Postdoctoral Fellow, History
Dr. Aishah Scott received her Ph.D. in Twentieth-Century American History at Stony Brook University. She specializes in Public Health and African American History. She is currently working on her book manuscript entitled, “Respectability Can’t Save You: The AIDS Epidemic in Black America.” This work focuses on the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the African American community and the role of “respectability politics,” or moral policing, on state and community leaders from 1980-2010. In particular, her work addresses how several forces shaped the national, local, and community responses—or lack thereof—toward the African American HIV/AIDS epidemic, especially in New York City. These forces include: the influence of the Black Church, the impact of respectability politics on federal and local government policies, class dynamics and gender relations. In excavating how the aforementioned forces profoundly shaped responses to HIV/AIDS among African Americans, she tells the story of a community silently ravaged by the epidemic. Unraveling these forces also illuminates how white supremacy pushed back against the legislative successes of the Civil Rights Movement through racially coded policy reform to preserve its autonomy. Through an exploration of HIV/AIDS, she argues that the history of African American public health has largely been shaped by the imposition and resistance to respectability politics of the state. HIV/AIDS is a vehicle, a placeholder of sorts, for understanding the ways in which respectability politics have been used to systemically racialize socioeconomic disparities that inherently leave the African American community vulnerable to health disparities. She shows this vulnerability is historical and reflects an intentional avoidance of systemic root causes (access to affordable housing, employment, quality education and healthcare) that was justified through racialized manipulations of respectability. Refusal to treat poverty as a trigger for the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the African American community is a contemporary manifestation of medical racism at best and genocide at worst.
She previously earned her Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Stony Brook. She is an advocate for social justice and closing gaps in healthcare for underrepresented communities. Her efforts in research, mentorship and community building were recognized by Stony Brook’s Center for Inclusive Education with the 2017 Scholar Award for Excellence and the 2019 Stony Brook Alumni Life Member Award. She has also taught specialized courses on AIDS, Race, and Gender in the Black Community as well as The Evolution of Black Politics.