Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Tuskegee experiment on black syphilitics was the result of the “Progressive” wisdom of the day

Initial comment below by Jonah Goldberg. Follow the various links for more info:

People who've read my book know that one of its major themes is how liberals never take ownership of their errors. Rather, they ascribe their errors to the long bill of indictment of America's sins. They then use these sins to justify - what else? - more liberalism. Conservatism is wrong. America is wrong when it is conservative. But liberalism endures blameless, sinless and pointing ever upward toward goodness, truth and light.

There are few better examples of this tendency than the use and abuse of the Tuskegee experiments. I cannot begin to count the number of conversations with liberals I've had where they've used Tuskegee in just this way. Anyway, that's what my column is about today. An excerpt:
The infamous Tuskegee experiment is the Medusa's head of black left-wing paranoia. Whenever someone laments the fact that anywhere from 10 percent to 33 percent of African Americans believe the U.S. government invented AIDS to kill blacks, someone will say, "That's not so crazy when you consider what happened at Tuskegee."

But it is crazy. And it's dishonest. Wright says the U.S. government "purposely infected African-American men with syphilis." This is a lie, and no knowledgeable historian says otherwise.

And yet, this untruth pops up routinely. In March, CNN commentator Roland Martin defended Wright, saying, "That actually did, indeed, happen." On Fox News, the allegation has gone unchallenged on Hannity & Colmes and The O'Reilly Factor. Obery Hendricks, a prominent author and visiting scholar at Princeton University, told O'Reilly "I do know that the government injected syphilis into black men at the Tuskegee Institute. Now we know that the government is capable of doing those things."

To which O'Reilly responded: "All right. All governments have done bad things in every country."

True enough. And what the U.S. did at Tuskegee was indeed bad, very bad. But it didn't do what these people say it did.

Jonah follows up some points above here and here

Something else that is seldom mentioned about the Tuskegee experiment:
It takes little imagination to ascribe racist attitudes to the white government officials who ran the experiment, but what can one make of the numerous African Americans who collaborated with them? The experiment's name comes from the Tuskegee Institute, the black university founded by Booker T. Washington. Its affiliated hospital lent the PHS its medical facilities for the study, and other predominantly black institutions as well as local black doctors also participated. A black nurse, Eunice Rivers, was a central figure in the experiment for most of its forty years.

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