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Friday, April 20, 2018

History divides USA citizens


The statue of Dr. James Marion Sims has been lowered from its pedestal in Central Park in New York. Known in the United States as the father of modern gynecology, for decades the practices on which the advances he achieved were less notable. Activists have denounced for years that his achievements were based on experiments with African-American slaves and that is why they demanded the withdrawal of the statue.


Months after the creation of a commission to study the case, its withdrawal became effective on Tuesday. Central Park was approached by a group of people who embraced and celebrated that Sims stopped having a position among the illustrious figures that complete the landscape of the park. "It's important to recognize that his contributions really happened at the expense of women who could not give consent," said Bernadith Russell, an African-American doctor at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, who went to see how the officials removed the statue with a crane. I acknowledge his contributions, but it is as if Josef Mengele had made advances in the field of medicine. We would not put a statue of him because of how he got that information", she told AFP, referring to the Nazi doctor who carried out cruel trials with prisoners in the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II.

Born in South Carolina, Sims studied medicine and practiced in a still slave society in Alabama between 1835 and 1849. There, as recorded in his notebooks, he carried out operations to a dozen slaves. Later he moved to New York, where he founded the first hospital for women in 1855. He was a pioneer in fistula surgery and also invented the speculum and other medical instruments that are currently used. However, his experiments with black slaves, without anesthesia and without their consent, have raised ethical issues and rejection by human rights activists.

Reflection on the statue of Sims and other sculptures of New York City emerged after the clashes at a protest by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, against the withdrawal of a statue of Confederate General Robert Lee, in which a young antiracist died. These confrontations opened the national debate on the symbols of the Civil War that are still present and have divided the population among those who ask for their withdrawal because they are considered racist - the South was favorable to maintaining slavery - and those who believe that it is part of the history of the country.

The mayor of New York, the Democrat Bill de Blasio, created a commission to which he commissioned a report on the symbols in the city that have generated controversy. The seven members voted in favor of the withdrawal of the Sims statue, which had been painted red in protest on several occasions. The sculpture will be taken to the Gree-Wood cemetery in Brooklyn where the doctor is buried.