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More On Aids And Race

I'm straying from the topic of the campaign, but this is fascinating stuff. So I want to follow up on my earlier post about Jeremiah Wright's views on the AIDS virus as a genocidal weapon. A colleague directs me to this 2005 Washington Post article about a study which found some deeply depressing attitudes within black America about the AIDS virus, its origins, and what's being done to combat it.

To some degree these numbers are a reminder that, in the context of urban America, what Wright said is not so fringe. As one professor told the Washington Post:

"This is not a bunch of crazy people running around saying they're out to get us," Akbar said. The belief "comes from the reality of 300 years of slavery and 100 years of post-slavery exploitation."

But the problem is that Wright, as a pillar of the community, ought to know better. And he has an obligation to disabuse people of self-destructive false beliefs. Here's the real reason to get exercised about this, why this is more than just scoring easy points:

Phill Wilson, executive director of the Black AIDS Institute in Los Angeles, said past discrimination is no longer an excuse for embracing conspiracies that allow HIV to fester.

"It's a huge barrier to HIV prevention in black communities," Wilson said.... "The whole notion of conspiracy theories and misinformation . . . removes personal responsibility," Wilson said. "If there is this boogeyman, people say, 'Why should I use condoms? Why should I use clean needles?' And if I'm an organization, 'Why should I bother with educating my folks?' The syphilis study was real, but it happened 40 years ago, and holding on to it is killing us."

If nothing else comes of this Wright mania, maybe there will at least be some new effort to confront this tragically destructive canard. 

Incidentally, it should go without saying that a mass delusion like this one will be the problem of any president, not just Barack Obama. I wonder whether John McCain, for instance, is even aware of it.

--Michael Crowley