Podcast: Bishop Claude Alexander | A Common Vulnerability

In the episode, Jim talks with Bishop Claude Alexander about his growing up in the south with parents esteemed in the medical field–his mother was the first black psychiatrist in Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas and his father was family practitioner who was assigned to Martin Luther King, Jr. whenever he was in Mississippi–and about the role of science in racial reconciliation in America today. Claude provides some pastoral and poignant notes of hope at the end of the episode.


I thought it was very interesting. Societal issues are always interesting because there are so many sides to it. Such as how people feel that they should apologize for the actions of a industry vs those who don’t believe they should, and how to some when they hear these apologies it helps them and for others it’s on deaf ears because they believe action needs to be taken against those who did these things or lawsuits against them and so on.

Growing up in Alabama in Mobile for many years where there are more black people than white people , and then moving to a city where only a fraction of the population black and almost all lived in the same neighborhood opened me up to lots of experience I don’t think I ever would have gotten had I just lived in one of those places. It was also compounded by the issue that the neighborhood is the same one that African Americans were forced to live in during segregation and the school that become the middle school was the school that use to be where all black kids had to go. They ended up cutting down some trees that supposedly were planted a long time ago and used in lynchings that were done at the school to strike fear into kids. More things came to light when the school had to be remodeled because it was lacking so many features that other classrooms had and it let you know that way back in the day they definitely chose to build this school worse. Even after segregation ended the community still kept their small pool and it was noticeable that the much larger nicer pool was frequented by white people and the other pool was more frequented by blacks. I still remember in middle school when a black English teacher wanted to showcase subtle racism and brought in a map that showed the downtown area was where it was predominantly white and that’s where the majority of the nicer stores, theaters and so on were. Then showed us how in the areas that were predominantly black was where the majority of roads were still messed up, where the majority of smaller mom and pop black owned stores were, and was where the pawnshops, flee market, and alcohol stores were. It was the first time as a teen that I really focused on how the environment did change. Running through the black neighborhood was a open waste canal that eventually was deemed unsanitary and concreted over and fixed. Guess back in the day, and even into the 90s, the cities waste did not run through rivers , but a man made canal and that canal cut through and others all intersected right in the predominantly black neighborhood. Lots of sad history mixed into area.


Where science and medicine misused and abused the black community in the past definitely affects the perception of the scientific efforts in our current pandemic. One can understand the suspicion of vaccines and perhaps the critical eye cast toward relief and vaccination efforts worldwide, unfortunately opening the door to opportunists who prey on that distrust for their own self serving ends.
It seems the best solution is the encouragement of minorities to enter science and we need to help,as best we can so their voices are heard.