This week has been rough to say the least. I have screamed, cried, and sat in silence, and I am exhausted. Watching black people getting murdered because they are Black is exhausting. I am tired. But you know what makes me even more tired, the apathy that many in the premed community have shown.
I went to a predominately white institution (PWI), and was one of few Black students in the school of science. Most of my classmates could care less about social justice. I remember protesting on campus after the murder of Philando Castille and being the only one in my class who was protesting. People just didn’t care. Most of them questioned why they had to take sociology or the importance of racial justice. Most importantly, the Science department made no efforts to talk about issues of race in our class. It didn’t exist to them. These students would often use racial slurs and question the legitimacy of black professors and nothing happened. A lot of them wanted to go into health professions but they could care less about Black people and other minorities. Oftentimes they actively showed hate. Many of them expressed anti-immigrant sentiments, and showed racist inclinations but nothing happened. As their classmate, I was frightened. I was scared that these people would end up treating people like me.
I have been on premed forums where people are upset that conversations about racial justice are taking place. For the most part, these folks don’t see how racism and implicit bias is their business. They are` wrong. Studies have shown that physicians treat patients very differently based on race. They believe that black people have higher pain thresholds and actively withhold pain meds from them. Black pregnant women are dying at 3x the rate of white women. Black babies die at nearly 5x the white counterparts within their first year of life. Racism in healthcare is killing black people.
As premeds, you simply cannot ignore this. You will be working with black patients and other patients of color. If you do not address both your external and internal biases, you will continue to be a provider that causes pain to these communities. You need to understand the history of black people’s interactions with the health system. You need to check yourself. Its not enough to not be racist, you have to be actively anti-racist. You will one day be in a position of power as a health professional, and I hope that you would have done the work necessary to provide culturally congruent care for your patients.
I want to ask my fellow premeds to care. It is your business. Yes we need to study, get good grades, etc, but let us not forget to fight for health justice!
Picture taken from Instagram page @thundrchunky Students from University of Colorado College of Medicine