June 02, 2021
News of the departure of the chief editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association may represent increasing accountability for those in positions to truly promote equity and resist the inertia of histories, structures, and systems that perpetuate inequity.
As noted in a New York Times account of the situation (paywall site),
The podcast that set the events in motion aired on Feb. 24 and did not include any
Black researchers or experts on racism in medicine.
“Structural racism is an unfortunate term,” Dr. Livingston, who is white, said on the
podcast. “Personally, I think taking racism out of the conversation will help. Many
people like myself are offended by the implication that we are somehow racist.”
The podcast was promoted with a tweet from the journal that said, “No physician is
racist, so how can there be structural racism in health care?”
It's crucial to note the problematic reflex to essentialize that characterizes this particular dynamic and the discourse on racism and social justice in general.
The declaration that "no physician is racist" is, of course, absurd on its face. One certainly should hope that physicians are not racist, but one would be foolish to believe that because a person is a physician, they cannot be racist. Such a construction relies on the essentialization of immunity to being racist common to a type of person called "physician."
The irony is that the illogical assertion about physicians not being capable of being racist was made in response to the equally problematic, essentialist, and absurd contention that everyone of some type - or just everyone - is racist.