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"I have to do twice as well" – managing everyday racism in a Swedish medical school
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Umeå Centre for Gender Studies (UCGS). Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Family Medicine.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-8404-9623
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Family Medicine.
2022 (English)In: BMC Medical Education, E-ISSN 1472-6920, Vol. 22, no 1, article id 235Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Background: Mounting evidence suggests that medical students from cultural/ethnic minority backgrounds face recurring and more or less subtle racist oppression, i.e., everyday racism. Insights into how they handle these inequalities, though, are scarce – especially in a Swedish context. In this interview study we therefore explored and analyzed the strategies used by racialized minority medical students to manage episodes of everyday racism – and their underlying motives and considerations.

Methods: Individual interviews were carried out with 15 medical students (8 women, 7 men) who self-identified as having ethnic- or cultural minority backgrounds. Inspired by constructivist grounded theory, data were collected and analyzed simultaneously.

Results: Participants strove to retain their sense of self as active students and professional future physicians – as opposed to passive and problematic ‘Others’. Based on this endeavor, they tried to manage the threat of constraining stereotypes and exclusion. Due to the power relations in medical education and clinical placement settings as well as racialized students’ experience of lacking both credibility and support from bystanders, few dared to speak up or report negative treatment. Instead, they sought to avoid racism by withdrawing socially and seeking safe spaces. Or, they attempted to adopt a professional persona that was resistant to racial slights. Lastly, they tried to demonstrate their capability or conform to the majority culture, in attempts to refute stereotypes.

Conclusions: Racism is not caused by the exposed individuals’ own ways of being or acting. Therefore, behavioral changes on the part of minority students will not relieve them from discrimination. Rather, strategies such as adaptation and avoidance run the risk of re-inscribing the white majority as the norm for a medical student. However, as long as racialized minority students stand alone it is difficult for them to act in any other way. To dismantle racism in medical education, this study indicates that anti-racist policies and routines for handling discrimination are insufficient. School management should also acknowledge racially minoritized students’ experiences and insights about racist practices, provide students and supervisors with a structural account of racism, as well as organize training in possible ways to act as a bystander to support victims of racism, and create a safer working environment for all.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
BioMed Central, 2022. Vol. 22, no 1, article id 235
Keywords [en]
Everyday racism, Grounded theory, Interviews, Medical education, Racial microaggressions
National Category
Pedagogy International Migration and Ethnic Relations
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-193798DOI: 10.1186/s12909-022-03262-5ISI: 000777233400010PubMedID: 35365131Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-85127530216OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-193798DiVA, id: diva2:1656607
Available from: 2022-05-06 Created: 2022-05-06 Last updated: 2022-05-06Bibliographically approved

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Kristoffersson, EmelieHamberg, Katarina

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