If you’ve spent any time as a person of color in this country, you’ve likely realized that all of the people who have statues erected in their honor, are also the same people who achieved their greatness by oppressing fellow human beings. Whether we’re talking about military men, many of our founding fathers and even those who are being celebrated for their medical contributions achieved these great feats through evil means.
Years ago, my friend, who attended the University of North Carolina, told me that there was this gynecologist whose papers were featured in the university’s archives but the way he collected his information to make these game-changing medical discoveries came by abusing Black women.
Dr. James Marion Sims is lauded as the “father of modern gynecology” and his statue stands at the entrance of Central Park at 103rd Street in Manhattan. He is credited with treating the vesicovaginal fistula, a common condition in women after childbirth.
The problem with Dr. Sims, originally from South Carolina, is not only that he owned slaves but he conducted several experiments on Black women, often time forgoing anesthesia because he believed that Black women “could not feel pain.”
As a result of their enslavement, these experiments were likely conducted without consent or the presence of any type of modern day medical or moral standards.
In protest of J. Marion Sims’ erected statues, 27-year-old Rossanna Mercedes, a member of the Black Youth Project 100, told the New York Daily News, “Memorializing of imperialist slaverholders, murderers and torturers like J. Marion Sims is White supremacy.”
She continued, “We will no longer allow government institutions like the New York City Parks Department to passively allow symbols of oppression.”
Seshat Mack, 24, said, “At best J. Marion Sims was a racist man who exploited the institution of racism for his own gain. At best, he was a man who recognized the humanity of Black slaves to use them for medical research about the human body- but not enough to recognize and treat their pain during surgery.”
The city has refused to remove the statue which stands in East Harlem, a racially diverse neighborhood. Instead, the offered to add a sign to the statue that offered greater context about the price of Sims’ discoveries.