Yo, Is This Racist? Healthcare

Hi everyone, I’m Tara and today I want to discuss the topic regarding racism in our healthcare system. This topic in particular really interests me because I am planning a future career as a medical professional. My interest in this issue actually stemmed from another class I am taking here this semester, called Ethics in Healthcare, where one week we were assigned to listen to a TED talk discussing racism in the field. In addition to the crisis we are facing today with Covid 19, we are able to see how communities of color are being hit harder than others. It is important to note that racial inequality in the healthcare system is also in part due to racism in other parts of the  system. Economic disparity for some communities of color due to past policies and structures in America creates an unequal access for people of color to receive healthcare. This unequal access is what leads to health issues in these communities, like the fact that “Black people are 3.57 times more likely to die from Covid-19 than white people.” Black people are also likely to experience things like higher blood pressure, lower access to vaccines, and even lower life expectancy. In the TED talk Doctor Mary Bassett speaks on her experiences in Zimbabwe where she spent years helping deal with the AIDS epidemic. She explains how she watched Wester civilization receive treatment for AIDS through drugs while her patients in Zimbabwe were left in the dust with no access to those same drugs. Bassett says, “But I knew that epidemics emerge along the fissures of our society, reflecting not only biology, but more importantly patterns of marginalization, exclusion, discrimination related to race, gender, sexuality, class and more. It was true of AIDS. It was true just recently of Ebola.” I found this quote to be so powerful because she explains how the problems we face in regards to infectious diseases always impacts those who are marginalized more and we see this through the AID epidemic and Covid-19.

Now not only is it an issue with securing access to healthcare but racism also happens within the hospitals amongst medical professionals in terms of treatment and care and happens intentionally or unintentionally. Bassett explains the medical community has stood by idly while the Black Lives Matter movement has been working towards equality. She explains how they never use racism in research studies as an explanation or component to certain medical trends. We can see within the medical community that there is incorrect treatment for patients of color because preconceived ideas that black people have different traits that would change their diagnosis or treatment leaving them vulnerable to more damage. Even in the emergency room, people of color are less likely to be emitted and are more likely to die. This is an issue that largely does not affect the privileged and non marginalized groups as they are able to gain access to medical attention. An article published by the Harvard Medical School explains the system that allows racist acts to come from doctors who are not inherently racists and from our implicit biases. We need to understand within our selves our own implicit biases in certain cases. It is so important to see the environment around us to understand what is the right and wrong thing to do. As healthcare professionals it’s not just solely important to eliminate racism within your close quarters but to join the overall cause. As Bassett says, it’s important for those pursuing and in the medical field to help set the alarm bell along with the movement towards equality. This inequality can be changed through the understanding and alliance of the medical community. I think the issue is not only reliant on the medical inequalities but other aspects of systemic racism. Inorder for true strides to be made we cannot only move forward in the medical aspects but also help support issues regarding police brutality, the education system, the housing industry, and so much more. All of these parts systems work off of each other to create disadvantages for people of color. I think inequality in the healthcare system is one that largely goes unrecognized. The issue of free healthcare and different plans is a largely discussed political topic but a lot of the other parts go unrecognized. I also think that people just do not understand the unequal access to healthcare is damaging to these communities in different ways. Many do not understand that this leads to black women being more likely to die during childbirth or that black babies are more likely to die between birth and their first birthday. Healthcare is such a fundamental right, it is how to live a long and healthy life but we allow our system to deny access to it. With this pandemic and all its effects it’s so difficult watching communities of color get it even harder than anyone else because of the system we created. 

Throughout this course we have been analyzing stories that apply to concepts regarding discrimination. The current state of our healthcare system is the perfect example of “othering” explained by Hegel. White communities have labeled people of color as the “other” creating systems and policies that do not allow them to have access to the same rights that all humans are supposed to be granted. I think a large majority are oblivious to this issue without really knowing. Many are against racism in the smaller sense but do not understand how the way this country functions is in fact racist as it does not allow for equal opportunity. That is what the Black Lives Matter movement is trying to find out but so many still do not see the issue. The movement is trying to voice the injustices the system has created for black people in so many ways. This also ties into Spivak’s, “Can the Subaltern Speak?” when it explains how certain groups are perceived as less because they have less than others. Therefore these groups do not have the ability to stand up and take what they deserve. People of color are receiving worse health care and assistance due to a racist system. These communities are trying to gain justice and the medical field is just another part of the system that does not allow this.

In all, it’s important to understand how each backbone to the system in their own ways creates disadvantages for black people. These systems work off each other and so we need to understand that the less opportunities given in education, housing and so much more also impacts healthcare and vice versa. 


Racism and discrimination in health care: Providers and patients

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