were meant to help educate the physician in how to best treat different races of people, as well to establish their physiological differences. The idea that there were treatments and disorders that were unique to certain races continued well beyond the Greeks. Byrd and Clayton observed that, “…white American physicians went so far as to create a lexicon of ‘Negro Diseases’ and alternate physiologic mechanisms based on race.” (Byrd 195) Many of the “Negro Diseases” were used to explain the reaction of African Americans to enslavement or their physical appearance; as these disorders did not affect white people, this was used as further evidence to support the claim that African-Americans were biologically different. (Byrd 205) The biological differentiation of races and their disorders was a continuation of the theories espoused in Airs, Waters, and Places, and used to justify the deprivation of proper medical treatment, as well as to argue for the
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