*click the link above to watch introduction video*
The most troubling aspect, at the forefront of medical racism, is that Black lives have been exploited since the conception of the United States. By permitting “unequal access to healthcare, the segregation of medical facilities, and the exclusion of African Americans from medical education”, Black people have always been put in positions to be treated as second-class citizens (Nuriddin). Ultimately, “the racist notion that..[B]lack [people] were inherently inferior and animal-like who needed maltreatment to be sound for work, was a critical element” to ensuring a system that perpetuated racism and allowed for White people to maintain the status of the ‘dominant race’ in America (Kyere). Centuries before, “medical schools relied on enslaved Black bodies as ‘anatomical material’” (Nuriddin). The father of US gynecology, James Marion Sims, discovered many of his findings by coercing enslaved Black women into his experiments. Gynecologists, alike, abused enslaved Black women who they considered “flesh-and-blood contradictions, vital to their research yet dispensable once their bodies and labor were no longer required” (Nuriddin). Some of the most notable instances of explicit medical racial bias are the Tuskegee Syphilis Study (1932-1972) and the creation of the HeLa cell line from Henrietta Lacks’ cancer cells (1951). Overall, all of these medically unethical and racially based incidents have served as catalysts to the inequities that currently plague the healthcare system.
– Medical Racism Impacts All of Us –
Current Day Manifestations:
Black women today, similar to our ancestors, have had to endure inhumane treatment time and time again. Racism and sexism have not waned over the years, rather they have taken on new forms. Enslaved Black women and those who lived during Jim Crow were experimented upon without consent, care, degraded, and used as property to fit the needs of a White dominated society. As a result, today’s Black women are two to three times more likely to die during childbirths than White women, we are underrepresented in clinical trials, Black women have the highest mortality rate amongst women in breast cancer deaths, Black women are 2 times more likely to experience a stroke in comparison to White women, and, needless to say, the blatant disregard for Black women has furthered the deep seated mistrust of the medical community. As of 2019, the Black female population in the United States was roughly 21.72 million (United States Census Bureau). Medical racism disenfranchises all 21.72 million Black female lives and those of their loved ones. The alarming statistics exposing the deaths of Black female patients is due to systemic issues of racism and sexism embedded within and beyond healthcare. So, where do we go from here?
On an institutional level, influential steps to eliminating medical racism would be:
- Engaging diverse community groups in policy reform.
- Actively recruiting BIPOC to work as medical practitioners/researchers to diversify the healthcare system.
- Implementing regular anti-bias training to health professionals.
- Getting translators for non-English speakers seeking medical assistance.
- Granting financial assistance to low income people seeking medical aid and to those wishing to pursue medicine as an occupation.
- Social outreach (informing people about their rights when they go into a hospital, etc.).
Individually, a regular civilian can:
- Contact policymakers to ask for them to implement grants for underprivileged people to attend medical school.
- Sign petitions that advocate for equitable treatment/resources.
- Vote for propositions/people that enact policies that lessen disparities.
- Lastly, educate yourself and other people about medical racism as it is not a highly visible topic.
Propositions, legislative bodies, and organizations will be linked below!!
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Collectively we must educate, promote awareness, and amend our systems so that everyone is served equitably.