South Asian physicians must be part of the solution against racism
Written by Meeta Shah MD and Inna Husain MD
Originally published at https://www.kevinmd.com on June 15, 2020.
Over the last few days, physicians and nurses across the country have taken a knee, galvanized by the recent death of George Floyd, as well as the disproportionate effect of the coronavirus pandemic on African-American families. The White Coats for Black Lives movement firmly identifies racism as a public health issue and calls on everyone in the health care system to take action.
As physicians, we can see what role we have in fighting this injustice; however, as South Asians, we know that awareness within our communities is still lacking. The goal to be the “ model minority” often overshadows outward displays of camaraderie. Some of this may be secondary to focusing efforts in fighting their own other battles (such as Islamophobia) and against hate crimes directed towards their own communities. However, racism within the South Asian community against African Americans is not uncommon, and many of us have bore witness to overt racism growing up. The silence has not gone unnoticed — in fact, in the past few days, South Asian or Bollywood celebrities have been called out on their colorism campaigns and misappropriation of black culture.
The role and duty of South Asian physicians
Our generation of South Asian professionals in North America will need not just to express gratitude for the activism that has reduced racist structures (or at least deferred their attention from us), but also to acknowledge the privilege afforded to us by education and profession. Indian, Pakistani and other South Asian physicians must lead that charge.
Asian physicians make up the second-largest majority of the medical profession within the United States — Asian doctors are anywhere from 11 to 15 percent in fact. Of these, for example, greater than 60,000 physicians and approximately 10 to 12 percent of entering medical students are estimated to be of Indian heritage in this country. For context, approximately 13.4 percent of the total population identifies as black or African American, thereby accounting for a large part of our patient population who we have a duty to care and advocate for.