Social Justice Event
I decided to do my social justice event on The Immortal life Of Henrietta Lacks. For one my classes we are required to read this book, and we had to attend a discussion on how race played a big role in Henrietta Lacks’ treatment.
For those of you who have not read the book, it is about a poor black woman whose cells were taken form her without her knowledge. They called them HeLa Cells- these cells became one of the most important tools in medicine and produced billions of dollars. Her family was very poor and never received anything from Henrietta’s cells. Often people question if this process would have been different if Henrietta was a white female, would she have known that doctors were going to take cells from her?
The first text I would like to relate this too is “Tracking” by Jeannie Oakes. I know her story is all about why Schools need to take other routes and has absolutely nothing to do with hospitals, but it totally reminded me of this. Henrietta Lacks was very poor; she couldn’t afford any type of health insurance that is why she ended up at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Hopkins was known as a charity hospital and one of the few hospitals that would actually treat black people. This hospital was totally tracked; they had one section for white people and one section for black people. I believe that this is a main reason why people are starting to question of Henrietta’s treatment was standard, or if it was an experimental procedure. If Henrietta were a white female on the white floor would the doctors have asked permission for them to take a piece of her cancer tissue. One of the big issues that Oakes points out in the reading is that by tracking it causes uneven opportunities. This can totally apply to Henrietta Lacks’ story!
The second text I would like to relate this too is Amazing Grace by Jonathon Kozel. Kozel basically says that history repeats itself. Racism and poverty repeats due to the system and codes of power. Kozel tells a story about a woman who was being treated in a hospital and she talks about how poorly she was treated. “I went to the hospital and, when I get there, it’s six hours before they can put me in a bed. Then, when I go upstairs, the room is not prepared. The bed is covered with blood and bandages from someone else. Flowers are scattered on the floor. Toilet’s stopped with toilet paper. Bed hasn’t been made. I’d been through this once before. Either you wait for hours until someone cleans the room or else you clean the room yourself.” This quote reminds me of Henrietta Lack’ experience in the hospital. Due to the fact that she was a poor black woman with no health insurance her stays at the hospital were miserable. She would have to wait hours in severe pain before she would get meds. Because of poverty and the codes of power these doctors treated this who side of the hospital this way.
The last text this relates to is Privilege, Power and Difference by Allen G. Johnson. Johnson says, “A huge store of knowledge, from scientific research to passionate memoirs, documents this trouble and leaves no doubt that it causes enormous amounts of injustice and unnecessary suffering.” Johnson wants to change the rules of power. The reason this reminded me of Henrietta Lacks is because her race played a big role in the way she was treated. It was injustice that because of her race, she didn’t have an option on what hospital was going to treat her. If the codes of power were different back then, maybe she wouldn’t of been pushed away so many times. I feel very strong, that If Henrietta was a white woman that she would have been taken more seriously.