ABSTRACT

Since prehistoric times medicine has been a major human endeavor. Healing and administering health care have always held special places in the sphere of human interactions and have possessed inordinate, even quasi-magical and mystical powers in both primitive and civilized societies. Our investigation delves into how, why, and when race and racialist dogma, or their precursors, were first injected into the life sciences. Other major concerns are the origins of America’s individualistic and hierarchical approaches to health, healing, and health care. How these medicalsocial principles and practices, which have always been factor-loaded against African Americans, became entrenched in U.S. medical and health care systems is a critical question. These same principles and practices became encumbered with quasi-religious ideological and moral overtones with the potential to justify proscription, exploitation, and even condemnation of particular patient groups. These evolutionary trends in the health system’s subculture, having roots and precursors stretching back to Mesopotamian, Egyptian, and Greco-Roman times, have led to profound race and class problems plaguing the contemporary U.S. health system.