Nov 15 2012
Until tonight’s presentation on race, blood, and World War Two, I’d never stopped to really consider the fact that while WWII was underway, segregation issues would have been in full swing. It shocked me to discover that only white blood donations were accepted, and black donors were prohibited from making their blood available to soldiers. It was really atrocious, if you think about it, that despite arguments from a scientific point of view (“No chemical, physical, or microscopic difference!”) the Army and the Red Cross were arguing that tradition and prejudice should dictate what rules went into effect. To argue that going with the white majority was somehow more “democratic” is also kind of offensive. Eventually exclusion of black blood gave way to segregation, which was just as problematic, considering that there was no distinguishable difference between this blood and that blood–even junior high students were able to test for that. You think that people would have been more concerned with saving lives on the battlefield and not where the blood comes from–but it does throw a real curl in the debate of what constitutes race. Is race what blood runs through your veins? What about the ‘one-drop’ rules? What makes you white or black, if not your blood? Not saying that I think it is one’s blood, but that that might have been a consideration of the time.
Also, I think it’s worth pointing out that even after segregation of blood ended, the American Red Cross still had issues with equality. Just so everyone knows, the way they treated homosexual males during and after–seriously, well after–the AIDS scare was kind of abominable. Everyone should go read about it, but the TL;DR is that they didn’t want the blood of any man who’d had male/male sexual contact, or the blood of any PERSON (male or female) who’d had sexual contact with a male who’d engaged in male/male sexual contact.
Apparently, it’s easier to discriminate indiscriminately rather than just run blood screens for testable viruses/diseases.