An African American’s Internal
Perspective on Biomedical Ethics
Lawrence J. Prograis Jr.
Most people think that shadows follow, precede or surround beings or objects.
The truth is that they also surround words, ideas, desires, deeds, impulses
—Elie Wiesel, The Fifth Son
Elie Wiesel’s articulation of what outlines, casts an illumination, or draws a rough image not only of objects but also of nonobjects defines a focus on the context of human life. We all cast shadows within and outside of our lives. These shadows can be said to be an expression of what defines all humans. W e all arise from some place, some past; we have a context and a history. We do not rationally reason from within empty vessels. Like shadows, our perspectives (our perceptions, insights, and beliefs) arise from within and outside us, from our exposure to families, friends, history, religious beliefs, and our social structures in which we live our lives.1 It is these places, ideas, people, and things that bring our present to life and allow us to articulate topics for the future. Wiesel’s theme can be said to resonate from within his Jewish identity. But what of the perspectives offered within these pages? The perceptions, beliefs, and insights of African Americans on biomedical ethics—what do they say and how do they say it? A starting place to explore these questions is, perhaps, with perception itself.