The world is continuously faced with different issues ranging from economic downfalls, warfare, natural calamities, and many others. However, a problem that tends to meet many communities is the issue of racism. Racism refers to the act of discriminating or looking down upon an individual from a different race. It is based on the core idea that a particular race is more superior to another. Although racism is assumed to be less grievous compared to other global issues, it has continuously lagged most communities behind as it exists in different societal spheres.
Racism and discrimination towards people of color started in the United States many centuries ago. From the sixteenth century to the late nineteenth century, only white citizens had privileges and rights such as owning property, voting, etc.. Furthermore education, voting, and medical care were only permitted to white males. In The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, the author talked about Henrietta’s life. It entails the story of a black woman born in 1920. The book demonstrated that because of her ethnicity and her race, she struggled throughout her life such as living in poverty. Henrietta Lacks was also illiterate which demonstrated that lack of education that she received because of her race and gender. Racism is immoral, it heightened in the medical field and education through unfair services, misjudgment, and various injustices.
Many people are treated differently due to the color of their skin which is unfair. Stereotyping has been an epidemic of sorts since the beginning of time, circumstance and other factors heavily influencing the behavior as well as the severity. People have created this distinctive picture in their head of all black people being bad and inferior to further reinforce stereotypes. White people thought of them as thieves and murderers even without seeing any bad actions from them.
These Stereotypes lead to discrimination and humiliation to color people as a result of their race. Keith Lawrence and Terry Keleher in “Structural Racism,” states that “racism is inequalities in power, access, opportunities, and treatment” (269). In detail, Racism took away the blacks the power to speak up or take action. Also, racism took away many opportunities from colored people such as education, work, and health. In addition to being treated with no mercy or any kind of humanity. These inequalities have become prevalent in Henrietta’s life. For instance, black people could only go to Hopkins hospital, which was a charity hospital for sick poor people. Henrietta had to drive 20 miles to get there, not because she preferred it but because it was the only one that accepted black people. It was the same case for Elsie, Henrietta’s daughter.
She was put in a hospital for the Negro Insane only where she suffered a lot. They did two brain experiments on her, both experiments were horrendous. In addition, Deborah found a photo of a battered Elsie who was crying with the hand of a white woman around her throat. The picture reveals how Elsie was tortured without mercy. In the article “Why Racism in Health Care Is Still a Problem Today,” Dr. Lisa Cooper of the John Hopkins University School of Medicine mentioned how many of the physicians “failed to recognize that they preferred white patients to black ones” (Nittle). Even though their main goal was to serve underrepresented communities, they were subconsciously discriminating against people of color.
Judging and hating people according to their color before knowing them is unethical. In the book, From Within I Rise by T.F.Hodge, he affirmed “hating skin color is contempt for God’s divine creative imagination” Therefore, honoring God’s work “ is [an] appreciation for conscious, beautiful-love-inspired diversity.” No one has the power to choose their race or their skin color, it is all merely genetics. Hodge mentioned God’s creations are in his image, therefore, God made everything beautiful. According to Hodge, people should honor God’s work and show respect and appreciation. In fact, Henrietta was not respected by doctors or the people that she has to deal with them on a daily basis. It is torture for any human being to feel disrespected or feel worthless to the people around them especially that she did not choose to be different or colored. Jones and his boss Richard TeLinde were interested in developing new treatments for cancer, so they took samples of both Henrietta’s healthy and cancerous cells—without bothering to get consent.
In the result, Gey had succeeded in creating the first and most important line of immortal cells in history: HeLa. Henrietta should be highly respected because we might never have a cure for cancer untill nowadays without her cells. Henrietta and all black people are humans. All humans are equal and no hierarchies should exist. There is a necessity to accept and respect each other as brethren in this world. There are many genes in the human genome which results in variation among people. People are not the same, even if they share the same physical characteristics that do not mean they share the same personalities neither the way they are thinking.
There should be no room for stereotyping or hating towards each other. Miss judging people like bullying or thinking they are dangerous just by their skin color, gender, physical appearance, or disability can ruin their life whether by committing suicide or feeling worthless. Not all black people are the same. Among all people, there are those who are good and those who are bad. We need to recognize individuals according to their own actions, and their achievements, not their skin color, race or beliefs. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “achievement has no color.”
Racial injustices in the medical field and education were the foremost factors that highly affected people of color. For years, black patients were relegated to separate—and appallingly unequal—hospitals and wards. Many were simply denied medical attention, either thrown into the care of other facilities or turned away at the hospital door. In the article, “Racism and Discrimination in Health Care” by Tello Monique, the author testifies that “doctors take an oath to treat all patients equally, and yet not all patients are treated equally well.”
Doctors should treat all patients the same but unfortunately, that was not the case back then, and possibly nowadays. In Henrietta’s case as a black uneducated woman, it was difficult for her to understand the medical terms and the doctor did not bother explaining them to her in a simpler matter. In other words, doctors took her unawareness of the medical terms as an excuse to decide for her. The lack of knowledge caused Henrietta to feel neglected and disconnected from white people. Therefore, when Henrietta got infected from her husband with syphilis, she refused to go to the hospital to get medical care because she can’t understand the doctor. Even though syphilis is a serious disease that causes painful sores on the genitals. She couldn’t even discuss anything or ask about anything, so simply she just avoided going there.
When she bled and felt a lump inside her womb, she decided to go to the hospital. After the doctor examined her, he cut a small sample and sent it to the lab. The results returned abnormal and she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Her doctor used her tissues in science research without her knowledge or taking her consent. The doctor believed that the colored patients that he was treating had no rights, and therefore there was nothing wrong with using her cells as research subjects as a form of payment. Doctors were treating colored people as if they were treating an animal and took away all their rights as a human being. In support of Henrietta’s experience, a recent survey conducted by NPR, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation helped reveal “that many women, people of color report experiencing discrimination when seeking medical care” (Thorpe). It is proven that discrimination and exploitation of people of color have been a part of American history.
Racial injustice also was a reason for blacks illiteracy and poverty. In the book, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”, Henrietta was not allowed to go to school. In fact, that caused her to have no knowledge about her disease or what could be the best for her. Furthermore, in a result of her illiteracy she did not want to check up on her health because she would not understand anything in the medical field. Their arrogant attitude towards her stemmed largely from Henrietta’s low social and economic status as a black woman, which made her white, well-educated doctors believe that she didn’t even have the capacity to understand their decisions.
On the other hand, Work requires many years of education and knowledge and that caused many black people to be poor and unemployed. Black people were not allowed to have an education or go to the same school as white people. For instance, in the article Racial Conflict, by Peter Katel, “The $11,000 median net worth of black households is about 13 times less than the median white household net worth of $141,900” (1). The article mentioned that black people have way less income than white people. Besides, twenty-two percent of African-Americans earn a college degree in comparison with thirty-four percent of whites. Surely, that explains why colored people were in poverty while white people were in a higher class. It is unfair for two people performing the same performance at work and one of them get paid less because of their race or colored skin. In addition, work and education opportunities were only available to white people.
Even though centuries ago we have combated discrimination and legal racism, there is still discrimination towards the black community and other specific ethnic groups. It still exists because it goes from generation to generation. Although, nowadays people are more understanding and have the knowledge about racism and discrimination. Schools are teaching kids that everyone is the same and color does not matter. Society is more different than the past, but there are few people that are racist until this day. Discrimination now exists in more benevolent ways but is it not eliminated. Therefore, racism is against all human rights and humanity.
Racism and discrimination are giving less value to the person so it is against morals and fairness. In Henrietta’s life, you can see the ugly and cruel face of discrimination. All her suffering didn’t mean anything to the doctors. They gave her excessive radiation course caused Henrietta’s skin from breasts to the pelvis was charred black from the radiation. They only focused on her cells rather than her well-being, which later they finally found their targeted immortal cells for their research. Finally, We should treat each other with equality and fairness because we are all humans.
We all deserve to be treated the same, no one living on earth should be treated differently for any reason. No one is born hating another person because of their race they must have learned to loathe, therefore people can be taught how to love and respect each other. Racism is something we ‘ve all witnessed. Many people fail to believe that race isn’t a biological category, but an artificial classification of people with no scientifically variable facts. In other words, the distinction we make between races has nothing to do with genetic characteristics. Race was created socially, primarily by how people perceive ideas and faces we are not quite used to. The definition of race all depends on where and when the word is being used.
- Connie.kwan. “About Racism.” Racism. It Stops With Me, 4 Oct. 2017,
- Hodge, T.F. “ From Within I Rise.” Living The ‘GOoD’ Life!, fromwithinirise.webs.com/.
- Nittle, Nadra Kareem, and Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education and
- Change.org. “4 Ways Racism in Health Care Is Still a Problem Today.” Thoughtco.,
- Dotdash, www.thoughtco.com/racism-in-health-care-still-a-problem-2834530.
- Skloot, Rebecca. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Crown Publishers, 2010.
- Tello, Monique. “Racism and Discrimination in Health Care: Providers and Patients.” Harvard
- Health Blog, Harvard Health Publishing, 12 Jan. 2017,
- Thorpe, Elena Sanchez. “A Culture of Racial Discrimination Is Incompatible with a Culture of
- Health.” Families USA, 20 Apr. 2018,familiesusa.org/blog/2018/04/culture-racial-