Black Buildings, Black Lives: Appreciating Both
Since our last edition, several occurrences have unfolded that beg some very fundamental questions of Americans in general and African Americans in particular. Much attention is being given to the rampant AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa and the Human Genome Project has unfolded in very marvelous and yet suspect ways.
The much ballyhooed human genome decoding has all of the promise and the peril of an Octavia Butler science fiction novel. The suspicion about the decoding revolves around the notion that in spite of its potential for good, racially-based evil can just as easily be the outcome. The Tuskeegee experiment still is very much on the minds of many people.
This paranoia also can be seen in a Pan African context. As we put this edition to bed, the South African delegation at the World AIDS conference is on the defensive because of their unorthodox misgivings about the origins of the disease and their mistrust of Western cures. There have even, at times, been rumors circulated that the World Health Organization — the United Nation’s medical arm — created and spread the disease throughout Africa.
A just released landmark United Nations report confirms that 30 of the 35 countries in the world suffering the greatest social and economic misery are found in Sub-Saharan Africa. More than 70 percent of the world’s HIV-infected population live in the region. Therefore, this mistrust takes on even greater proportions.
But whether in Africa or the United States, the question becomes whether we can afford to be paranoid or to have misgivings.
The answer: Trust but verify.
That’s where Black academicians come in. The only way we can verify is to have a critical mass of scientists and researchers who are actively involved in these new frontiers.
Several years ago, Black Issues senior writer Joan Morgan took a look at how Black scientists and historically Black colleges were involved in the genome project. In this edition, she updates her findings and gets reaction from some prominent researchers who are making sure that Black and Latino populations are included when it comes to input on genetic policy-making.
Also in this edition, Black Issues correspondents Jacqueline Conciatore and Rich Henson take a look at Blacks in the academy — and its extended champions — who are fighting to save historic buildings on Black college campuses.
That’s where Black scholars play such a pivotal role, not just in the academy, but in society at large. Surely Black academicians have a great appreciation for Black life. That becomes apparent in many ways: as they fight to make sure that Blacks’ fears are allayed while scientists forge into this new frontier of human genome decoding; as they come together to fight AIDS at home — as we reported in a cover story last December; and also as they lobby to restore the Black buildings that hold so much of our history within their crumbling walls.
The ultimate challenge is to engage all of this country’s great scholars, and indeed the world over, to appreciate the complexity of Black life, Black buildings and Black fears.
© Copyright 2005 by DiverseEducation.com