fbpx

Racial Inequity – It Cannot Be Whitewashed

Robert Saul, MD writes that racism is a problem for all, but particularly for children.

October 15, 2022

I recently heard a campaign ad by US Senator Tim Scott (SC) seeking reelection. In the ad, he strives to emphasize that no racism exists and that all we need to do is to embrace each other and move forward. To accentuate his point, he notes that his grandfather grew up in the segregated South and that he quit school in the third grade to pick cotton and generate income for the family. And that his grandfather held no ill thoughts for his lot in life and taught Tim to love one another. It took me several times to unpack this ad before I realized that Sen. Tim Scott is, by and large, oblivious to the message that he touts.

• Love for each other is critical to rebuild our society that has been torn at the seams with discord, lies, and destructive behaviors that have eroded trust. So, this part of the message is to be embraced.
• But does he realize what he just said?
o Only one generation away, he notes that his grandfather grew up in a society that purposely subjugated and suppressed the hopes and dreams of fellow humans based on the color of their skin.
o He notes that his family’s financial well-being was so crushed that his grandfather had to quit school in the third grade to make money for the family.
o He notes that his grandfather was engaged in child labor under the probable control of some not-so-benevolent cotton farmer. Even if it is a family farm, it is still child labor.
o He notes that his grandfather had to relinquish his chance at educational growth due to the circumstances in our society, circumstances that were out of his control and circumstances that were “designed” to perpetuate this cycle. Just because one grandson rose to become a US Senator doesn’t justify the continuance of such a system.

Racism is a problem for all but particularly children, especially Tim Scott’s grandfather as a child. Those affected are raised in an environment that has lifetime effects and usually multiple effects across generations. The easy thing to do is to sit back and just hope that society does better. But those that care for children are not allowed that “luxury.” They must engage to make a difference.

 

Those affected by racism are raised in an environment that has lifetime effects and usually multiple effects across generations. The easy thing to do is to sit back and just hope that society does better. Share on X

 

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released a policy statement on racism.1 As the professional organization representing over 67,000 pediatric providers, they are compelled to address factors that leave some children more vulnerable than others. The statement identifies racism as a “system of structuring opportunity and assigning value based on the social interpretation of how one looks (‘race’) that unfairly disadvantages some individuals and communities, unfairly advantages other individuals and communities and saps the strength of the whole society through the waste of human resources.” Now that is a mouthful but note the three main points—1) disadvantage to those targeted, 2) advantage to those not targeted, and 3) potential social discord and decreased productivity. And the failure to address racism affects the health and well-being of all children, their families and their communities.

The statement goes on to detail the impact of racism—health inequities, chronic stress, poverty, and the unequal application of justice. With regard to the latter, those that are familiar with the work of Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative are reminded that the “opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice.” But all of the specific factors require significant engagement if we want to make a change.

The childhood experiences of racism are recognized to occur at three levels – 1) institutional, 2) personal, and 3) internalized. Institutional (or structural) racism refers to the social structures that continue the disadvantages for some and the advantages for others and perpetuate the system that allows it. These social structures can include neighborhoods, educational sites, pockets of poverty and legal means. When these institutional factors occur, they are real barriers. And when these barriers are present, these experiences become very personal. And then more often than not, these personal experiences become internalized by the folks living under specter of racism.

 

“The childhood experiences of racism are recognized to occur at three levels – 1) institutional, 2) personal, and 3) internalized.”

 

The skeptical reader (like Senator Tim Scott) will say that this vicious cycle no longer exists in our society, that all of the past social ills have been corrected. The skeptical reader would be wrong. As a pediatrician for now over 40 years, I can accurately attest to the continued problems with racism that need our constant attention. A path forward for health professionals and community activists and policy makers is well articulated in the AAP’s policy statement.

Yet each of us has a role beyond reading and trying to implement an important policy statement. The new book by Ibram X. Kendi, history professor at American University, tells us that it is not sufficient to say, “I am not a racist.” Such a passive stance goes against our moral and religious teaching. We have to be active in our stance against racism and bigotry and institutional barriers that perpetuate keeping one group of citizens at a continued disadvantage. We have to be anti-racist—that is, we have to be “one who is supporting an anti-racist policy through their actions and expressing anti-racist ideas.” It is insufficient to say that “I don’t have a racist bone in my body” or “some of my best friends are people of color.” We have to be on the front lines opposing racism at every turn.

 

It is insufficient to say that 'I don’t have a racist bone in my body' or 'some of my best friends are people of color.' We have to be on the front lines opposing racism at every turn. Share on X

 

I am proud of my professional organization for taking a strong stand against racism and outlining some significant actions to make a difference. I challenge the rest of us to do the same. It is not easy, and at times it seems to go against what might be ingrained into our culture. Change is always hard, but our humanity demands our willingness to be engaged in this work of reducing racial inequities.

Racism has existed and still exists when one considers the multiple measures (lower mean family incomes, lower financial value of housing, decreased educational attainment, decreased generational wealth, increased percentage of incarceration and so many others) that still demonstrate how the past (“the segregated South”) has not been erased and cries out for change. The past and present cry out for concerted efforts to address racism and seek solutions that can move us all forward. Senator Scott’s whitewashing of the past and the uncomfortable present only serves to ignore the issues and to perpetuate the inequities.

1. https://publications.aap.org/pediatrics/article/144/2/e20191765/38466/The-Impact-of-Racism-on-Child-and-Adolescent

All opinions published on SomeDocs-Mag are the author’s and do not reflect the official position of SoMeDocs, its staff, editors. SoMeDocs is a magazine built with the safety of free expression and diverse perspectives in mind. For more information, or to submit your own opinion, please see our submission guidelines or email opmed@doximity.com. Do you have a compelling personal story you’d like to see published on SoMeDocs? Find out what we’re looking for here and submit your writing, or send us a pitch.

All opinions published on SomeDocs-Mag are the author’s and do not reflect the official position of SoMeDocs, its staff, editors. SoMeDocs is a magazine built with the safety of free expression and diverse perspectives in mind. Do you have a compelling personal story you’d like to see published on SoMeDocs? Submit your own article now here.

Share

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This learning experience is powered by CMEfy - a platform that brings relevant CMEs to busy clinicians, at the right place and right time. Using short learning nudges, clinicians can reflect and unlock AMA PRA Category 1 Credit.

Of Interest

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Get updates and learn from the best

Alexandra Stockwell, MD

Speaker: Alexandra Stockwell, MD

Entertaining and inspirational, Dr. Alexandra will share engaging stories and practical tips to uplevel relationships, whether audience members are single, married, happy or struggling.

Meridith Englander, MD

Meridith Englander, MD

Interventional radiologist who practiced for 18 years before leaving clinical medicine for a career at a non-profit, regional health care plan.

Robin Schoenthaler, MD

Robin Schoenthaler, MD

Experienced and accomplished radiation oncologist whose life work is caring for cancer patients and writing and speaking about love, loss, cancer, caring, bereavement, guilt, grief and the complexities of living a full wild and precious life.

Want More?

Be a part of our healthcare revolution. Don't miss a thing SoMeDocs publishes!

Disclaimer: SoMeDocs assumes no responsibility for the accuracy, claims, or content of the individual experts' profiles, contributions and courses. Details within posts cannot be verified. This site does not represent medical advice and you should always consult with your private physician before taking on anything you read online. See SoMeDocs' Terms of Use for more information.

follow us

© 2024 SoMeDocs. All Rights Reserved.

Soak up content & grow

Educational reflections..

Drop your email address below and we’ll email you the link for continuing opportunity pathways from CMEfy. Check your spam folder if you do not receive our email. We’ll also add you to our Sunday newsletter, so you can receive even more of our unique content!

Support A Platform that Celebrates Real Doctors

For as little as $10, you can help keep this openly accessible site available to all & help us sponsor in more doctors.

Interested in subscribing
to our unique content?

Interested in subscribing to our unique content?

Site SoMeDocs Logo, square

WANT TO STAY IN THE LOOP?

DON'T MISS A SINGLE CONTENT PIECE.