Tour for Diversity in Medicine

The Pulse of Social Injustice

At T4D, we take time to engage one another on current events. This blog is the result of an internal conversation on the heightened awareness surrounding social justice issues on college campuses. We wanted to share a few of the perspectives with our readership — to provoke thought and hopefully generate/continue the dialogue. Enjoy!

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With racial tensions seemingly at boiling point (for our generation), the situation occurring at the University of Missouri is not only highly controversial — but also, eerily familiar. A week ago, the minority student body at the University of Missouri (aka Mizzou) outwardly expressed their disapproval with the institution and its administration, particularly regarding their poor response to racially motivated issues on campus. The students organized a hunger strike that eventually resulted in the resignation of the school’s president and chancellor. As news of their peaceful protests spread, they quickly gained the support of other groups on campus (i.e. faculty members and athletic teams), and ultimately (although not an objective), the attention of national media. The story elicited mixed responses from the general public, ranging from outright support on other college campuses to violent, internet threats being made towards African American students. Tour for Diversity mentors were asked to comment on the situation at the University of Missouri, from their own experiences regarding discrimination in the academic field to the public’s response to finally bringing these injustices to the light.

Ciera Sears, MD | Co Editor-In-Chief

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Tiphany Jackson, MS4

It may be difficult for people to understand that what happened at the University of Missouri is not isolated, but rather a symptom of institutions of higher learning. The build-up of racial tensions on the campus and an administration too tone deaf to take action that led to a graduate student’s hunger strike and a football team’s refusal to don their uniforms is all too common at predominantly white institutions today. At my alma mater, there was never a year that an issue surrounding race didn’t spark protest or at least conversation on campus, whether loudly on the chapel steps or more isolated in our culture center. The irony is that I recently spoke with an older alumnus whose children who attended the university during my tenure, and she was utterly shocked to learn that the lens through which I viewed my college experience was vastly different than her white children’s. They had little idea that race was an issue, while my friends and I were acutely aware throughout our experience.

There were many ways that this atmosphere, sometimes overtly and other times covertly racist, affects students of color. For some, they spent hours toiling over racially themed parties, comments said from across the quad, and less obvious micro-aggressions, which unfortunately often require more thought and energy to process. These hours, rather than being spent on homework, networking, and socializing, are spent going over issues that are larger than they can imagine at their young age. This is the undiscussed burden of minority students; as they spend time working to improve their campus cultures for future classes, others are largely able to solely concentrate on “having the college experience” and their education. I was one of those students – actively involved in the Black Student Alliance, living in multicultural housing, and working in the Center for Multicultural Affairs. Fortunately, I am writing this having advanced to the next level of my education. I would not change my experience, but I wonder what it would have been like to go through my education with the same lens as the majority of my colleagues, a lens of security and blissful oblivion. A feat, that as a black woman, I am still unable to accomplish.

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Brandon Henry, M.D.

Why? Why tends to be one of the first questions asked during times of confusion, hurt, fear and uncertainty. Why me? Why us? Recently my beloved alma mater Howard University received threats on the lives of students. Not because we bothered someone or because we committed a crime against them. No, we were threatened simply because we are black. All I could keep thinking to myself is… why?

In life we will always be faced with times of confusion, hurt, fear and uncertainty. But it’s in these times that we must think back to our elders who were faced with the same, if not worse. During these times they prayed, came together as one and overcame. We have that same strength inside us. It’s written inside of our DNA to overcome and be victorious. We can’t operate in fear, whether it’s racial discrimination or applying to professional school. The Holy Bible says “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love and a sound mind.” We will overcome this and any other mountain we face. Time to rise above and be resilient.

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Love Anani, M.D.

This morning I woke up and prepared to study for my Emergency Medicine Boards (yes even as an attending studying is mandatory) and I saw messages from my college friends discussing how students at Missouri are now getting death threats for their peaceful protests.  I read about how white students are driving around in trucks screaming obscenities, holding flags, and throwing items. Stating “my heart broke” would only be cliché and untrue.  I sat and read all of the messages and said out loud, “I knew this was coming.”

Those 5 words are what I want to convey to all the students out their standing up for their rights and trying to protect themselves from the sometimes obvious, and other times covert, racist society we all live in: Know what is coming.  If you take on the courage of a hunger strike, pre-media attention, realize you may go hungry for several weeks.  When you sit out of football practice, realize your scholarship will be on the line and you may have no way to pay for school.  And when you make national news demonstrating, no matter how peaceful, that black lives and values matter, know that others will seek to diminish that bright light you bring into this world.

But I also want you to know what else is coming.  Millions of young students around the country will see your strength and add it to their own.  They will send their prayers, their money, and in some cases their body to help strengthen your efforts.  The media will keep their cameras on you, giving you a platform to speak on whatever issue you please.  We all have the power to change the world, but I implore each and every person reading this reflection to decide how to use that power.  Not everyone plays in the SEC for a billion dollar financial machine so sports won’t be your power, but each and every one of us has the power to become the CEO, Medical Director, or PR head of that same billion dollar machine.  So please focus your power and remember what is coming.

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