Last week President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton disbursed apologies for the United States’ role in infecting nearly 700 Guatemalans with syphilis from 1946-1948. Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius also apologized.
The Guatemala infections occurred simultaneously with observations of untreated Black sharecroppers in Tuskegee, Ala, who also had syphilis.
The recent apologies repeat an American cycle of unethical minority treatment and subsequent condolences.
Last year the Senate finally approved a resolution apologizing for slavery, which ended in 1865.
Grambling State University senior and Environmental Protection Agency Ambassador Alexis Davis is disturbed by the experiments, but remains hopeful about the future of American science and ethics.
“As Americans we are expected to uphold the highest regard for principles of humanity,” said Davis.
“In the case of this purposeful infectious experiment, we failed miserably . mistakes were made and prices are still being paid even 70 years later.”
The recent White House apologies mirror those of former President Bill Clinton.
He apologized for the Tuskegee experiment, which left nearly 400 Black men who already had syphilis untreated.
The Tuskegee Study began in the 1930s and ended in the 1970s, while scientists observed the disease’s effects.
“Men who were poor and African American, without resources and with few alternatives, they believed they had found hope when they were offered free medical care by the United States Public Health Service,” said the former president.
The men believed that they would receive treatment for “bad blood.”
Wellesley College Women’s Studies professor Susan Reverby discovered pertinent details about the Tuskegee and Guatemalan experiments, which are both linked to the same doctor, Dr. John C. Cutler.
The experiments support conspiracy theories in oppressed communities. Giving people syphilis and watching them suffer from it is akin to ethnic cleansing.
Modern political comments do not erase the effects the men and their families experienced or automatically boost the morale of their communities.
“There is something about a much-too-late apology from a powerful nation that undermines the act of saying sorry in the first place,” said University of South Florida Africana studies graduate student Reginald Eldridge.
“An apology is supposed to be a great equalizer; in this case, it shows just how unequal the game of power is,” said Eldridge.
Eldridge called the apology a “smart political move, perhaps even heartfelt, but ultimately vacuous.