Black Man in a White Coat Response

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    Hannah Evans

    Though we’ve only just begun the first portion of Tweedy’s book, his experiences and firsthand accounts of the presentation of race in the medical field is tremendously insightful and sheds light on complex issues that are oftentimes ignored. One of the most significant parts of his biography was when his professor, Dr. Gale, mistook him for a technician who was only in the classroom to fix the light. I couldn’t help but imagine how that must have felt; to have worked so incredibly hard as to earn a place at a renowned medical school only to be discounted and questioned on your presence by one of your own professor’s based on the color of your skin is truly unprecedented. It’s no wonder that Tweedy mentioned that, as a result, “Dr. Gale had shattered my brittle confidence and my tenuous feeling of belonging at Duke” (p. 14). It shows the implicit racial biases that people hold and how that can affect someone as a result, especially when someone harbors this thinly veiled prejudice when they’re in a position of power that one is supposed to respect. Even as a medical student at a prestigious university, Tweedy was often seen by others as the exception to the norm; they expected people of color, especially African Americans, to usually retain lowly positions in society and would not see them in distinguished professions. This was very apparent when Tweedy ended up scoring second best on the final for Dr. Gale’s class and his professor was astonished; he did no expect him, as a black person, to perform so well on the exam. Tweedy elaborates on this by stating, “The stereotype of black intellectual inferiority was so ingrained that for a black person to do as well, or better, than whites and Asians, they had to be ‘exceptionally bright’—earnest admiration and condescension wrapped in the same package” (p. 27). This truly highlights the implicit bias of inferiority that people hold, whether intentional or not, toward black people; they are expected to have a lower status, intellect, etc. than other races, namely whites, and are regarded with surprise when they hold an equal or higher position than them. I thought that Tweedy did a fantastic way of exposing this norm that people tend to ignore most of the time.


    This is a wonderfully crafted forum post and I completely agree that this book is very insightful in regards to the complex racial issues that are evident in the medical community. I also would have felt very sad and demoralized if one of my professors thought I was a technician instead of a medical student. I know that has to bring down a person’s self-esteem and question whether or not they belong in medical school. I have noticed implicit racial biases in some of my stem classes, as professors will describe a disorder as primarily evident in black people. Also, professors will mostly call on white people to answer questions, especially in regards to racial-oriented questions. You did a fantastic job of analyzing Tweedy’s insight on the implicit racism of institutions and people, whether intentional or not. Keep up the great work!

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