Nov 15 2012
Dr. Thomas Guglielmo’s lecture this evening on Red Cross, Double Cross: The Untold Story of Race, Blood, and World War II was extremely fascinating as it covered many aspects of racial exclusion and segregation during the WWII era. He broke his lecture into four separate segments — the first asking what these policies were. During WWII, race and blood had been seen as deeply connected, (even considered to be one in the same). The Red Cross was asked to supply blood and plasma from strictly white donors. This was not only hurtful from a PR perspective, but it also hurts the supply and demand cycle. Though African American blood and white blood has been tested as being biologically identical, “white majority” ruled in favor of excluding, (then eventually separating), African American blood from white donations. Next, Guglielmo spoke about how African Americans responded to this segregation. I found it incredibly interesting when he made the point that lack of patriotism could not account for the smaller percentage of African American donations because they contributed greatly to other war-related efforts. This was obviously pointing to the fact that African Americans were truly angry about the segregation laws. In fact, plenty of activism came about after the segregation laws were put into place. Even numerous chapters of the Red Cross themselves fought to remove these policies. Guglielmo asked the question, “Why this policy in the first place?” It wasn’t because they believed that a biological incompatibility truly existed. I think one of his best points was saying simply that prejudices amongst white leaders shaped these policies more significantly than the white majority as a whole. His last segment talked about how faithfully this policy was followed on the battlefield. It was pretty much a draw as to whether or not commanding officers set blood policies on the battlefield. Some officers followed them strictly, and other officers believed that all blood, from white or black, would save the life of a wounded soldier.
As a whole, I found the lecture to be extremely interesting. The topic was something that I’ve never really given much thought, and I would be interested in learning more. I was very intrigued by the letter written by Senator Byrd, and I was somewhat surprised to see how drastically his opinions have changed with the times. I would love to read further into Guglielmo’s research, and overall, I’m glad that I attended the lecture.