By Michael Harriot
A Westport, Conn., establishment is under fire after patrons discovered the restaurant’s drink menu featured some of the most racist names for beverages you can imagine, reigniting the age-old question:
Why are white people like this?
Apparently the owners and management at 323 Restaurant and Bar, which advertises itself as a “friendly neighborhood restaurant,” believe that joking about a secret, government-sponsored plan to infect black people with a disease for decades goes perfectly with a nice, thick cheeseburger and hand-cut fries.
Facebook user Eric Amour posted a photo of the specialty cocktail menu at 323. While the “Capetown Transfusion” contains a questionable reference to blood transfusions in sub-Saharan Africa, it is the concoction containing rum, pineapple juice, lime, pineapple and jalapeno mash and tobacco that has ignited an uproar.
Named the “Tuskegee Experiment,” the owners obviously assumed that the restaurant boasting the “largest flat screen in Westport” (yes, that is actually on the website) was not enough to lure casual racists into “Westport’s neighborhood bar.”
But why, though?
Wait, please don’t rack your brain trying to come up with an answer. That was a rhetorical question. We already know why.
Whoever did this is evil.
Not mean, not nasty, but evil. Mean people trip you and laugh when you fall. Nasty people take dumps in public toilets, use three-quarters of the roll of toilet tissue and then don’t flush. Mean people laugh at racist jokes. Nasty people laugh at pedophile jokes. Evil people concoct a four-decade conspiracy to secretly experiment on black people.
If you’re not aware of the Tuskegee Experiment, here’s a quick primer:
In 1932 the U.S. Health Service began a research experiment called the “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male” to examine syphilis in a group of black sharecroppers for 6 to 9 months. They coordinated with a Chicago-based charity funded by white liberal millionaires called The Rosenwald Fund (who had done this before to poor black workers in Mississippi) to find 399 black men infected with syphilis and another 201 who were healthy.
They used a black nurse, Eunice Rivers to convince some of the men to participate and sent out letters that said: “Last chance for free health care.” They told many of the men they were being treated but gave them a placebo instead. They refused to offer the participants funeral benefits unless they agreed to an autopsy.
But that wasn’t even the worst part.
By the 1940s, doctors across the country had determined that penicillin could cure syphilis, but the government prevented the participants from getting treatment! In fact, 250 of the men would eventually register for the draft, but the US Health Service secretly contacted the Army in an attempt to stop them from being treated.
Of the original 399 men, 128 died of syphilis or syphilis-related complications. 40 wives had been infected. 19 children were born with congenital syphilis. No one knows exactly how many others were infected, died or lost children during the 40 years of the study
And even though doctors had the cure for syphilis long before the experiment was terminated in 1972, the U.S. Health Service had not treated a single syphilitic person in the Tuskegee Experiment. Zero. Nada. Zilch.
Now that is evil.
But you know what would be eviler than that?
To laugh at that.
Even the evil people who conducted the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments didn’t talk about it publicly. They didn’t joke about it. They may have been evil, but not that evil.
Like the good people at 323, Westport’s friendly neighborhood restaurant.
This article was first published by The Root.