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71 What They Didn’t Teach You About Racism in Med School With Jill Wener MD

The medical mnemonist podcast featuring Dr. Eric Gantwerker discussing video game mechanics for fostering medical learning.
The Medical Mnemonist
71 What They Didn't Teach You About Racism in Med School With Jill Wener MD

Dr. Jill Wener discusses systemic racism, anti-racism, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the concept of reverse racism. Dr. Wener is the host of the Conscious Anti-Racism podcast.

Show Notes

Dr. Wener’s Journey into Anti-racism

White Supremacy Culture and Systemic Racism

Racism in Medicine

Why Reverse Racism Cannot Exist

Why Black Lives Matter exists

Internal Versus External Work to Combat Racism

Resources on Anti-racism

Dr. Jill Wener is the host of the Conscious Anti-Racism podcast and creator of a curriculum with the same name.

But I am Not Racist!
Dr. Wener began leaning into her discomfort around race after a friend admonished her on the racially privileged perspective of her blog post on the 2016 election. Initially defensive, she knew that if she did implicitly have harmful views on race, she needed to correct them.

Just like Dr. Wener, many white people are sometimes defensive about race, and reluctant to agree that they are racist and that they benefit from white supremacy and white privilege. They often cite the hard work that they have invested to achieve success, and how they never use their racial privilege. However, Dr. Wener describes the systemic racism in the US as a “toxic fume soup” in which we are all immersed. White people inevitably benefit from their race, even if they do not intend to do so. Dr. Jill Wener is the host of the Conscious Anti-Racism podcast and creator of a curriculum with the same name.

To illustrate one of the many ways in which white people unintentionally benefit from the color of their skin, Dr. Wener shares her story of being ticketed for using her cell phone in the car. She describes exiting her vehicle to stretch while waiting, and trying to explain to the officer that she had only taken out her phone to take a picture of an advertisement for a farmer’s market. Once the officer gauged that she was a doctor, he explained that he would not have ticketed her. At the time, Dr. Wener did not count this as an incident of her white privilege. But in hindsight, she knows that if she had acted similarly as a black person, she would have been shot or arrested. She knows a black friend who drives with a stethoscope and his medical ID hanging on his rearview mirror to protect himself from harm. White people can go through life without considering their race very much, whilst black people must always be aware and take precautions to protect themselves.

Why Reverse Racism Cannot Exist
Young adult author Kimberly Jones, encourages us to consider a game of Monopoly where the game has been fixed against some players i.e. black people. For four hundred rounds, black people have been working for no pay under slavery, not being able to own land or anything. Then, for another fifty rounds, money that black people earned was taken from them (consider Tulsa). Now, imagine that after four hundred and fifty rounds, suddenly, black people are told to just start playing the game as “equals.” The hundreds of rounds of damage has not been undone. Therefore, when special spaces are created for black people, or when special opportunities are given to them, it cannot be considered racism on white people, rather, it is taking the first steps towards equality.

Racism is the systemic oppression of the weak by the powerful. Systemically, white people have the power, therefore they cannot be the victims of racism. Relatedly, Black Lives Matter does not imply that other lives do not matter. Rather, the name demonstrates that previously, black lives have not been treated as if they matter, and now we acknowledge that they matter just as much as white lives.

Racism in Medicine
The boards of most hospitals and the dean’s office of schools, in other words people in power, often lack representation from people of color. In patient care, research has demonstrated that med students think that black people feel less pain. Differential diagnosis methods, which are designed with good intentions, often result in stating the races of people of color, whilst assuming the default race to be white. The treatment of sickle cell patients is often entrenched in distrust and false ideas. Racism is rampant in medicine. As a physician, you can practice anti-racist allyship in medicine by reaching out to the diversity inclusion officer at your hospital to ask if there are projects that you can work on.

Do not put the burden of dealing with your racism on black shoulders by asking about what you can do to be less racist. Black people do enough emotional labor simply by dealing with the racism thrown at them daily. Deal with your racial discomfort internally, and become anti-racist by seeking out amply available online resources, podcasts and books to help you out. To get you started, here are some of them:

Wener’s Conscious Anti-Racism course and podcast
White Coats For Black Lives
How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi
How to Be Less Stupid About Race: On Racism, White Supremacy, and the Racial Divide by Crystal Marie Fleming
… But I’m NOT Racist!: Tools for Well-Meaning Whites by Kathy Obear, Allies in Action Virtual Bootcamp
Showing Up for Racial Justice
Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present
Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: And Other Conversations About Race.
Anti-racism resources compilation #1 and compilation #2.
Also, do check out our related episode Diversity & A New Social History in Medicine w/ Nicole Washington MD, MPH.

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Podcast Host

Chase is an MS, MBA-HA and MD/Ph.Dcandidate. He is the Founder and educator at MedEd University, which he began in 2014 to consolidate free educational resources for his classmates. He is the host of the Medical Mnemonist Podcast, creator of several medical education platforms, and is the CEO of FindARotation.

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