New allegations evoke an American tradition of violating Black and brown womens bodies – The Boston Globe

In 2018, Simss statue was finally removed from the park. What cannot be erased is this nations entrenched history of violating Black and brown womens bodies.

Just as sickening as a whistleblowers recent accusations that a doctor at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility performed nonconsensual hysterectomies on immigrant women is how easy it is to believe her claims.

According to Dawn Wooten, a licensed practical nurse who worked at Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia, a doctor conducted so many of these unwarranted surgeries, one woman detainee even had a creepy moniker for him: the uterus collector.

Wootens accusations havent been proven. There are, however, other allegations of abusive or substandard medical care at the ICE facility.

In a statement, Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington, vice chair of the House immigration subcommittee, said, It appears that there may be at minimum 17 to 18 women who were subjected to unnecessary medical gynecological procedures from just this one doctor, often without appropriate consent or knowledge, and with the clear intention of sterilization.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said the accusations, if true, would be a staggering abuse of human rights, called on the Department of Homeland Security to "immediately investigate the allegations detailed in this complaint.

No one should ever wonder why people of color are reluctant to volunteer for COVID-19 vaccine trials, despite the pandemics disproportionate impact in Black, Latinx, and indigenous communities. Medical mistrust is real and hard earned because procedures that rob women of color of their agency and defile their bodies are steeped in this nations history.

It is, of course, the kind of history that America often tries to bury whole, but the echoes of its atrocities can never be fully silenced. In her landmark book, Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty, Dorothy Roberts wrote that teaching hospitals in the South routinely allowed unnecessary hysterectomies on poor Black women as practice for medical residents. This sort of abuse was so widespread in the South that these operations came to be known as Mississippi appendectomies," she wrote.

In 1961, iconic civil and voting rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer underwent surgery to remove a uterine tumor. She woke up having undergone a hysterectomy, performed without her consent and for no medical reason. Doctors used forced sterilization as population control, often targeting poor women of color.

In 1990, the Philadelphia Inquirer editorial board was forced to walk back its endorsement of eugenics, titled Poverty and Norplant Can Contraception Reduce the Underclass? This was its argument: "The main reason more black children are living in poverty is that the people having the most children are the ones least capable of supporting them. . . So why not make a major effort to reduce the number of children, of any race, born into such circumstances?

With its racist foundation, America has worked overtime for centuries to police the bodies and reproductive freedom of Black, brown, and indigenous women. To medically revoke a womans right to have a child not only controls population diversity in the most dystopian way, but also judges which women are and arent worthy of motherhood.

Sims was not the only doctor whose barbarism with surgical instruments forever altered the lives of his unwilling patients. Nor will the accusations about the terrors endured by immigrant women likely end with reports about one doctor in one ICE facility in one state.

White supremacy is a thief, and in each generation, with little effort, it finds too many willing accomplices.

Rene Graham can be reached at renee.graham@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @reneeygraham.

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New allegations evoke an American tradition of violating Black and brown womens bodies - The Boston Globe

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