Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Social Diseases

I've been reading a couple of articles (one from Reuters, the other from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer) about how the fight against HIV and AIDS is moving to the Black community in the United States. Both take pains to bring to light the fact that Blacks are very much over-represented in the ranks of the HIV-positive. I know that it sounds morbid, but I wish that the articles had also given the raw numbers, rather than just the percentages. The fact that 50 percent of new HIV cases in 2003 were diagnosed in Blacks sounds really alarming. But is that out of a grand total of 5,000 cases nationwide, 500 cases or 50,000 cases? And are those numbers going up or down?

Both articles cite the social obstacles that have to cleared in order to reduce the spread of the disease. But the Reuters article goes a little further, and summons up the ghosts of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study and quotes a man saying: "My first question was 'Wait, are you going to inject me with the HIV virus?'" But if you only know the basics about how vaccines work, this is a perfectly logical question, fears of racism or none. I seem to remember being taught that anti-viral vaccines work somrthing like this:

1) Kill or severely weaken a virus.
2) Inject the crippled virus into a person.
3) Person's immune system uses the crippled virus as target practice.
4) Person's immune system is ready for the real thing, should it ever appear.

Of course, sometimes the virus isn't as crippled is you thought it was, and someone contracts the disease for real. And when you're dealing with something that can kill you (or, make it easier for something else to kill you), that's a very real concern.

In any event, it doesn't take concerns about past injustices to be concerned about a vaccine trial that's testing a countermeasure for a disease that many people still regard as unfailingly lethal. I don't know if it's ironic or not, but it seems to me that perhaps the most enduring legacies of racism in the United States has the expectation of racism. Blacks are expected to be suspicious of Whites' intentions, almost for it's own sake, and Whites are expected to prepared for and understanding of that very suspicion. Steven Barnes (the science fiction author), in an NPR commentary, "argues that one of the reasons Sen. Barack Obama could be such an appealing candidate is that he doesn't carry the cultural baggage of slavery, since his father was an immigrant to the United States." But I would submit that the rest of us don't need to carry that baggage either. Just because our parents and grandparents taught us to lug it around doesn't mean that it's good for us. Maybe it's past time we just dumped it by the curb and went on.

1 comment:

ben said...

Ha! - I see you post and raise you an fucking crazy long comment...

The racism thing in human society (it's not a US phenomenon) really bugs me.

Racism is a social issue. It's a popularity contest and I think it's largely kept aflame by people who keep making race an issue. I'm so fucking sick of seeing Jesse Jackson on TV spouting off unbelievably inane ideas, having retard rappers bitching about racism while glorifying gang culture, having different testing standards based on race, etc., etc. There's a black caucus - can we have a white one? I mean - it's that kind of double standard stupidity that's not good for anyone.

People like Obama are a perfect example of "it's not race, it's the way you act". If any group thinks they can dress like inner-city gang members, walk funny, speak some form of English that's unintelligible and get respect from "the man" then they're really not seeing the big picture. Yah - I'll cross the street and look over my shoulder when "inner city hoodlum" is behind me - if he's white, black, purple or green. But - you do this and "you're a racist". Bullshit on that. I'm a racist when I cross the street because Obama is behind me - not when I have a problem with low lifes.

Last year there was a car in front of me in Kirkland that was being back ass retarded. So I honked at them (I couldn't see who was in the car). Out jumps this baggy pants black kid with his hat screwed on sideways who immediately gets in my face about racism. I was fucking honking at his mom because she couldn't drive. Now who's racist here? There's this "you can't criticize non-white people" thing going on in our society without the race card being pulled. And that's REALLY detrimental to the non-white people.

The example I usually cite is: you're a white manager - you have two candidates who are identical in every sense except one's white and one's black. Can you make a logical argument why the manager would be better off hiring the black candidate given the nature of US legal system? I can't (with the exception of hiring quotas - which is beyond retarded). And why is this? It's not because of racism. The white candidate simply has less power when fired, there are less potential nightmares with race removed ... there's a whole host of issues that simply can't come up. This isn't a just a race issue - I think you see this with different sexes as well. I.e. I need a balls to the wall, hard core exec to be a work-aholic until we IPO (say 4 years). You're not allowed to have a women promise she won't become pregnant during that time (i.e. put it in the contract)... what does that do for women in the work place? I think it hurts them.

The move to be "absolutely equal" and "never offend anyone" and make these issues litigious leads to more inequality and a greater risk of being offended. It's self defeating.

For racism to be dead and for people to be equal there needs to be an atmosphere that isn't race centric, we need a Colbert's "color blindness", race shouldn't be at the forefront when two racially different people meet. I really believe the race centric atmosphere is being held up by the very people who want to see racism be a non-issue.

Sure - there are going to be racists, sexists, etc. out there. Do we really want to spend time making a system that forces joe-cracker-racist to hire black people, or joe-cracker to hire women? Think that's going to change whatever the fuck is wrong with joe-cracker? I'd personally would much rather have someone say "I'm not hiring you because I hate white people" then have them hire me because they were forced to and have this underlying tension. I think it's just going to hurt more people than it helps.

We desegregated society, making it illegal to own slaves, to have white-only this and thats and the likes. But, then we took it WAY over board and tried the ridiculous idea of making it illegal to not like someone. This is the nonsense we're seeing today.

The problems in America aren't race based. They're poverty and education based and we confuse that with racism because of the uneven mix of income levels among races. We need to eradicate the inner city, it's a cesspool of problems. Until I hear a better idea I think the solution is board school for city kids. It's not perfect but it removes the "retards raising retards" cycle that seems impossible to break out of.

"Back to" the HIV study. :) While stats can be manipulated just about anyway you want (see the "fact and figure" filled Bell Curve book) I think it'd be interesting to see the HIV stats related to economics/education. I'm willing to bet this is an inner city thing.