By Sebastian B.
Henrietta Lacks is the story of invasion. The entire story is based around the invasion of one African American woman’s privacy in connection to many other times in which African American rights were inflicted upon. Invasion could simply be another word for imperialism, it does say right in the definition “a policy of extending a country’s power and influence through diplomacy or military force”. Diplomacy is one thing but when you’re a huge power looking to expand, the last thing you want to do is “shake hands” with a lesser power.
In Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, she follows the story of Lacks’ life and how it was stripped from her slowly while doctors made a billion dollar industry off of her. In the book doctors find she has these invincible sells in which led to many expansions in the medical field such as the Polio vaccine. Doctors wrote in loops and did their best to make sure their black patients did not know that instead of being treated they were being used to study and fund the largely growing medical industry at the time. Ethics were unsettling during this time so this was fairly common, however, it’s still wrong and could also be seen as imperialism. If you take over a land by force, only the circumstances are different when you invade a person’s privacy and take what is rightfully theirs.
“It started in the thirties, when US Public Health Service researchers at the Tuskegee Institute decided to study how syphilis killed, from infection to death. They recruited hundreds of African-American men with syphilis, then watched them die slow, painful, and preventable deaths.” It’s true that doctors weren’t physically stealing from these men, however, they are responsible for their lives. They knew they were sick and let them die all while treatments were readily available simply to study, hundreds of lives lost. If this isn’t invasion then I don’t know what is. Unrighteously taken from unknowing subjects while they suffer and you gain. That’s a class act of imperialism.
“Southam loaded a syringe with saline solution mixed with HeLa. He slid the needle into the forearm of a woman who recently had been hospitalized for leukemia – to see if Henrietta’s cancer was growing on her arm.” Another case, same idea, different circumstances. Another life given to an unrighteous cause that was invasive. The entire idea is invasive, invasion goes hand in hand with imperialism on any grounds, history has proven that diplomacy and imperialism together rarely work because the environment in which is needs in order to work presents itself very rarely. For example a lot of people say that during WWII Poland accepted and embraced the invasion by the Nazis, because it’s a lot easier to just say “oh we were invaded and couldn’t do anything” than “oh we think they have the right idea so we’re going to indirectly aid them”.