Harlon L. Dalton

MY AMBITION IN the pages that follow is to account for why we African-Americans have been reluctant to "own" the AIDS epidemic, to acknowledge the devastating toll it is taking on our communities,1 and to take responsibility for altering its course. By the end, I hope to convince you that what may appear to the uninitiated to be a crazy, self-defeating refusal to stand up and be counted is in fact sane, sensi­ble, and determinedly self-protective. The black community’s im­pulse to distance itself from the epidemic is less a response to AIDS, the medical phenomenon, than a reaction to the myriad social issues that surround the disease and give it its meaning. More fundamen­tally, it is the predictable outgrowth of the problematic relationship between the black community and the larger society, a relationship characterized by domination and subordination, mutual fear and mu­tual disrespect, a sense of otherness, and a pervasive neglect that rarely feels benign.