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Subjective Assumptions and Medicine: Racism Essay

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Updated: Feb 13th, 2022

Racism is a significant issue for almost every multinational country, and the United States is not an exception. In the early 20th century, some white Americans felt their superiority over minorities, and that state of affairs could be found in various spheres of life. For example, medicine also witnessed some kinds of prejudiced attitudes. Thus, the purpose of this paper is to explain why Allen believed that African Americans were responsible for the spread of tuberculosis among whites and what consequences his assumption had.

Also known as a Georgia Physician, Allen was prejudiced by his time and culture. That is why this white southerner believed that “disease among the negroes is a danger to the entire population” (Warner & Tighe, 2001, p. 250). The scholar understands the threat of infectious diseases and emphasizes the fact that white southerners often come into direct contact with African Americans. Allen describes that representatives of this minority group were responsible for the spread of tuberculosis because they were “employed as servants in many of the best homes in the South” (Warner & Tighe, 2001, p. 250). Thus, health and sick Americans met in offices, stores, streetcars, and others, which contributed to the communication of the disease. The given supposition demonstrates that Allen believed in the superiority of white southerners over Black Americans because the latter ones were made responsible for the deteriorated health of the former.

Furthermore, the Physician stipulated that the abolition of slavery harmed the nation. Allen, as a southerner, supported slavery and tried to justify it with the help of numerous means. One of them referred to the idea that slaves witnessed a high level of discipline, so people carefully monitored order, sleep, nutrition, physical activity, and others. As a result of it, the scholar stated that the level of human immunity increased, and diseases could not have a significant effect on the population. That idea existed because free African Americans lived in dirty conditions and witnessed “more sickness and inefficiency and crime” (Warner & Tighe, 2001, p. 250). In addition to that, Allen emphasized that the representatives of this minority group had not been subject to tuberculosis during slavery time. The truth, however, is that multiple slaves had died because of disease, hard physical activity, and inadequate treatment. Consequently, Allen’s assumption was nothing but an attempt to justify slavery.

However, it is impossible to mention that the Georgia Physician’s claim only expressed negative attitudes toward African Americans. The examples above will demonstrate that Allen’s ideas were controversial. Even though he evidently showed his racist beliefs by stating that “the negro race in America is deteriorating,” he offered some ways of how to solve the issue (Warner & Tighe, 2001, p. 253). In addition to that, the scholar did not agree with his friend that teaching sanitation to African Americans was the same as teaching it to mules. Thus, no one can state that Allen treated African Americans like animals.

As has been mentioned above, the Georgia Physician tried to solve the problem under consideration. He believed that the best option was to educate African Americans on how to create cleanliness when they work and live. However, it is possible to state that Allen’s proposal also was of controversial nature. On the one hand, the plan was good because it tried to improve the health of an appropriate part of the population. On the other hand, the ways to solve the issue were not free from racism. It was previously described that Allen insisted on the necessity to provide African Americans with enhanced educational opportunities. Thus, he considered it as an achievement that such people had “individual drinking cups and nice lunch baskets made with their own hands” (Warner & Tighe, 2001, p. 252).

Furthermore, Allen advocated the establishment of improvement clubs that were a kind of school for such people. Warner and Tighe (2001) explain that members of those clubs were proposed to learn hygiene and sanitation, together with farming and stock raising. At the same time, the Georgia Physician stated that “women should be instructed in cooking and the care of infants” (Warner & Tighe, 2001, p. 252). Thus, Allen expressed his opinion concerning the role of African Americans in society.

It is possible to conclude that Allen’s ideas were subjective. However, it is challenging to give an accurate appraisal of his activity. On the one hand, he offered ways of how to increase the health of African Americans. On the other hand, his proposal was driven by subjective thoughts and racist beliefs. He emphasized the superiority of white people over African Americans and explained that the latter ones could endanger the whole nation. Allen tried to justify slavery, but this idea appeared because many southerners were active opponents of making representatives of that minority group free. Even though those thoughts were prejudiced, Allen managed to offer a useful solution to the problem. It relates to the fact that he insisted on the necessity to teach African Americans how to follow hygiene standards. However, one should state that the proposal also supported the racial segregation of society.


Warner, J. H., & Tighe, J. A. (2001). Major problems in the history of American medicine and public health: Documents and essays. Houghton Mifflin.

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