A new consensus has emerged among experts in the medical field. Leaders at the AMA and the AAMC and publishers of prestigious medical journals like the New England Journal of Medicine all agree that the future of health care is woke political activism. Now, taking their cues from the top, medical schools and hospitals across the nation have adopted these ideas.
In this new politicized medical landscape, focusing on individual patients, their biology, their choices, and their treatment leads to unequal outcomes and causes harm. The claim is that doctors must root out structural racism, the true cause of health disparities and negative health outcomes. According to the AMA, it is health care workers’ job to dismantle conscious and unconscious bias and reshape laws, policies, and the systems in place in communities and institutions like schools, housing, and health care. It is, of course, reasonable to acknowledge that the environment in which patients are born, live, and work has effects on patients’ health. But turning doctors into antiracist activists who wage war on every institution in America’s society is a grave and unnecessary mistake.
The antiracist approach is harmful to the very patients it seeks to help. In its multi-page report, the AMA declares that:
“Over time, social injustices have been literally embodied by black and brown communities, creating individual and collective chronic stress and trauma that elevate stress hormones and lead to inflammation that wreaks havoc on internal organs. In effect, chronic exposure to racism causes ‘weathering’ of people’s bodies that increases vulnerability to illness and early death.”
This idea is scientifically dubious. How can scientists possibly prove that the increased inflammation and increased susceptibility to certain diseases are caused by racism? How would you measure that?
The idea that racial discrimination is killing people en masse is not only preposterous from an empirical standpoint, it is harmful to the very people it seeks to help. It robs black and brown individuals of all agency. Under this new system, doctors cannot simply look at a patient’s individual genetics, medical history, and lifestyle.
Instead, if the patient happens to be black, Asian, or Hispanic, the doctor automatically categorizes the patient as “oppressed” and assumes the patient’s illness is an essentially inevitable result of a lifetime of experiencing racism. It doesn’t matter whether the patient in question has actually experienced racism or not. It doesn’t matter if there are tangible lifestyle choices (smoking and drinking, for example) that the patient could change to take control of his own health. The patient is a hapless victim of white supremacist structures, like the victim of a tornado who had no control over the tornado and could not stop her house from being destroyed. Racism, like a tornado, is an existential threat keeping the patient sick, and there is nothing he can do to keep himself healthy. Only the activist doctors can save him, by slowly, laboriously reshaping society into the antiracist utopia they envision. Of course, environmental factors and events outside of people’s control can affect their health. But the antiracist activist approach to medicine disempowers individuals by turning them into victims, rather than giving them the tools to keep themselves healthy.
It is true that not everyone in this country has equal access to quality health care and that barriers such as poverty make it harder for certain people to make healthier lifestyle choices. For example, some neighborhoods don’t have grocery stores with affordable, healthy options, and this limits access to people who can’t drive or who can’t afford a car, thus making it harder for them to change their diet. It makes sense for doctors to take factors like this into consideration when treating individual patients. But doctors should never assume that just because a patient is black, she can’t access healthier food. That would be, well, racist.
The medical field’s woke brand of activism actually oversimplifies the complex factors that affect a person’s health by attributing them all to the same root cause: white supremacy. This type of activism proudly maligns equality as a malicious idea that keeps social injustice in place and attacks meritocracy as a myth that harms patients by victim-blaming them. Ironic and disheartening, since equality and meritocracy are two of the fundamental pillars that have made our country such an exceptional place, especially for immigrants and other minorities.
But reducing everything to race and racism also doesn’t fix any of the actual problems making patients’ lives harder. It doesn’t solve the problem of no grocery stores in a poor neighborhood. Doctors who are truly passionate about addressing problems in the communities they serve would make more of an impact addressing each problem individually by working with the communities they serve. For example, to solve the food desert problem, hospitals could reach out to grocery stores in other parts of town and arrange a partnership where the grocery stores open up a new branch or make deliveries of fresh produce to underserved neighborhoods.
At the end of the day, a doctor’s job is to care for his patients. They do not need to become social activists to do this well. They should consider their patients’ individual backgrounds and needs carefully, never stereotyping a patient as “oppressed ” solely because of his skin tone. If they notice a socioeconomic problem affecting their patients, they could bring the problem to community leaders and organizers and offer advice and resources if needed. But woke ideology has no place in this system. It should be discarded like the garbage it is and left to rot.
Emmie Lo is a writer and Latin teacher currently living in Jacksonville, Florida. You can read her personal blog at blindgirldreaming.blogspot.com and follow her on Twitter at @teabooksgirl.
The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.