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Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight Against Medical Discrimination

4 pages
867 words
George Washington University
Type of paper: 
Book review
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The author is a sociologist at the University of Colombia and has presented extensively on the Black Panthers responsibility towards ensuring radicalization in the health movement. He has positioned the Black Panther Party (BPP) as pivotal in the long tradition of civil rights health activism. In the book, various social functions and everyday activities related to the free health clinics are discussed and the obligations of BPP. Additionally, the party's mission to fight back sickle-cell anemia, a genetically inherited disease is discussed which, primarily affected the African-Americans has been highlighted in the book. The author has challenged the readers to reevaluate the importance of activism of BPP as a continuation of the civil rights struggle in the USA and at the same time as an essential social health campaign that prolonged tradition of African-American health politics.

Nelson has also given an in-depth analysis of how the partys anti-sickle campaign helped highlight on the racial biases in the medical sector. The existing part of the book comes towards the end where the author has explained the partys challenge to the creation of UCLA Center that was aimed at studying and mitigating violence (Nelson 57). There was a group at the center that hypothesized that the prevailing violence was as a result of the inherent pathology of people with specific focus to the black men and was not linked to political or social issues. Within a short time, other Centers were set up to advocate for the psychosurgical manipulation of the brain as a way of curtailing violent behaviors among people. In the activism fraternity, the book has been reduced through a selective lens of the military to a message of self-defense or violent disagreements with the law agencies.

In the book, the authors assessment has argued that health problem was pivotal in the Black Panther Partys struggle towards the acquisition of civil and human rights. The health social movement was malleable which was able to expose the lingering differences in health and at the same time promulgate the radical sociopolitical ideologies. As such, there was a restricting of the explanation to better reflect on the political views(Nelson 124). The social health in the entire context of the book has captured BPPs need to address health inequality as a human right problem. In the book, the framework has been exemplified through the repurposing of the biomedical understanding within the social justice context and the expansion of disease interconnection beyond personal-level factors and biological aetiologies.

In the first chapter of the book, the author starts by charting historical development and ideological formation of Black Panther Partys health politics. The author has persuasively situated the ideology of activism within a broader tradition of African-American health context and interpreted the history of African-American reactions towards medical discrimination as symbols of three pragmatic tactics which includes; institution building, the politics of knowledge and integrationism(Nelson 240). In the remaining part of the book, these tactics have been highlighted to capture the partys health advocacy and also underline on the claim that BPP focused on health which was an extension of the entire civil rights movement.

To emphasis on the role of institution building, the third chapter has described the development and expansion of BPP people free medical clinics (PFMCs). The formation of the clinics captured the limits of landmark civil rights laws and referred to the quandary as 64 citizenship contradiction or disagreement between the legal passage of social attachment statutes and the real experience of social disparity in the context of the book. Even though expansion of civil rights showcased the period, the actions failed to guarantee that similar rights would be translated to social benefits. In comparison to BPP, PFMCs was seen more than just a brick and mortar and was an essential infrastructure that aimed at addressing the states drawbacks to provide adequate medical resources to all. The clinics signified the pathway whereby poor and predominated African-American society could control their individual health concerns and community needs. The fourth and fifth chapter has provided the reader with the best examples of the Black Panthers Partys successful health inventiveness such as the sickle cell anemia (SCA) initiative.

The author has approached the book in a historical and sociological point of view. For this reason, the extensive source of the book is BPP's weekly newspaper, the Black Panther. Subsequently, the author has drawn other information used in the book from medical and scientific sources published between 1960 to 1970 and various interviews done with previous black panthers. The tittle was derived from Black Panther Journal 1972 titled survival conference in Oakland where a banner was used to proclaim the conference's mission statement. This conference showcased the group's health-related events.

The author has combined her careful research, an insightful political analytics and passionate commitment to tell the little-known story related to Black Panther Party's health campaign. In the process of telling the story, she achieved her objective of highlighting issues related to poverty, access to quality healthcare and discrimination among the African-Americans. She also proved that social policies and legislation set have profound moral consequences.


Work cited

Nelson, Alondra. Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight against Medical Discrimination. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011. Print.

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