Theorizing Race and Racism: Preliminary Reflections on the Medical Curriculum

Am J Law Med. 2017 May;43(2-3):239-256. doi: 10.1177/0098858817723662.


The current political economic crisis in the United States places in sharp relief the tensions and contradictions of racial capitalism as it manifests materially in health care and in knowledge-producing practices. Despite nearly two decades of investment in research on racial inequality in disease, inequality persists. While the reasons for persistence of inequality are manifold, little attention has been directed to the role of medical education. Importantly, medical education has failed to foster critical theorizing on race and racism to illuminate the often-invisible ways in which race and racism shape biomedical knowledge and clinical practice. Medical students across the nation are advocating for more critical anti-racist education that centers the perspectives and knowledge of marginalized communities. This Article examines the contemporary resurgence in explicit forms of white supremacy in light of growing student activism and research that privileges notions of innate differences between races. It calls for a theoretical framework that draws on Critical Race Theory and the Black Radical Tradition to interrogate epistemological practices and advocacy initiatives in medical education.

MeSH terms

  • Curriculum / standards
  • Delivery of Health Care / ethnology*
  • Education, Medical / standards*
  • Health Status Disparities
  • Healthcare Disparities / ethnology*
  • Humans
  • Racism / prevention & control*
  • Social Class
  • Social Justice
  • United States