Black bodies, the bodies of Black Americans, have a sordid and complicated history. The babies of slaves used as alligator bait is a reality often forgotten when people think of the Jewish babies killed by Nazi guards. Indeed, the latter wasn’t the first time that something reprehensible happened to infants and toddlers solely based on identity. Images of whipped slaves’ backs have been permanently etched into my mind. The parallels between slavery and sports (as documented in the seminal book Forty Million Dollar Slaves) is painful to think about. Photographs of Black women forced to nurse White children, with despair, not joy in their eyes are hard to examine (and when White women blog these photographs with glee, I feel rage). Examining the intersections of science and racism (in a way that many atheists forget to when examining the intersections religion and racism) as revealed in the book Medical Apartheid hurts me now, today. Black women used as objects for White male pleasure and their punishment (through rape), as production tools through rape (to make more slaves), as chattel, farmers, cooks, housekeepers, wet nurses, and as forced quasi-mothers of White children—bodies devalued and only viewed as tools—is a reality that cannot be ignored. Even in death, Black bodies were displayed for examination and spectacle, used without permission for research and Black grave robbing persisted.
Even in death, our bodies weren’t (and actually, still aren’t) safe. As this country owes its very existence, from infrastructure to its economy, literally to Black bodies, from being sold and used as actual products, to building, to agriculture to modern medicine (i.e. gynecology wouldn’t truly exist without the ABUSE and DEATH Black women suffered, as procedures were performed and perfected without our ancestors’ consent so that White women could be made healthy) to objects of pleasure, I can’t stop thinking about this history when I think of the modern reaction to Black bodies. This isn’t to say that I think of our bodies as separate from our beings; this is to say that this is how we’re treated in society—as if no persons, no faces, no names, and no souls are connected to our bodies. Black Chicago murder victims are reported in counts; White murder victims are reported by name. Every name mentioned.