One of the least-discussed of manifestations of systemic racism occurs in healthcare. This “medical racism” raised its ugly head in the recent coronavirus pandemic, which ripped through the Black community at two or three times the rate it did among whites and more greatly impacted the fragile economy of Black families.
Though mainstream media has rarely covered this, or barely glossed over the subject if it did, thankfully there exist numerous podcasts that document how black patients are routinely treated dismissively by the health care system, how maternal health among POC is monitored, and how differential treatment during the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in more death among Black and brown people. While we could all use a laugh right now to relieve some of the pain, medical racism is no laughing matter.
With the awareness brought by the death of George Floyd and others, as well as the protests and riots that have resulted, the spotlight is now shining on many areas of systemic racism in the US that have been too long ignored. We at Vurbl have put together a list of podcasts and podcast episodes to inform and, hopefully, motivate, listeners on this chilling topic.
#1:The Praxis: Podcast Review
The Praxis is a podcast focused exclusively on the concept of “health justice”. This is the idea that biases (like medical racism) exist and must be addressed head-on in order to achieve equal quality of healthcare and health outcomes. This medical racism podcast is hosted by University of Washington School of Medicine Lecturer in the Department of Family Medicine and UW Center for Leadership and Innovation in Medical Education (CLIME) Associate Director at the University of Washington School of Medicine, Edwin Lindo, JD.
Why You Should Listen: At just 5 episodes (so far), and a total of roughly 2 hours of content, The Praxis packs in far more information and important viewpoints and analysis than one might imagine. Lindo discusses how the choices of policy and redlining of metro areas have put mostly poor, black and other POC in the most polluted areas of many cities, resulting in more of those people having damaged respiratory systems, which in turn leads to more poor people of color experiencing worse outcomes with respiratory diseases (especially in light of COVID-19). Later in the series, Lindo welcomes guests Rachel Hardeman, Ph.D., and Edwardo Medina, MD, onto the show to talk about the racism inherent in the medical education process and how doctors may be able to unlearn what they were, often, unknowingly taught.
Rating: All Ages
#2: Truth Be Told: Podcast Review
Hosted by Tonya Mosely and part of the KQED podcast network, Truth Be Told is a lavishly produced podcast that is branded as an advice show for black people and people of color, in general, living in the United States today. Mosely’s rich voice leads the way, with KQED’s normally high production values. Truth Be Told has helped listeners work through issues of cross-racial relationships, the different cultural and financial pressures faced by mothers of color, and even the importance of mental health maintenance for black men.
Why You Should Listen: When Season 2 started in February of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic was just beginning to really spread in the United States. It didn’t take long for Mosely and the Truth Be Told team to focus on the emergency-within-an-emergency, as racism quickly flared up in numerous ways due to the virus’ arrival. The racial stereotypes of Asian Americans became ammunition for racists, and systemic racism and differential treatment disproportionately affected the black community. In this excellent coronavirus-focused episode, Mosely interviews Dr. Seema Yasmin, an infectious disease expert, journalist, and person of color herself.
#3: TED Talks Health: Podcast Review
TED Talks have been bringing us an amazing treasure trove of knowledge delivered by experts and first-person sources on every subject imaginable for years now. With dozens of different variations around the world of the live Ted Talks, there is also a wealth of these available as podcasts. TED Talks Health is one of those, and this podcast (accompanied by video of the actual talks) offers a number of shows that have focused on the topic of medical racism.
Why You Should Listen: TED Talks Health takes all that we love about TED and uses that power to increase understanding and dialogue about issues related to our medical technology, mental and physical wellbeing, and the overall wellness of our society as a whole. It is that last topic which is these episodes on medical racism speak to most eloquently. Listeners will learn why heart disease is so much more prevalent among black women, how doctors often mistreat pregnant black women due to implicit biases, and what we can all do to help reverse the effects of negative stereotypes and residential segregation that plague the medical care opportunities of most people of color in the United States.
Listen to TED Talks Health
Rating: All Ages
#4: Intersectionality Matters!: Podcast Review
Brought to us by The African American Policy Forum, the Intersectionality Matters! podcast examines the idea that a person’s various identities (political, social, sexual, etc.) “intersect” in ways that create specific patterns of discrimination. In short, intersectionality can help us pin down the factors that lead to injustices in our society, such as medical racism. While Intersectionality Matters! looks at all kinds of differential treatment, the podcast offers a number of episodes focused on medical racism. The show is hosted by leading critical race theory scholar and civil rights activist Kimberle Crenshaw.
Why You Should Listen: Beginning with episode 9 in March of 2020, Intersectionality Matters! Began a podcast-within-a-podcast called “Under the Blacklight: The Intersectional Vulnerabilities that COVID Lays Bare”. The COVID-19 pandemic’s arrival has affected us all, but it has also served to underscore the systemic medical racism that black citizens and other POC have been facing throughout history. Ep 15 – Under the Blacklight: COVID in Confinement is a particularly eye-opening episode. Crenshaw hosts conversations with experts on the intersection of race, prison, immigrant detention centers, and the pandemic, including immigrant rights activist Ravi Ragbir and Yale law professor Nina A. Kohn.
Rating: All Ages
#5: White World Black Mom: Podcast Review
We only know the host as “Jill”, but in late 2018 through early 2019 she created and hosted the White World Black Mom podcast. In the five episodes that are available, Jill touches on single parenting, self-care, considering moving from the United States to Africa, and even the toxicity of Facebook mom groups. But there is one episode that stuck out for our particular focus in this list, the first one: Medical Racism: Consequences, Friendships, and Solidarity. Jill speaks about these issues from the point of view of a regular, everyday working mother who is living the black experience in the U.S. She speaks from the heart and listeners will feel as though they are just sitting down having a conversation with a friend.
Why You Should Listen: Jill brings her sincerity and emotion as she ponders the all-too-common doctor’s office occurrences that many black women and other people of color have experienced. These include a doctor assuming she eats a lot of fried food, as well as a discussion of doctors forcing black women to take birth control before they can leave a hospital after giving birth. The Vurbl crew would love to hear more from Jill and Black Mom White World, so if you happen to know her, please encourage her to keep podcasting!
Listen to White World, Black Mom
Rating: All Ages
#6: Sawbones: Podcast Review
Seven years and well over 300 episodes into its run, Sawbones is one of the most consistently entertaining programs on our list of both best comedy and best medical podcasts. Dr. Sydnee McElroy and her husband Justin McElroy very much embody the “straight man” and “wise guy” trope when it comes to the duo’s presence. In Sawbones, Sydnee is the more serious of the two, delivering the medical knowledge and historical context and footnotes, while Justin riffs on all the absurdities of biology and his own ignorance of Sydnee’s medical expertise.
Why You Should Listen: After the powerful new Black Lives Matter protests began in late May of 2020, the Sawbones team has released two informative and timely podcast episodes that deal with medical racism and public health as it affects blacks and other people of color. Even prior to these events, however, Sawbones hasn’t shied away from these important topics. Though the McElroys do often lighten the mood with some humor in their show, the co-hosts deal much more seriously with these topics and definitely do them justice.
Listen to Sawbones
Rating: All Ages
#7: Reveal: Podcast Review
The Center for Investigative Reporting was founded in 1977 as the first nonprofit investigative journalism organization, dedicated to digging into the shadows around the stories reported by mainstream media and uncovering the unbiased truth. Later they launched their online platform Reveal, including the podcast by the same name, and now reach millions of people. Currently, there are several episodes on differential treatment, medical racism, and the results of the COVID-19 pandemic regarding the high ratio of black people and other people of color who suffer from coronavirus infection.
Why You Should Listen: Hosted by the accomplished Al Letson –poet, playwright, and journalist who appeared on Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry Jam– Reveal is a Pulitzer Prize finalist. In partnership with ProPublica, The Investigative Fund, and other renowned journalistic organizations, Letson lends his gravitas to The Center for Investigative Reporting’s mission. Reveal has explored how medical racism affects maternal care, the health conditions in our immigrant detainment centers, and how POC and illegal immigrants relinquish child custody and even risk deportation just to get their children appropriate care.
Rating: All Ages
#8: Social Distance: Podcast Review
When the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic escalated in the United States and the policy of social distancing became accepted, The Atlantic launched a new health and science podcast called Social Distance. In this show, Dr. James Hamblin and journalist Katherine Wells host provocative discussions around issues where medical science and society intersect.
Why You Should Listen: While every episode has been engaging and enlightening when it comes to the health topics that have been top-of-mind for many of us lately, the June 1, 2020 episode Fighting the Machine is particularly powerful. In it, Wells and Hamblin interview Duke University professor emeritus Sherman James, an expert on discrimination and health who has been studying the issue for nearly fifty years. Professor James goes into depth on his concept of “John Henryism”, by which the structural racism in the United States has forced a disproportionate number of black people into lower-wage and physically demanding jobs. This way of life leads to health damage such as high blood pressure, arthritis, and more.
Rating: All Ages
#9: Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction: Podcast Review
Dr. Sanjay Gupta has been a well-known and respected figure in the medical and health journalism field for years now. CNN Digital has allied with him as Chief Medical Correspondent to produce a podcast series dedicated to delivering unadulterated news on the science and public health surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a daily podcast and already has a backlog on nearly 80 episodes for listeners to explore.
Why You Should Listen: Gupta approaches the coronavirus event with his usual no-nonsense yet conversational flair. He is also fearless in addressing the medical racism and systemic issues that have exacerbated the effects of the pandemic for the black population in the United States. In the episode titled Two Viruses, Gupta interviews expert on public health and racism Dr, Camara Jones. The series also tackles several other facets of racism interwoven with the pandemic, including the high ratio of immunocompromised black victims of the coronavirus.
Rating: All Ages
Systemic medical racism continues to cut deep across half the population of the United States. In particular, it hits black people hardest of all due to the horrible policies enacted during slavery and reconstruction, the time of Jim Crow, and the wars on crime and drugs in the late 20th century. Voices are stronger now than perhaps ever before, standing out against this injustice, and armed with many allies as well as the latest scientific knowledge and decades of research. These podcasts and their episodes on the medical racism health care crisis are part of the solution.
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