HealthPartners is an anti-racist organization, but what does that mean? In this episode of Off the Charts, we talk with Dr. Nathan Chomilo, an adult and pediatric physician at HealthPartners and the Minnesota Medicaid medical director, about racism and what it means to be anti-racist. Listen to the episode or read the transcript.
Many people think of racism as overt actions of hate or bigotry, but racism goes deeper than that. Dr. Chomilo likes a definition of racism popularized by Dr. Camara Jones: racism is a system of structuring opportunity based on how someone looks (race) that systemically favors one race and disadvantages others.
Racism can be broken into three different levels: institutional racism, personally meditated racism and internalized racism.
- Institutional racism is racism that is built into systems like the health care system, education system, employment system and the justice system.
- Personally meditated racism is someone’s own biases and prejudices against another race.
- Internalized racism is when a person of color absorbs stereotypes, prejudices and other negative beliefs about their own race from the white dominant society.
How institutional racism affects health care
Understanding the institutional racism built into the health care system is necessary for providers and health care organizations to become anti-racist. Right now, medical education still perpetuates flawed science about race. For example, in 2015 25% of white residents who graduated from medical school believed that Black skin is thicker than white skin. This type of racial bias has a large impact on the medical care non-white patients receive.
Being anti-racist means working to dismantle systemic racism. As health care providers, that begins with understanding how the different levels of racism impact their patients. Housing security, access to food, education, stress and environmental factors all affect health and are impacted by systemic racism. Focusing solely on what’s happening inside the clinic is too simple. We need to look at the system as a whole.
Listen to the episode to learn more about how to become an anti-racist.