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AIDS

Heart of Darkness: AIDS, Africa, and Race

Race, as much as science, has been central to the growth of medicine and public health as professions in America. Nineteenth-century physicians distinguished themselves from their competitors in the healing business, cornering the market in part through their embrace of scientific approaches to cure; today, similarly, the medical profession holds off competition from alternative therapies by indulging in “evidence-based medicine.” But, from early on, one of medicine’s less publicized attractions was its capacity to tender rationales for our obsession with race. White people’s suspicion that blacks were morally inferior was perfectly satisfied by prominent physicians’ assertions that African Americans had a greater propensity for disease, imaginary as that propensity turned out to be.

 

Nightgirls

t is so hot here the highway melts everyday. Vehicles flattening it to oily, gleaming blacktop. I am sitting at a plastic table on a hot concrete step at the Pensao Montes Namuli, watching the road, drinking a dark, malty domestic beer called Manica. The bottle is cool and slippery in my hand. The air smells of tar. The earth simmers in the brown heat, even as dusk approaches. Guy reckons it’s 35 degrees centigrade. I smoke another cigarette. The sun sinks towards the dust-hazed horizon.

Whitman Now

To contemplate Walt Whitman now, at the dawn of a new millennium in an America so deeply troubled by division and hypocrisy—almost the antithesis of the great nation of inclusion and tolerance he envisioned in Leaves of Grass—is intensely ironic indeed.

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