The controversial trend of promoting critical race theory, which President Trump called “anti-American,” has reached medical schools and the field of medicine more generally.
Leading the way has been one of the world’s top medical journals, The Lancet, which published an article in February called “Time to Take Critical Race Theory Seriously: Moving Beyond a Colour-Blind Gender Lens in Global Health,” which urged doctors to “meaningfully engage with critical race theory, a transdisciplinary intellectual movement to understand and disrupt systemic racism.”
Systemic or structural racism is a concept from critical race theory that claims racism is built into society’s institutions or systems, such as government, education, the economy, the workplace, and religious life.
The article’s authors, who are not doctors but describe themselves as “women of colour scholars, practitioners, and educators whose work addresses race, gender, and class inequity,” assert that the “global health community has been slow to consciously [center] on race” and that focusing on race in global health will “help to achieve the mutually reinforcing goals of eradicating both racial and gender inequity.”
Affirmative Vaccine Action
The article goes on to argue that racism and the legacy of colonialism cause racial health disparities across nations, including disparities in the global rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.
The practice of distributing COVID-19 vaccines on racial or socioeconomic lines at the expense of the medically vulnerable, such as the elderly, has caused a backlash in some areas, such as Livingston County, Michigan where local officials have criticized the policy put forth by Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
“If the goal of vaccine distribution is improvement of public health, it should be based on medical need and not on the immutable characteristics of the recipients,” said Chad Savage, M.D., founder of YourChoice Direct Care and a policy advisor for The Heartland Institute which co-publishes Health Care News. “Placing one group in mortal peril to accomplish a perceived goal of equity is no equity at all.”
Spreading Like a Virus
Critical race theory is being pushed in various sectors of the health care industry, including government, insurance companies, medical journals, and universities.
Insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan recently ordered the physicians it credentials to complete an “Unconscious Bias in Medicine” training module. The move is considered a first step to making such training a requirement for licensure.
The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) received social media criticism for publishing a podcast episode in which the host, Edward H. Livingston, M.D., questioned claims of structural racism in health care (see related article, March 17).
JAMA fired Livingston, pulled the podcast, and Howard Bauchner, M.D., its editor-in-chief, and James Madara, M.D., the CEO of the American Medical Association released apology statements. Bauchner said JAMA will release a new podcast to address the backlash.
To Include or Not Include?
One health care provider criticizes activists who preach inclusiveness but do not live up to the terms.
“Forcing an editor of a major scientific journal to resign is just an illustration of a wider problem,” said Gabriela Eyal, Psy.D, a clinical psychologist in Michigan. “Interestingly, the slogan of this minority group is inclusiveness,” said Eval. “Is their inclusiveness based only on skin color? What kind of inclusiveness do they profess if they cannot accept and include an individual who had a different opinion?”
So salient has the ideology of critical race theory become that it caught the attention of outgoing President Trump. Late in his term, he issued an executive order to ban the promotion of “offensive and anti-American race and sex stereotyping and scapegoating” by the military, federal agencies, government contractors, and recipients of federal grants. This executive order effectively put a stop to “diversity and inclusion” training funded by taxpayer dollars.
One of President Biden’s first actions upon taking office was to issue his own executive order to “root out” systemic racism, revoking Trump’s executive order and reinstating tax-funded diversity training.
Eileen A Yam, Martha Silva, Malini Ranganathan, Jamila White, Tonija M Hope, Chandra L. Ford, “Time to take critical race theory seriously: moving beyond a colour-blind gender lens in global health,” The Lancet, February 1, 2021: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/langlo/article/PIIS2214-109X(20)30536-2/fulltext