We are not your lab animals

I have a lot of criticisms about how race is handled (OK, mishandled) in America thanks to white supremacy. Part of that is because I lead an anti-racism organization in this country but I’ve been doing this website since before so mostly it’s because I live here.

I live and breathe racism and white supremacy and will almost certainly die with both going strong still.

But let’s take a quick stop in France (virtually speaking) and check out the pic of the tweet over on the left here with two French doctors talking about possible trials of a potential treatment (or maybe vaccine?) for the new coronavirus that’s shutting much of the world down right now. The original poster provided a small bit of the interview in translation, but it was a pretty damning portion, as Dr. Mira says, “If I can be provocative, shouldn’t we do this study in Africa, where there are no masks, no treatment, no resuscitation, a bit like it has been done in some studies in AIDS, where among prostitutes, we try things, because they are exposed, and .they don’t protect themselves, what do you think?” To which the other doctor in the live interview, Dr. Locht, readily agreed.

Well, if live interviews are good for anything, it’s allowing people’s racism to slip out unfiltered.

France, like the United Kingdom like the United States like dozens of other white nations, has a history of colonialism in countries where brown-skinned people are native and enslavement of brown-skinned people. White supremacy and racism exist in all these places that were former colonial giants, and can often serve as a mirror for us to look into.

After all, the United States pulled off atrocities like the Tuskegee syphilis experiment using Black people like experimental animals, and that’s just part of the legacy of Black people being used unethically for experiments (and often other marginalized or unprotected groups). And what’s worth looking at here, in this French interview, is how easy it is for white people to just suddenly start talking about brown-skinned people as if they were objects (and sex workers, too). No talk of what they might want or their humanity or autonomy. Just, “We should use them like lab animals, shouldn’t we?”

And this interview could just as well have happened in any mostly white nation—including the United States. In fact, given our current administration, I’m surprised we didn’t get to this level of open medical/experimental racism before France.

What is even more offensive about this is that Africa is currently one of the least hard-hit areas of the world with respect to the virus and COVID-19. I might be less infuriated if they had framed it as “Maybe we should start something like this in Africa where perhaps we can really get ahead of the curve and do some good.” I still wouldn’t fully trust in their intentions and honesty, because why not focus on where you are and where your fellow people are and where you have a lot of cases already? But at least it would sound more humane and compassionate.

Because the fact is these doctors are talking about African people like disposable objects. They are acting like all of Africa is living in total poverty with nothing at all (not true) and they are looking at “advantages” like “no resuscitation.” What the hell?

A whole continent of people is just a collection of lab animals to them. Medical commodities.

At a time when a nasty disease could be bridging us and connecting us and uniting us we have this: Doctors dehumanizing people and saying they should be first for the experimental risks. We should go over to a whole other part of the world to do our studies when we have disease right on our doorstep. We should use the brown-skinned folk.

The more things change—even when the entire world just about has been turned upside down—the more things stay the same.

And no, I don’t think all medical and research people are like this. But racism is a big problem in medical care and in research. And the fact is we’re already seeing evidence in the United States of Black people not getting access to tests or treatment for COVID-19 and being disproportionately impacted (by death and suffering) by the disease.

We’re all human and we’re all in this together. No one should be set aside as expendable just because they aren’t white.


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Image of lab vials by Bill Oxford via Unsplash

Reparations matter and are relevant (and doable) now

Today’s offering is a guest post from Kathryn Terry of Reparations Roundtable™, a group of white and white- presenting folks dedicated to the educational and direct giving aspects of reparations work (for more on her and the group, see info at the end after my usual giving/support blurb). – BGIM


I am a reparationist. A white-presenting woman who firmly believes in the redistribution of wealth and resources to Black Americans in order to address the deep harm they have suffered at the hands of white supremacy culture. At the hands of us…white people. Black Americans’ generational wealth was (is) stolen by white Americans, and the damage from that theft of resources reverberates endlessly via institutional racism and white support of it. 

I am a reparationist because I have learned over many years that it doesn’t matter if we personally didn’t participate in the actual theft of resources from Black communities. It doesn’t matter if our families were/are lower or middle class going back generations. “But my family is poor and we never owned slaves” is not an inoculation, in any way, against upholding systems of oppression that we think we benefit from (we do, unfairly). We are white, and therefore have been upholding white supremacy culture, the foundation of institutional racism, since we created it. From slavery to Jim Crow to redlining to the school-to-prison pipeline to unjust sentencing to do you get what I’m saying? Reparations are owed to Black Americans. 

This weekend, like every weekend and most days of the week, I’m raising funds for Black women and femmes and their children. I belong to a direct-giving reparations group, and every dollar we raise goes to supporting Black people in crisis. We don’t operate the way nonprofits do, generally doling out small amounts for a very narrow group of needs and/or people on a one-time basis. We provide support with critical living needs for as long as people need it. Our goal is moving people from crisis to stability. There’s never enough money, but I hope and believe we are making a difference in the lives of the Black women, femmes, and marginalized genders that come to us for assistance. 

As white people, once we open our eyes to how much damage whiteness and racism have done to Black people and communities, how can we deny that reparations are due, and that it’s long past time for them to be paid? For me it’s not possible to ignore the deep inequity created by centuries of racial oppression, so it feels inevitable and natural that I found my way to reparations work. I have always cared deeply about injustice. I have always wanted to bridge the deep divide between myself and Black people, who literally have no reason to trust anyone white after hundreds of years of oppression. Working alongside, and at the direction of, Black women organizers for the last two years in reparations work has been a privilege that I don’t take lightly. I try to be a consistent anti-racism ally and accomplice. It takes work, and a lot of that work is self-awareness and unlearning deeply ingrained racism. If you’re thinking right now “But I’m not racist”, I’ve been there. It’s our knee-jerk reaction to these conversations, and we can get past it. We are all racist and the difference is, what are we doing about it? What are we doing to change ourselves and society? What are we doing to heal the damage that our collective racism has inflicted on Black people? 

A big, impactful thing we can do is to get involved in reparations work. Seek out anti-racism and reparations groups you can join and learn with. Pay Black organizers and anti-racism activists by subscribing to support their work, whether they have a Patreon account or just feature their pay apps in their social media profiles. They deserve to be paid for the education they’re providing and the labor they’re giving to educate white people. We all deserve to be paid for our work. Budget income for reparations giving, help other people raise funds by sharing fundraisers. 

I urge people to seek out the truth about racism and the daily lived experiences of Black and brown people, get past the feelings that it will bring up in you, keep pushing yourself when you feel guilty or defensive or angry that this is what is true, and not what you believed the world to be. The point of learning is not to make us feel guilty or ashamed; it is to bring us to an awareness that Black people have been living under systems of oppression that center whiteness, that we are a part of those systems, and that we must actively work to dismantle them. Reparations through direct giving smashes the paradigm of capitalism and it’s built-in racism, putting dollars directly into the hands of Black people. 

It took many years for me to get to the point of aspiring to and working towards being actively anti-racist. It feels so much easier to allow ourselves to continue in our blindness to how racist the world around us is—our families, our friends—but we as white people are individually and collectively racist. To face that is to accept that yes, even you yourself have been racist during your life, whether you meant to be or not. Our intent doesn’t matter; the results of our action or inaction do. If we’re not actively seeking to dismantle racist systems of oppression, we are passively upholding them. Inaction in the face of great injustice is racism, too. 

There has been enough discussion about reparations. What is really needed is for us to come together and do the work of reparations and anti-racism. We do not have to wait for a law to be passed, for years of studying how and when and who reparations should be paid to; we can begin the work ourselves. Direct giving as reparations is the model for white and white-adjacent people to do the work of dismantling institutional racism, and we are always looking for other white people to join us. You can find our group, Reparations Roundtable™, on Facebook, and on Twitter @ReparationsR. 

Sincere gratitude to Shay for asking me to write this piece. I have been reading and following Shay’s anti-racism work on her website, Facebook pages, and Twitter for a few years now and I have learned so much from her. I appreciate the opportunity to engage with her community, learn, and grow together. I hope if you’re reading this that you also support Shay via her Patreon account. The education that Black women have been providing to us for as long as I can remember is worth supporting with our dollars. Her anti-racism work is not free. We shouldn’t think of it as free.  Ultimately, reparations is really about freedom. In the words of famous activist and Civil Rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer, “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.” Believe it, and let’s get busy.


If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.

Comments will close on this post in 60-90 days; earlier if there are spam attacks or other nonsense.


Today’s guest poster, Kathryn Terry, is an active member of Reparations Roundtable™, a group of white and white-presenting folks dedicated to the educational and direct giving aspects of reparations work. She is also an advocate for children and adolescents, active in public school mentoring programs for the last several years. She loves writing, singing, dancing, and building community with people who are intent on becoming anti-racist and working to dismantle institutional racism. You can find Reparations Roundtable™ and join the group on Facebook, follow on Twitter @ReparationsR, and you can support Black women and femmes directly via their Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/ReparationsRoundtable.

Not everyone’s cup of tea

“I find myself disagreeing with much of the content and becoming agitated, when I had hoped to become more educated. This just isn’t working for me.” – exit survey of now former BGIM patron

I started writing about race back in 2003, back when writing about race as a non-academic was far, far less of the thing it is today—and almost not a thing at all in Maine. I received my first death threat less than a year after I started writing about my life as a Black woman living in the whitest state in America.

I say that to say this: I have had to develop some thick skin to stay with this work, especially at a time when the average white person assumed that white supremacy meant I was talking about the Ku Klux Klan and not an entire intentionally designed social-political-economic system.

My work and my writing is not everyone’s cup of tea. I know this. However, this platform is about honest conversations on race. Those conversations often use personal narratives that, for myself and BGIM Media’s Black and POC writers, allow us to be real about how racism affects us and how we navigate life. For my white writers, this space allows them to share their personal narratives on their continuous journey to dismantle whiteness within themselves and their white communities.

As the creator of this space, and as the executive director of Community Change Inc, one of the oldest anti-racism organizations in the nation, I strive to make the basic tenets of anti-racism work accessible, understanding that the process of truly being an anti-racist is a lifelong journey.

We live in the house that white supremacy built. Racism will not end in our lifetimes and we cannot love our ways out of this racially inequitable system—nor can checklist our way out of racism. While I am not white, I do know from my white anti-racism colleagues that their commitment to being anti-racist is a daily struggle. Whiteness is seductive and if you aren’t diligent, you will fall back into its luring arms. To truly work to become anti-racist requires sitting with uncomfortable truths—to understand that much of what you thought to be true as a white person was a half-truth at best. Given the state of today’s textbooks, it often might all be a lie (since enslaved Africans were never “immigrants” to this country and Indigenous people didn’t just give up their land).

Racism is internal, interpersonal, institutional and cultural. Once you start to have a new lens of seeing and understanding racism and the levels at which it operates in this country, you will notice it everywhere. Our work on this site serves to shine a spotlight on the crevices where racism hides that it becomes easy not to see, much like the dust bunnies that many of us ignore in our corners.

As a Black woman, my work can assist in providing an anti-racism education, but it is ultimately up to individual white people to do their work. With that in mind, if my work or the work of our writers is upsetting and agitating to you, it can be either a potential breakthrough moment…or a sign that you aren’t ready (or willing) to go deeper.

Losing patrons is a fact of life. We hate to see people go, but circumstances do change. However, I have never had a patron tell me that they found my work upsetting (as in the introductory quote to this post). To be honest, it begs the question: How did you end up as a patron to begin with? I would hope that people support this work because they have already found it to be valuable and have some sense of what they are supporting beforehand.

To those who have stayed with BGIM Media on this journey, I thank you for your readership and support and hope that our work continues to be a part of your commitment to being an anti-racist.


If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.

Comments will close on this post in 60-90 days; earlier if there are spam attacks or other nonsense.

Photo by Kira auf der Heide from Unsplash