I listen to a lot of podcasts, many of them about race and racism issues, but the idea for this post came from The Allusionist, which is about words. Host Helen Zaltzman interviewed Moya Bailey, who coined the term “misogynoir” when she was doing work on racism in the medical community. As part of the conversation, Bailey relates the story of Dr. Susan Moore, a Black physician who died of COVID-19 in 2020. Despite her profession, Dr. Moore received woefully inadequate treatment for the virus because she was perceived as a “drug-seeker,” undoubtedly because of the color of her skin.
Examples like Dr. Wood’s are legion; perhaps more is to be gained from looking at the theory and practice of medical racism than the horror stories. This brings me to two things I’ve learned recently from Pod Save the People. First, race correction. When I heard the term, I thought (naively), “Wow! Sounds like a way to do evidence-based work on the medical issues that disproportionately affect the Black and Brown communities. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Race correction, which is in use today, is the misuse of what author Cathy O’Neil calls “weapons of math destruction” against the health of (especially) Black people. Jacque Smith and Cassie Spodak wrote about it for CNN.
And there’s bias against obese patients because patients who are very obese– everybody wants to blame whatever disease that is on the body habitus. But there’s new study and new research now on obesity that’s talking about people in their best body. I see people who are obese by any standard.
They walk in, their BMI, 38-40. But then their best body, these are the same people that can run five miles. They can hike. They can ride bikes at 20-30 miles, in great shape. It just big people, doing their best body. So being able to really have people understand this and respect this is something else that’s coming on new in the future.
So people who’ve been fat shamed and other things like that– and this is happening. It has happened to doctor’s office where they walk in and say, well, you’re too fat. I can’t take care of you. Or you’re too fat, you’ve got to do that, so you could take care of your diabetes or your hypertension or your arthritis in the joints. Being more cognizant of what the conversation is now about obesity would be very helpful as well, just as an example.
I’m not sure what research Dr. Wood is citing on this “best body” concept, and I will keep looking. In the interim, it was genuinely exciting to hear a medical professional talking about medical bias and using terms like “fat shamed,” which I tend only to hear in body image circles.
I’ll close with a comment from Moya Bailey which applies both to misogynoir and medical racism:
“I’m hoping that this is perhaps the flourishing before the end. If we talk about it a lot now, perhaps that means we’ll get to a place where we can actually transform and get rid of it.”
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