The Curious Case of “Doctor” Malachi Love-Robinson

A story about an 18-year-old passing himself off as a doctor, opening a clinic and taking clients wasn’t what I expected to see this afternoon. However, with a narrative that sounds more like ‘Catch Me If You Can’, the story has seemed to captivate today’s Twitter news cycle. As it stands, 18-year-old Malachi Love-Robinson has been accused of practicing medicine without a license, among other things. Once the story broke, Love-Robinson went on a series of interviews; which seemed to get more and more strange as the day went on.

There were those who were critical of “Dr. Love”, questioning his decision to go on a press tour to clear his name, but at the same time, there existed an alarming amount of people who decided to turn it into a joke. While it is remarkable that he was able to pass as a doctor for months (which brings up a lot of questions regarding his staff, how he was able to open a clinic and how he was able to make money), his climb to fame (or infamy, rather) is being passed off as a joke; solidified in memes, comparisons to Doogie Howser and 140 character commentaries that dismiss how serious the (as he claims) “accusations” (past and present) against him are. At the end of the day, however, what he did was illegal and put people at risk. We don’t know how many patients he’d had up until that point. All of this made worse by his inability to address how problematic the situation is. Nevertheless, that conversation has somehow shifted into the latest punchline on Twitter.

Though there has been input by women, a significant amount of the jokes and comments have been by men, specifically Black men; a fact that is fascinating to me since none of the latter would literally be on the receiving end of many of these examinations. I saw many of these men who espouse ‘Black Power’ as a part of their very being turn into ardent supporters of Love-Robinson, making it very clear what ‘Black Power’ means to them. Some of the comments questioned why are we so hard on our own people. Others cheered him on for his ability to get as far as he did. In a society where social and economic mobility is not readily available for Black people and other people of color, I can somewhat see the appeal of cheering for someone who seems to be the underdog. I can see a criminal justice system that is unjust towards Black people and a prison system that does little to nothing to rehabilitate those convicted of crimes. However, as it stands, he’s not the victim. What he did was an abuse of power and brings up many issues with consent. Yet, there’s a tendency to push for a narrative which regards him as the “triumphant hero”. From that, can we ask: are we projecting? Do we subconsciously wish to use deception to position ourselves within institutions that have historically (and arguably, in the present) been actively and passively resistant to any upward mobility for people of color? Why are so many quick to defend him? These are questions that require some reflection. As easy as it may seem to dismiss this case, the general response to this story shows how fragmented we are in regards to response and those who do wrong by others. Quick to distance ourselves when it could have been any of us up in that doctor’s office.

Who’ll have the last laugh then?