Racism in Healthcare – Anisha Kumar

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           Racism has been deeply embedded in our society for centuries and is constantly affecting minority communities every day. The USD “Baked in Series” showcases how systematic racism is woven into our system. The focus of the event that I attended discussed how micro and macro aggressions have a severe effect on the health of Black individuals and their communities. Systemic racism creates a large divide between lower-income communities that tend to have higher Black populations and predominately white areas. The event was led by Dr. Jillian Tullis with three panelists, Dr. Drew Talley (Department of Environmental and Ocean Sciences), Dr. Martha Fuller (School of Nursing), and Dr. Kristopher Hall (Counseling and Marital and Family Therapy, SOLES). The panelists discussed how they have witnessed, experienced, and educated themselves on many of these aggressions. They point out how these aggressions are overlooked since they are so normalized to not be seen as racism. The panelists went into depth on how the environment, mental health, and physical health of Black individuals are severely affected because the system is constantly working against them in these areas. As Dr. Hall and Dr. Fuller phrased, racism is so deep-rooted it’s like going down several rabbit holes or trying to prune at a tree to get to the base where many underlying problems lay.

White individuals have the American healthcare system geared towards them. Therefore, this leaves Black people in avoidable situations that negatively impact their health due to improper diagnosis. Locations with communities with high Black populations also tend to be in food deserts which leads to a lack of proper nutritional value. This directly affects the health of these populations that in return will not receive the proper resources to tend to the medical issues. Black individuals specifically suffer from healthcare inequality due to the lack of knowledge from healthcare professionals from racial bias. Black individuals were expected to withstand extreme amounts of pain for centuries. They were utilized for medical experimentation which plays into the harmful narrative of their pain tolerance. This created a stigma in the medical community of a myth that they were able to withstand inhumane amounts of pain. Black women specifically face extreme stigma and racism within healthcare because are usually not taken seriously nor given inadequate care. Dr. Fuller further explains the topic of black maternal health and maternal mortality rates as well which historically connects to the treatment of Black women. She discusses that black women mortality rates significantly higher which incorporates the disparities that black women face. Black women were used to birth more children during slavery. They underwent the pains of childbirth with no proper medical care or attention before, during, and after birth. Even infants were not checked up on or cared for properly which also leads to the normalization of these extremely racist ideologies. “Even within the same institution, a black infant received fewer of the quality of care measures that we as healthcare providers look at as healthcare providers than white infants.” (Fuller) Many black individuals do not receive the same procedures for the standard of care. The system taught has taught healthcare professionals to cater towards white people which leads to disparities between races within the medical industry.

The Black community overlooks the importance of mental health for many reasons. Learning from Dr. Hall’s insights opened my eyes to a new perspective of the reasoning behind why mental health has not been taken seriously in black communities. He explains how most psychological theories and studies cater towards the white man’s mental state. This causes many Black trauma experiences to be gaslit while seeking help because no cultural awareness is taken into account. Therapy is extremely important for Black individuals to work towards slowly mending the generational trauma that they face. It will also be able to help them cope with the systemically racist environmental factors that are creating a burden on their mental states. Chapter 6, of Freedom on My Mind by Deborah Gray White, Mia Bay, and Waldo E. Martin Jr., highlighted how black communities were continuously destroyed, under constant threat for their color, and opportunities to succeed were limited and/or stripped from Black people living in the North. “Whites degraded the status of blacks and punished them for it. Excluding blacks from political life also had the effect of marginalizing them in the nation’s economic life.” (218, White et. al) These aggressive attacks and constant belittlement of Black individuals will take severe mental tolls on people creating anxiety, depression, lack of confidence, etc. Hundreds of years of this trauma lead to generationally passing down these issues. . Dr. Hall explained how this leads many Black people, even today, to enter a state of anxiety where they are living in constant fear of attack. The system does not do anything to aid these severe traumas that Black people faced, causing them to suffer alone. This should create a requirement for therapists and psychiatrists to learn and understand to tackle situations with different cultural contexts. The importance of understanding different backgrounds and how to go about those situations will ensure that these traumas are not going unnoticed. Allocating resources towards the black community on the importance of mental health will not only help with healing but will start to raise more awareness of the traumas they faced and ways to tackle these situations.

The little details that many people choose to become ignorant to leads to the suffering of the Black community. Remaining uneducated on how deeply ‘baked in’ racist ideologies apart of the system allows the continuation of struggling. An endless cycle of racist acts goes unnoticed every day. Our fight for changing the system is not an overnight task. We must continuously make a conscious effort to change the practices that are going on now. Many Black lives have been lost because of the deep-rooted aspects of systemic racism. The anti-black system is consistently working against the Black community. It is important that we become to learn and teach how to be anti-racist and fight for a better system.

Citations:

Fuller, Martha, Kristopher Hall. “Perspectives on Racism and Health.” Baked In: Systemic Racism Around and Within Us Series. 16 February 2021.

White, Deborah Gray, et al. Freedom on My Mind: A History of African Americans, with Documents. Bedford/St. Martins, 2017.

Picture Citation:

Racism is a Public Health Issue. Digital Image. Highwire. 17 June 2020. https://www.highwirepr.com/blog-healthcarepr-racism-is-a-public-health-issue/

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