You have probably figured out by now that I find history will teach us many things, if we are inclined to listen. I came across this reference again earlier today, and it struck me that there was so much more to unpack within it than when I first read the book many years ago. Not just on issues of race, but on the state of healthcare and our society as well. A most timely read.
“There is another class of colored people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs — partly because they want sympathy, and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs.
“A story told me by a colored man in South Carolina will illustrate how people sometimes get into situations where they do not like to part with their grievances. In a certain community there was a colored doctor of the old school, who knew little about modern ideas of medicine, but who in some way had gained the confidence of the people and had made considerable money by his own peculiar methods of treatment.
“In this community there was an old lady who happened to be pretty well provided with this world’s goods and who thought that she had a cancer. For twenty years she had enjoyed the luxury of having this old doctor treat her for that cancer. As the old doctor became — thanks to the cancer and to other practice — pretty well-to-do, he decided to send one of his boys to a medical college. After graduating from the medical school, the young man returned home, and his father took a vacation. During this time the old lady who was afflicted with the “cancer” called in the young man, who treated her; within a few weeks the cancer (or what was supposed to be the cancer) disappeared, and the old lady declared herself well.
“When the father of the boy returned and found the patient on her feet and perfectly well, he was outraged. He called the young man before him and said: ‘My son, I find that you have cured that cancer case of mine. Now, son, let me tell you something. I educated you on that cancer. I put you through high school, through college, and finally through the medical school on that cancer. And now you, with your new ideas of practicing medicine, have come here and cured that cancer. Let me tell you, son, you have started all wrong. How do you expect to make a living practicing medicine in that way?’
“I am afraid that there is a certain class of race problem solvers who don’t want the patient to get well, because as long as the disease holds out they have not only an easy means of making a living, but also an easy medium through which to make themselves prominent before the public.”
Excerpt from My Larger Education, Written by Booker T. Washington, Published in 1911.
Open thread in the comments below.