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May 11, 2022 - May 25, 2022 (3 sessions)
Wednesdays, 6:00 - 7:00 PM ET
This three-week mini-session explores health care beliefs within the African American community. Topics include contextual information about the vast heterogeneity that characterizes the African American experience. That is, African Americans are varied in their racial, ethnic, religious, social class, gendered and sexual identities and cannot be essentialized or reduced to narrow stereotypes. African American attitudes towards health and wellness will be examined in both its historic and contemporary manifestations.
A substantial amount of scholarship addresses the suspicion African Americans harbor toward healthcare. Much of this literature points to the Tuskegee experiment as a point of departure for understanding racialized oppression with health care systems; yet, mounting evidence documents a pattern of medical abuse dating back to the antebellum period. Scholars have unearthed similar patterns of cultural mistrust within the mental health profession, particularly within the annals of American psychiatry. These medical abuses are synchronized with settler colonialism, eugenics, legal precedents and the carceral state. Despite atrocities endured by many African Americans at the hands of medical and mental health care practitioners, African Americans have drawn on sources of resilience and resistance as they strive for health and wellness. Implications for culturally responsive medical and mental health care will be discussed.
Session one addresses the long and obscured history of medical abuses perpetrated against the African American community, that predate the Tuskegee experiment. Among other items, we'll review:
- The work of medical ethicist Harriet Washington, who catalogued a harrowing set of abuses from slavery to the present.
- The Organ Thieves: The Shocking Story of the First Heart Transplant in the Segregated South, by Chip Jones, chronicling one of the earliest heart transplants in the US, taken from the body of a Black man to save the life of a white man in Richmond, Virginia, in 1968.
Consideration of medical abuses on the African American community will be discussed with regard to current help-seeking behaviors.
Session two examines the history of African American mental health care within the US, including efforts by doctors during the ante-bellum period to establish professional legitimacy by claiming to expertise in slave medicine and fabricating psychiatric disorders that were attributed exclusively to enslaved people. Session two also traces the IQ testing movement and sterilization during the early and mid-20th century. These encounters have had an intergenerational effect on the manner in which many, though certainly not all African Americans approach mental health care.
In the final session of this course, participants will discuss implications of medical and mental health abuses and irregularities within the African American community, as it pertains to delayed treatment, cultural mistrust, trauma, and vicarious trauma. Culturally responsive frameworks of care will be addressed, including Multicultural Orientation and the Continuum of Broaching Behavior.