Systemic Racism in the Medical Field Must End

Systemic racism pervades the medical field and there is only one way to stop it.

Sienna Love

The medical field has been greatly affected by systemic racism. However, it is not an issue that should be defunded or deconstructed like other systems (i.e. police departments, voting system, etc.). Rather, it needs to be amended and improved to cater to all human beings equally. For that to happen, everyone must unlearn behaviors that preserve these broken systems and uplift the voices of those it oppresses.

We need more black women in the medical field, including health management, policy, administrative and executive positions, and medical practitioner positions. There are staggering statistics of black women dying in labor, black babies having a higher chance of dying in the hands of white doctors, a myth saying black women have higher pain tolerance, and miscommunication. Black women are 2-6 times more likely to die during labor depending on where they live and often have to self advocate for the treatment they desperately need. According to the CDC, Non-Hispanic black women have a 40.8% higher chance of dying from pregnancy-related complications than all other racial and ethnic populations. In addition, a black woman with a college education is more likely to die than a white woman with just a high school education. 

My mother’s experience reflects on this skewed system. My mom had very hard pregnancies both in my and my sister’s births. She had to get an emergency C section because I was in distress and afterward she got so sick she felt as if she were dying. My grandmother had to scream at doctors to treat her. This happened again when my sister was born. My mother got an infection after her C section and had to stay in the hospital for what felt like forever to her 5-year-old.

My mom to this day wishes she sued the hospital for that near-death experience. It would have been avoided, had they listened to her when she said she was in pain. 

One might argue that there are no skewed statistics or racism in this field or even claim that doctors “don’t see color.” If you believe that, you have had a lot of privilege throughout your life. One might also believe that all doctors can help everyone equally no matter what race. However, people are unfairly treated because of ignorant and racist beliefs. The ideology of “not seeing color” is also just as damaging as flat out racism. If you choose to ignore someone’s race, you are ignoring part of their identity and their struggle as a person. This is an ignorant and dangerous mentality that must be left in the past in order for us to move forward. 

No one should feel like their pain is invalid or unworthy of treatment. The only way to effectively end this cyclical oppression is to encourage more black women to join the medical field to help educate and spread awareness.