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Black and Waiting: Bioethics and Care during the Covid-19 Pandemic

Abstract In this essay, a Black scholar of the cultural histories of Black women’s reproductive lives launches a discussion of generations of racism, health inequities, and violence against Black bodies by looking at Black poet and essayist Dionne Brand’s critique of the notion of returning to “the normal” after the Covid-19 pandemic. To what, the essay asks, is everyone so eager to return? The intergenerational wait for Black people’s moment of racial reckoning is its own unique biomedical warfare, which cannot end with the end of a pandemic. This warfare undercuts Black people’s daily health with anxiety and depression, altering the very chromosomes passed down to their children. To health care providers, bioethicists, and those who practice antiracist health work the author poses these questions: How will you confront anti-Black racism within every formulation of “treatment”—diagnosis, care, medication distribution, physical therapy? How long will the violence against Black lives be dissolved into talking points about our bodies? How can one listen, ethically, to Black people? These, she asserts, are questions of practice, of politics, and of care.

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