Medicine is a discipline that claims to be based on empirical and scientific truth about human nature. Instead, its knowledge and practice are often steeped in biases like racism. For example, medicine was used in the nineteenth century to justify slavery due to the “biologically inherent superiority” of White races.
As I grew up, I felt these lines and had a vague idea of where they lay. I knew where in Louisville I felt “safe,” and I also knew where the “bad parts of town” were located. The lines and their forced labels serve to enhance the lives of some people, myself included, while limiting others. Two cities exist within one border separated by an undeniable feature — skin color.
But we should not need to view videos of Black individuals suffering or in pain in order to mobilize. Others, unrecorded and alone, die by the hands of our state. It is time for Americans to turn their gaze away from violent images of Black death and inwards to consider the invisible and not-so-invisible ways we uphold white supremacy every single day.
The histories of Fox Point and Brooklyn reveal how where we call home is deeply intertwined with identity, power and privilege. They tell the story of structural racism — a patterned, “normative, sometimes legalized” process by which communities of color are marginalized. The sequelae of structural racism have dire health implications at the neighborhood-level.
A recent publication in the Journal of Neurology caused significant outrage not only within a forum dedicated to Black doctors and trainees, but also in the medical community online at large. Much like the rest of the readers, I was deeply troubled and did not understand the purpose of the article.
When I first read that the Northam picture came from a medical school yearbook, I thought about whoever might have been his Black classmates at the time.
Thomas Jefferson has said his piece and this time I won’t attempt to say anything back. This time I won’t stay silent either. This time, I’ll write.
On the subjects of disease and disparity, the NIH focuses on the genetic code inside individual bodies and ignores the wider contexts within which these bodies live, work, play and get sick. The NIH overlooks societal inequalities and gives genes too much credit.