Cal Reparations Task Force: Yale Prof. Traces Long History of Racism in Public Health
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By Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media
Dr. Carolyn Roberts, a professor at Yale University, provided to the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans detailed descriptions, both verbal and visual, of the horrific experiences Africans endured during the transatlantic slave trade.
A historian of medicine and science, Roberts said the trauma descendants of enslaved Africans suffered during transportation to the United States was only the beginning of a “broken relationship” between African Americans and the United States’ healthcare system.
“It is important for us to recognize that many critical issues that we are wrestling with today have long, old, and deep historical roots,” Roberts said. “These include racial bias and disparate medical treatment, race-based medicine, and medical exploitation. In our historical analysis, we must consider not only American slavery and its afterlife, but also the transatlantic slave trade.” The transatlantic slave trade was the “largest forced oceanic migration in human history,” a passage that was responsible for transferring between 10 million and 12 million enslaved Africans across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas from the 16th to the 19th century, Roberts said.A majority of the African people taken captive were young women and men who were on the cusp of starting families. This generation of Africans ended up contributing to the enrichment of the enslavers, Roberts said.
For the voyage, Africans were placed in tiers below the decks of cargo ships that would sail up to 5,000 miles across the ocean Roberts said to make sure that the enslaved stayed healthy for the duration of the trip and arrive to their destination alive, slave traders hired medical doctors.