It is difficult to overemphasize the extent to which the black com­munity, qua community, reflexively responds with suspicion and mistrust to what are perceived as "white" initiatives. Just as Jews ad­monish each other to "never forget," we do not wish to forget the bit­ter lessons we have been taught since being brought to these shores. Slavery, a subject one does not bring up in polite company, exists within our extended memory; my father used to sit around the dinner table with his grandmother, a former slave. Segregation was upon us only yesterday. Push just a little bit and you will tap into wellsprings of mistrust even in those of us who live much of our lives within the ambit of the larger society and negotiate it with apparent ease (though not without cost).

Frequently, our acute mistrust manifests itself as resistance, as sparring, as buying time until we are sure we are safe. The early "ne­gotiations" with the black community regarding AIDS seem largely to have followed this pattern. Given enough time, we can together work our way out of the pattern by building up trust, but time is at a premium where AIDS is concerned. A second way out is for black people to reconceptualize AIDS as not something white America is insisting we deal with but rather as a set of issues we ourselves want to take on. In other words, in order to "own" AIDS even in part, we may need to own it outright.