The term, “racism in medicine,” is very controversial. But most contemporary researchers in this field agree that systemic and institutional racism in the USA, Canada, and many other countries have a substantial impact on the health of their citizens. The recent wave of interest in this subject comes as many indigenous communities around the world struggle to make headway against the racism and discrimination that they have encountered in their day to day lives.
Definition and Examples
Racism in medicine is defined as the medical practices and policies of health care providers that discriminate against some patients based on their race, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, or class. This definition is often used in an academic setting, especially when discussing the topic of race-based medicine. However, it is a term that is also used in a legal context to describe other forms of discrimination such as discrimination based on disability, gender, or ethnicity. This article will examine the definition of racism in medicine, the implications it has on indigenous communities in Australia, and the opportunities that can be gained by combating racism in medicine.
Racist practices include everything from sterilization to involuntary immigration, to discrimination in the provision of healthcare. These practices are not confined to the health industry alone. In the past, discrimination and prejudice towards certain groups have been the norm. For example, in the American slave trade, slave owners used racial slurs to dehumanize their African American prisoners. In many ways, slavery was not an isolated case; there are many documented instances of white Americans using similar racial epithets against black Americans, including former slaves who returned to their homeland, sometimes after having endured years of slavery and mistreatment.
In today’s modern societies, people continue to commit crimes against those of different cultures, ethnicities, races, religions, and nationalities. Many of these crimes, whether committed on a local level or in one country, have racial motivation. Some of the most prominent examples of racial crimes, including lynching, white flight, and racist violence, can be traced back to the last century. Today, the issue of racism in medicine is more important than ever before.
Because indigenous peoples live on traditional lands and cultures that have long been considered sacred, many of them have long fought for recognition of their spiritual identities. In doing so, they have experienced much prejudice and mistreatment. They have had to fight to have their cultures respected and given recognition, as well as having other cultures around the world. These battles have been won in some cases, but many have not.
In this case, we are talking about health care systems and healthcare practices. When indigenous people seek healthcare, such as in Australia, they often have to face resistance. A major barrier is the notion of their culture, their spirituality, being considered “unfit” to receive health care. This may stem from a lack of understanding or an assumption that their culture is no more worthy of healthcare than another. In many cases, these barriers can be overcome, but in many situations, the barriers are insurmountable.
In the US, health care is seen by many of our political leaders as a privilege that should be given only to the white, wealthy, elite members of society. It is not given to the poorest people, the indigenous, people of colour, or people with disabilities. Even in many parts of the world, health care is available only to some people despite their social status. People in rural areas and indigenous communities suffer the consequences of these barriers, and in some instances, they are even subjected to physical abuse.
Racist thinking can be hard to breakthrough, but it is possible. As more research is done on the history and impact of racism in medicine, we will hopefully be able to see how this is affecting our society today and how we can do something to change it. For now, it seems that it is an unfortunate byproduct of our history.