I found this image while I endlessly scrolled through Tumblr, immediately stopping to take a closer look. The image was taken by Ian Berry, a British photojournalist, in South Africa in 1969 and was captioned “A young black girl looks after a baby girl for a white family.” This image, coupled with its caption, strikes me as a reflection of the emotional turmoil and/or emotional imbalance within a living laboratory.
At first, I was simply focused on the expression of the young black girl’s face; her expression is one of discomfort, resignation, and detachment. I couldn’t help but feel an extreme amount of sympathy for the girl, who looks like she feels everything but comfort. Her physical position in the car also reflects a sense of discomfort; she’s leaning forward onto the structure in front of her, which can be indicative of her need for physical support or exit from the car. While her expression is one that captivates and intrigues, the juxtaposition created between the young black girl and the white baby is intensely effective in relaying a message. This message is one that speaks volumes on the dynamic between black and white bodies; while the young black girl feels discomfort, as expressed by both her facial expression and position in the car, the baby behind her is sleeping. The contrasts are extremely direct; the young girl is awake; the baby is sleeping; the young girl is uncomfortable and distressed; the baby has a space to rest and looks relaxed.
What I’m trying to convey is that a living laboratory has physical components, as seen through the weaponization of medicine on black bodies, but it also has psychological and emotional components as well. This image has nothing to do with physical harm or violence, yet, as seen in my analysis, I believe that it has all to do with the emotional impact of a living lab and its oppressive dynamics. I do believe that when discussing and viewing a living laboratory we should focus on the physical harm or violence imposed on people of color, but I think it’s also just as important to openly discuss the different ways violence and oppression manifests itself. What do you all think is an effective, or the most effective, way in dismantling and reframing a living lab?