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Wilson: Black and vaxxed — a complicated history clashes with the future of Senate Bill 163

I know fear when I hear it. Real fear was palpable on both sides of the debate at the state Capitol.  

The question at hand; does Senate Bill 163 intrude on our constitutional rights by making school-entry immunization the standard for a targeted 95% of all children, leaving even less room for “nonmedical exemptions?”  

Sitting in the Supreme Court room on the third floor, kids and soccer moms milled about as the loud speakers played testimony from both sides of the vaccine debate. All sides wanted to protect their kids.  

Theo Wilson

Some said the danger was the additives in the western versions of vaccines, not vaccine science itself. Some said the danger was unvaccinated kids endangering healthy kids — because parental paranoia. Shadows of coronavirus fear haunted the halls of the Capitol that snowy February afternoon.  

I remember being one of the few black faces in the Senate seats that day. The other African Americans I saw gave testimonies that supported Senate Bill 163, encouraging the unbroken partyline of Democrat support for the bill.  

Yet, the testimony against Senate Bill 163 was not only compelling, but more numerous than I anticipated. Moms with vaccine-injured children stood in unison with a shocking number of medical professionals to warn about the dangers of vaccines, and the seemingly obvious corporate fingerprints on the legislation disguised as public safety.  

Given that last sentence, you can probably guess where I fall on the matter of vaccinations. At the risk of being clumped in with climate deniers, UFO junkies, Bigfoot enthusiasts and “crazed anti-vaxxers” putting public health at risk, I assert that my hesitations over vaccines come from a different place.  

They stem from a dark history of medical experimentation on black bodies that leaves the very integrity of the medical establishment in question. It’s more than just a suspicion of the profit motive. 

First, I feel it necessary to dissect the notion that anti-vaxxers (or those suspicious of vaccine producers) should be lumped in with the unscientific climate denialists. In fact, that’s absurd.  

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

Climate denialists are untrustworthy precisely because they trust big oil company science.  So, by that same logic, why is it intelligent to trust big pharma? Why not just trust big tobacco about cigarettes and vaping safety? But we trust big pharma about vaccine safety?  

If vaccines work well enough to be legislate-able, why the hell would the immunized kids be in any danger? They’ve already got protection. 

Experience tells me that the truth is durable, and can be questioned without fear. When I saw that just last year, a whooping cough outbreak occurred among already-vaccinated kids at the Harvard Westlake school in Los Angeles, I had questions.  

It turns out that the vaccines the students took had a shelf life of only four years. It also turns out that the pharmaceutical companies switched to a less-enduring form of the vaccine in 1997.  

When pro-vaccine people talk about new outbreaks of old diseases, they blame the unvaccinated, ignoring other stories like what happened in Houston just a few months ago. 

The fact that vaccine companies aren’t giving all the information to those who trust them isn’t surprising to me. Iatrophobia, the fear of going to the doctor, has a long and justified history in my community.  

As far back as slavery and as recent as the 1990’s, unaccountable medicine has been practiced on black bodies in this country. Under the guise of trustworthy medical science, horrific infections, sterilizations and experimentation have permanently damaged the lives of those who look like me.  

In her book, “Medical Apartheid,” Harriet Washington lays bare a ghastly, monstrous history of medical malpractice toward the black community. So dastardly is the medical establishment’s history of violating black bodies, that it alone could be a complete case for reparations for African Americans. 

I was shocked to learn that the infamous Tuskegee Experiments, which purposefully gave syphilis to black men, ended only as recently as 1972; and ended with resistance from the establishment!   

I had no idea that J. Marion Sims, the founder of gynecology, bought female slaves to experiment on without anesthesia. 

So, when the supposedly debunked “Vaxxed” movie made a compelling case that autism-causing metals in vaccines disproportionately affected black boys, it was hard to ignore.  

There’s a long history of malpractice we’ve endured at the hands of the medical industry. I don’t appreciate being called paranoid with all these signs pointing to the same “white folks in white coats,” who were trusted by my people … to death.  

Sitting in the Capitol, my gut tells me these soccer moms with vaccine-injured children are finding out what the black community has sadly known for centuries. I feel the tug-of-war between what my instincts tell me are medical danger signs vs. what I guess is the sound science of modern vaccinations. Big oil and big tobacco are the real liars, but not big pharma … right?

Sadly, even if vaccines absolutely caused autism, you couldn’t sue the manufacturers, anyway. The 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act passed by the 99th Congress says you’re out of luck if these companies harm you or your kids. It’s as rank as it sounds!  

The 1986 law didn’t cover vaccine companies completely, so in 2011, the Supreme Court gave them total immunity from you. Bruesewitz v. Wyeth passed with a split decision, saying that if the vaccines were “accompanied by proper directions and warnings,” in the small print, then hell, you take your chances.  

Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented with this ruling. In her dissent, Sotomayor said the law left a “regulatory vacuum” in which no agency could ensure the companies kept up with the latest science.  

So, you can’t sue ‘em, even if they do damage you. Question: what product in the free market can just be consumed with zero liability? I don’t care if it’s breakfast cereal, if they mess up, they should be held accountable. 

Not vaccines. Colorado lawmakers want to remove even more wiggle room for exemptions from them. I hope they’re ready to pay out possible lawsuits since it’s hands-off the manufacturers.  

History tells us that any minor encroachment on freedom will in time be exploited. The medical apartheid practiced with impunity on black bodies was codified for all in 1986, then in 2011, as far as I’m concerned.  

To me, the very principle of Colorado lawmakers’ fear mongering about vulnerable, unvaccinated kids on behalf of an unaccountable medical juggernaut is hideously wrong.  

I hope someone on the state House floor this week can at least consider that simple fact. The bill is headed from the Senate to the House, so we’ll see. Call me a tin-foil hat wearing anti-vaxxer all you want, but I smell a monster, and even pro-vaccine scientists are switching sides when they follow the evidence. 

But, I know. There’s no way big pharma could be covering something up like big oil and tobacco do. Using lawmakers and local governments as human shields for injury lawsuits couldn’t possibly be part of their grand strategy, right? 

The science is settled, and so are our children’s fates. Back to your regularly scheduled programming, and ignore the man behind the curtain in the lab coat. 


Theo Wilson is a poet, speaker, activist and CNN contributor. Learn more about him at TheoWilson.net.


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