RP101 – Racism (November 2020)

Session Readings



  1. Fill out the Harvard Implicit Association Test for Race
  2. Watch the panel conversation (Posted here on Nov 5) and look at at least one resource here
  3. Write your reflective essay – see details below.

Reflective Essay (R.S.I.R. format)

Reaction:   As stimulated by the Implicit Association Test, identify at least one (1) reaction to your results. As stimulated by the panel and supplemental resources, identify at least one (1) reaction to topics discussed by the panelists and/or in the resources about racial bias.

Sources/Your Story: Explore the sources of these thoughts, feelings, and reactions.  Consider how your own racial biases might contribute to health disparities or how it may have contributed to your patient interactions. Your sources may include one or more of the following:

  • your perceptions of how race was viewed in your family of origin and the community in which you grew up
  • your perceptions of how race was viewed among your peers and in your community during your early adult life
  • your experiences to date discussing and considering race/racism and the impact it has on society at large and on your own personal relationships
  • your perceptions of how race is viewed in the military and medical communities

Please be specific and write in the first person.

Implications: For each reaction in your Reaction section, identify and examine both the positive and negative implications of those reactions for future patient care.

Review:  You’ve named your reaction and your context — so what is your bias or assumption with regard to this topic?  What surprised you about the topic? As you think about your reflection above, what have you learned about yourself?



There is a strange kind of enigma associated with the problem of racism. No one, or almost no one, wishes to see themselves as racist; still, racism persists, real and tenacious.” – Albert Memmi, Racism

Discussing race and racism can feel difficult.  We’ve seen this in 2020 as racial tensions have emerged again and again over our society’s struggle with its past.  On a personal level, engaging in an open, honest discussion about racial bias is challenging, too, because we are forced to start by exploring our own racial bias and that of our family of origin and the community in which we grew up.

This can be tough work also because the national dialogue around this topic has become heated, divided, sometimes partisan…the opposite of what we are trying to model here — of being open, empathetic, CURIOUS, and reflective. We may feel guilty when thinking about our own actions in the past, we may feel disloyal for critiquing the actions taken and words said by our families and friends who have given us so much, and we may feel anxious wondering what others will think of us if and when we share.  We may not even feel like the conversation applies to us at all or somewhat fatigued by issues of political correctness. But always at the heart of something that feels hard is the ask that we consider why it feels hard, and why it feels easier not to engage. In short, for most of us, the challenge of this critical work is that it asks that we be vulnerable and that, if you’ve noticed, is anything but what we’ve been conditioned to be.

Many of you have already started thinking about this with the reading of the book Just Mercy. The way racism and inequity play into the health care – or often lack thereof – for the people discussed in that book is not the exception for many people in our country.  We continue the conversation started with reading that book with this session, focusing on race and racial bias, and examining our own implicit biases.

We will have a panel of folks who will both share with you stories describing their own racial biases as well as the bias they have witnessed/experiences in the healthcare arena.  In these narratives, you will hear about macro-aggressions and micro-aggressions and how significant an impact each can have. The narratives are important because it is only in recognizing our biases and our context for them that we can begin to examine the impact they have on our interaction with patients, and how we might manage change around that.  Health disparities and outcomes based on race are well documented, and it isn’t happening just because people aren’t aware of their biases or previous transgressions.

We, as military providers, who care for a community composed of people from nearly every race, religion, gender, age, and from a wide array of cultures, have an opportunity to have the conversation that many are unwilling to have in the name of making patients better. This session is designed to help us all recognize and reckon with the reactions we have – which are neither good nor bad, they just are – and the context from which they arise as they affect the conversation around race, in order to better take care of our patients.

[ii] More recently this term has been replaced by the term “salad bowl”


  • Dr. Charmagne Beckett, CAPT, USN, is a physician of internal medicine and infectious disease. She is currently Officer in Charge of the Navy Bloodborne Infection Management Center (NBIMC).
  • Dr. Theo Stokes, CDR, USN is a neonatalogist at Walter Reed.
  • Dr. Minnie Malik, PhD is a Research Associate Professor in the Department of OB/GYN at USU.
  • Dr. Nathan Keller is a Clinical Social Worker and is the Director of USUHS Counseling Center.
  • 2dLt Bianca Eubanks and 2dLt Halle Lindsay, members of the USU class of 2022.



By the end of this session on Racism, you, as the learner, will be able to:

  1. Thoughtfully examine:
    • your own racial biases
    • your reactions to racism you observe
  2. Identify:
    • the sources of your own racial bias
    • the sources of your reactions to observed macro- and micro-aggressions
  3. Explore these sources in order to better understand your reactions and account for them in the context of future clinical care.
  4. Identify the positive and negative implications of the reactions identified above.
  5. Develop a realistic plan to mitigate the negative and enhance the positive implications of the reactions you identified above.
NPRRacism is bad for your health - 5min Across virtually every medical intervention, from the most simple medical treatments to the most complicated treatments, blacks and other minorities receive poorer-quality care than whites. African-Americans who are college-educated do more poorly in terms of health than whites who are college-educated. And these racial differences in the quality and intensity of care persist for African-Americans irrespective of the quality of insurance that they have, irrespective of their education level, irrespective of their job status, irrespective of the severity of disease.
Topics: / / / / Keywords: / /
YouTubeUnderstanding Microaggressions a brief look at defining microaggression - 2 min!
Topics: / / Keywords: /
In on the (Racist) Joke Two soldiers discuss their reactions to and feelings about being complicit with racist joking in their military careers, and what to do next.
Topics: / / Keywords:
NPRWhy Black Mothers Die - 12 min A look at why black moms die at a higher rate than white moms, despite status and resources....
Topics: / / Keywords: / /
MedscapePatient prejudice: when credentials aren't enough What happens when the patients can't see beyond skin color?
Topics: / / Keywords: /
screen-shot-2020-10-25-at-3-03-18-amAmerica's Caste System / Caste issues in Silicon valley (17min) In this Planet Money episode, a short version of a longer podcast airing, we learn about the issue of caste discrimination happening here in the US - discrimination that has bridged an ocean to show up in Silicon Valley. This is a different way to view racial bias/racism - and it is connected to the larger conversation in the US (if interested, see here: https://www.npr.org/2020/08/04/898574852/its-more-than-racism-isabel-wilkerson-explains-america-s-caste-system).
Topics: Keywords: / /
SalonDotComI hated not being white: The lies I told just to fit in haunt me still Medical student Tom Phan shares his struggle with racism as an Asian-American, beginning with his name change from "Tung" to "Tom" and his childhood desire to "fit-in" to the white culture.
Topics: Keywords: / /
tedmed_wh_rgbThe Problem with Race-Based Medicine (14min) Global scholar, University of Pennsylvania civil rights sociologist, and law professor Dorothy Roberts exposes the myths of race-based medicine.
Topics: /
NY_Mag_com_lockupMyths about physical racial differences were used to justify slavery — and are still believed by doctors today.
Topics: /
Session originally created by: Adam Saperstein | | |