This is not a normal week in America, and yet, in many ways, it is.
Protesters have taken to the streets across the country and around the world to demand justice for the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, three Black Americans who have been murdered in the past month, two of them by police in cold blood. These deaths were just the tip of the iceberg in the centuries of systematic racism, abuse, and murder of Black Americans. As scientists, we cannot look away or pretend to be impartial; the medical field was built on the blood and tears of Black Americans. Nearly every post from OncoBites features discussions of a “cell line;” the first immortalized cell line (HeLa) was taken from Henrietta Lacks, a Black woman, whose family lost a wife and mother while doctors gained fame and fortune from the study of her cells. Modern gynecology was built on the suffering of enslaved women, upon whom J. Marion Sims experimented without anesthesia or pain relief. Before the dawn of modern medical ethics, Black people were routinely exploited in unethical medical research, the most infamous of them being the Tuskegee study.
This week, instead of sharing a new article with you, we will be resharing two articles on racial and socioeconomic disparities that impact cancer care and survival. The challenges faced by Black Americans simply to survive are staggering, built upon hundreds of years of systematic oppression. This oppression exists today, and it exists in the healthcare system, including disproportionate outcomes for Black Americans as we have seen with the current COVID-19 pandemic. It exists in our neighborhoods, where Black Americans have been redlined and segregated into worse areas and stripped of public resources. It exists in our schools, where Black students are consistently undervalued and over-punished because they are seen as threats, even as children. It exists in the streets, where Ahmaud Arbery was chased down, where George Floyd and Eric Garner struggled for breath, and where countless others have met similar fates. It exists in our homes, where racism brews and police enter and murder Black Americans like Botham Jean and Breonna Taylor “by accident.”
Today, we are sharing these articles with the hopes that it encourages you to look a little deeper into the systems around you and how racism bleeds into every aspect of life. Consider that your life experiences are different from the life experiences of your Black colleagues. Read up on the history left out of the history books and consider how you can change our world for the better.
And always remember: Black Lives Matter.