You know what bothers me? When educated black people talk shit about America’s past but have the facts wrong.
Take the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama’s former pastor. In one of his now-notorious fulminations, shown on Fox News, Rev. Wright said: “The government lied about the Tuskegee experiment! They purposely infected African-American men with syphilis!”
Tonight on “The O’Reilly Factor,” it was Obery Hendricks (pictured), a professor at New York Theological Seminary... and a member of Obama’s African American Religious Leadership Committee.
Hendricks declared to Bill O’Reilly: “We do know the government injected black men with syphilis.”
And 19 years ago, during my most famous interview as a journalist, Professor Griff of the rap group Public Enemy said this:
“How about the genocide of black people perpetrated by Jews and other white folks? No, but we don’t talk about that genocide, do we? We don’t talk about the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, where black men was injected with syphilis.”
For pity’s sake, people... get it right for once. No one was injected or infected with syphilis. Okay? The U.S. government DID NOT give black men syphilis. That’s not what the Tuskegee experiment was.
In the “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male,” federal researchers denied treatment to a group of black men who had syphilis already.
Which is horrible enough. Why go the extra step of accusing the government of actually poisoning people? Especially to bolster the paranoid claim that the government invented AIDS to kill people of color?
Keep your ears open, y’all, as this Jeremiah Wright story remains a media fixation. You’re bound to hear other ignorant black folks say that the U.S. government injected black men with syphilis.
Such is the staying power of bullshit.
On May 16, 1997, President Bill Clinton apologized on behalf of the United States to the survivors of the Tuskegee study.
That night, on PBS’s “NewsHour with Jim Lehrer,” Charlayne Hunter-Gault interviewed Dr. Stephen Thomas, a health researcher at Emory University, and Fred Gray, a lawyer for the Tuskegee victims and their heirs. (Both of them are black.)
Ms. Hunter-Gault asked flat-out: “Did these men have syphilis before they volunteered for the experiment, or... were they injected with syphilis by the government, as many people believe?”
Dr. Thomas answered: “The common view in the black community is that the men were injected by the government doctors. And that is why you see the kind of anger, and that has been repeated by Minister Louis Farrakhan and others that really are voicing a common folk myth in the black community.
“But in my work... I have found absolutely no evidence that the men were intentionally injected by the government doctors,” he said. “And maybe we can clear that up right now on this show.”
Attorney Fred Gray added: “We made a thorough investigation of it, and we found no evidence... whatsoever that the government inflicted them with syphilis. The tragedy is bad enough, and we don’t need to make it any worse, but there is absolutely no credence to the fact that they were injected with syphilis.”
Got it, Rev. Wright? See what happens when you run your mouth off without a command of the facts? You make a joke out of yourself.
And you don’t do your congregants any favors either.
But I won’t hold my breath waiting for you to admit you were wrong, Reverend. That ain’t your style.