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Contagions of EmpireScientific Racism, Sexuality, and Black Military Workers Abroad, 1898-1948$
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Khary Oronde Polk

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781469655505

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469655505.001.0001

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We Don’t Need Another Hero

We Don’t Need Another Hero

Death, Honor, and the Archive of American Militarism

Chapter:
(p.13) Chapter One We Don’t Need Another Hero
Source:
(p.iii) Contagions of Empire
Author(s):

Khary Oronde Polk

Publisher:
University of North Carolina Press
DOI:10.5149/northcarolina/9781469655505.003.0002

This chapter considers the 2017 death of Sgt. La David Johnson in Niger as an example of Mbembe’s necropolitics, and argues that the racist media coverage it received drew its power from nineteenth century discourses of Black inferiority. These arguments were premised upon scientific racism, and held that enslaved Blacks were biologically immune to diseases like yellow fever. The belief that Blacks were immune to tropical diseases continued throughout the Spanish-Cuban-American War of 1898, where African American male volunteers were inducted into Immune Regiments in order to perform grunt labor in battlefields beset by fever. Black leaders like Booker T. Washington strategically used the sacrifice of African American troops in the conflict to claim political immunity for the larger Black community, yet the gravesites of Black soldiers in Santiago belied the fact that honoring the American fallen was a deeply racialized affair.

Keywords:   necropolitics, Mbembe, biological immunity, scientific racism, yellow fever, Spanish-Cuban-American War, Booker T. Washington, tropical diseases, gravesites, honor

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