Community Discusses the Myth of Physical Racial Differences

This month’s discussion focused on The New York Times 1619 Project essay entitled Myths about physical racial differences were used to justify slavery – and are still believed by doctors today written by Linda Villarosa - writer, journalist, educator, and New York Times contributor- in August 2019. Coalition trustee Barbara Velazquez started the evening with a presentation that elaborated on some of the points made by Villarosa and showed the depth and persistence of these myths. Click here to see the full presentation.  

The small group discussions focused on two questions: How might myths of physical racial differences effect the delivery of medical and other services to people of color? What are some specific suggestions for what needs to be done to dispel the myths and to correct the negative impacts? Nearly 60 people attended and the discussions were lively and robust. After an hour together, the tables shared brief highlights:

  • We need to separate the myths from the facts, teach people what scientific racism is, and challenge people to see that cultural/social/environmental racial constructs are not also innate
  • Myths in scientific fields are unconscionable and demand well-funded research to dispel
  • We need to “dismantle the false universal.” In other words, we need to move beyond the idea that there is a single norm and everything else is a deviation.
  • We should use technology to eradicate misinformation on medical treatment and healthcare for people of color
  • Patients need to learn how to be advocates for themselves or to find advocates so that they can get better care
  • In our local SOMA community, we should provide training on patient advocacy

For further reading:

The Disturbing Resilience of Scientific Racism, By Ramin Skibba
MAY 20, 2019

This discussion was part of the SOMA Communal Year of Learning which was organized by Maplewood resident and former NYT contributing reporter Tina Kelley along with several organizations including SO/M Community Coalition on Race, SOMA Action, SOMA Justice, Maplewood and South Orange Public Libraries, Durand Hedden House, several houses of worship and other interested residents.

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