20 And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment, (KJV)
21 for she said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well.” 22 Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well. ( NRSV)
Medical research has a long, troubled racial history. One example is the Tuskegee study, which involved doctors letting black men die from syphilis.
The goal of the United States Public Health Service was to “observe the natural history of untreated syphilis” in black populations, but the subjects were completely unaware and were instead told they were receiving treatment for bad blood when in fact, they received no treatment at all.
Ada McVean B.Sc. writes in her article on the subject “During that time Social Darwinism was rising, predicated on the survival of the fittest, and “scientific racism” (a pseudoscientific practice of using science to reinforce racial biases) was common. Many white people already thought themselves superior to blacks and science and medicine was all too happy to reinforce this hierarchy. Scientific racism was used to justify the African slave trade. Scientists argued that African men were uniquely fit for enslavement due to their physical strength and simple minds. They argued that slaves possessed primitive nervous systems, so did not experience pain as white people did… In order to track the disease’s full progression, researchers provided no effective care as the men died, went blind or insane or experienced other severe health problems due to their untreated syphilis.”
Another example is the case of Henrietta Lacks. She was a poor African-American woman whose cancer cells scientists and drug companies used for decades without her permission. But the list of abuses is long.
It is this history that causes Black Indigenous People Of Color (BIPOC) to distrust the US government and their hesitance to take the Covid-19 vaccine.
In Matthew’s gospel there was a woman who also suffered many years under doctors who could do nothing for her disease. This woman was amazing, she was courageous. She didn’t give up or in. She operated out of her hope, and put her faith in a man named Jesus. Just as we have been instructed to practice social distance, wear masks, and constantly wash your hands as a means to avoid contacting the Covid-19 virus. Because of the nature of her disease, she was required, according to Hebrew law, to be isolated from society, not come around others. There are similarities. But she had the courage to go take her healing. She knew within herself that it was there for the taking. Just like our healing, protection and protection for our loved ones is there for the taking. The COVID-19 vaccine has met strict safety standards, followed all the usual steps to ensure that the vaccines are safe, pure and effective.
Beloved, the vaccine provided to all is free and safe and available for all.
I pray that anyone who has reservations or hesitancy about taking the vaccine will have some of that same strength and hope to put their faith and confidence that the government has learned from their mistakes. And that healing is a touch away!
Pastor Babette Chatman