Dying In Power

For the accompanying poem, The Death Of The Black Body, click here.

Flowers in the Graveyard – All the Wonders
Nothing is so sad as seeing flowers among graves…

There is a certain indignance to the death of Dr. Susan Moore.

Black. Woman. Mother. Doctor.

The same attributes that make excellent doctors, were seen as ‘intimidating’ to the medical staff which were responsible for her death! What makes this all the more heartbreaking is the viral video Dr. Moore, and the subsequent New York Times article. The thing which turned my heartbreak to rage is the video. She knew what was happening to her.

She knew. They knew.

Dr. Moore knew the doctor (in name only) that was ‘in charge of her care’ was denying her what she needed to recover.

She knew. He knew.

Dr. Moore advocated for her health up until the hour of her death. Yet, she did what most Black women do–even as they lay dying–she imparted truth.

She knew she was dying, and would die. She also knew her medical neglect was a result of the staff feeling ‘intimidated by her’. Let me explain to you what it means to be intimidating as a Black person, especially a Black woman. It means you cannot be easily manipulated. It means you don’t take the word of people (namely White people in power) as the final say on any matter. It means you speak up when people don’t think you should. You hold space and take it up–you don’t shrink. The fact still is, Dr. Moore knew what she needed–and no one listened to her.

Aside: This is why Black doctors are needed! Black patients need to be listened to and believed!

Peep this statement (taken from ABC News):

In a press release, Indiana University Hospital president and CEO Dennis M. Murphy described Dr. Susan Moore as a “complex patient” and said that during her stay at the IU Health North facility in Carmel, Indiana, the nursing staff treating her for coronavirus “may have been intimidated by a knowledgeable patient who was using social media to voice her concerns and critique the care they were delivering.”

A complex patient.

Any patient that is knowledgeable about their care is intimidating. Speaking from personal experience, retired nurses are the worst patients (and the most entertaining!). But there is a whiff of coded language here. Dr. Moore says that her care was compromised because the staff all knew she was a doctor–and yet they were intimidated by her using social media. Let me help you out: if you were doing your job, and charting, she wouldn’t be intimidating. If she was getting the care she needed, would she even be using social media? Would she even be dead?

The question that I keep coming back to is why was Dr. Moore using social media as a tool. Why did she feel the need to do this? As I answer my own question, the only solution is–she must have been scared. Something must have unnerved her to the point she had to record it. Dr. Moore had to have thought, “These people might do anything to me. Let me keep them accountable.” The fact is, Black folk whom are knowledgeable are always a threat. We are always seen as complex because there is no way to knock a down a peg–the archaic phrase is ‘uppity negro’.

So let’s look at this again. There is a Black woman, knowledgeable about her care, and advocating her own health and safety in the middle of a global pandemic which has killed over 300,000 people. Who wouldn’t be scared? Who wouldn’t document everything? Who BLACK wouldn’t let everyone in their circle know what was happening to them? Good or ill? Granted is it aggravating to take care of people whom are medical professionals in patient roles? Yes. They will look over everything; they will ask questions; they will try and direct their own care. It’s frustrating. It’s aggravating. But, this is not a reason to not take care of your patients regardless of race!

Dr. Susan Moore should not have had to resort to the vehicle of social media to detail what what happening to her. The medical staff need to be held into account! The suspicion that most Black people have for doctors, hospitals, and the medical community as a whole is an open secret.

From Lucy, and countless other slaves whose bodies where used to ‘further’ what we now know as gynecology. To the Freedmen Hospitals. Henrietta Lacks. To the Tuskegee Experiment. The sterilizing of Latin women. And now COVID-19. The medical community likes to gloss over, and rebury the bodies which have allowed ‘science to move forward.’ The lynchpin? The families of the unwilling forced into graves too soon by avarice or malice hiding in a white coat and stethoscope fueled by curiosity didn’t forget!

We remember.

These cases are not alive or immortal through medical journals. These are people, were people, and are always going to be people! Members of a society cloaked in science, superstition and embolden by racism have always used Black, Brown and Native bodies as guinea pigs; expenditures of its own curiosity.

Social media is a tool of marginalized people, and Dr. Susan Moore used it to advocate. Black women are always advocating, and warning, and trying to save the world. I cannot help but think of Mama Pope and the soliloquy felt by Black women everywhere:

“Trying and saving and trying to save. Like we do. So here I am. Admirable or ridiculous? Baby, you tell me.”

Dr. Susan Moore should not be dead. Dr. Susan Moore should not have had to advocate for her own health, fight racism and recover at the same time! It’s the system that killed her that is ridiculous. When will that change? I’ll wait.