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Ibram X. Kendi’s gravy train could soon screech to a halt. The famous “anti-racist” professor is under intense public and institutional scrutiny after a Boston University investigation revealed that his “Center for Antiracist Research” squandered tens of millions of dollars, producing practically no research.
But while the ideologue is disgraced, his ideological fingerprint remains impressed upon academia. Nowhere is anti-racism’s influence more concerning than medical research, where racialized pseudoscience has effectively replaced scientific rigor in making sense of matters of life or death.
Anti-racism asserts that race-blind policies allow bigoted attitudes and beliefs to flourish, and that disparities across racial groups must be evidence of racism. In accordance with the ideology, leading healthcare organizations now uncritically and reflexively claim that health disparities across racial groups must be the result of racism disguised or fueled by race-neutral policies.
In writing on the “impact of racism on our public nation’s health,” the CDC now claims that racism is a “fundamental” cause of “health inequities, health disparities and disease.” It further states, “these health disparities underscore the urgent need to address systemic racism as a root cause of racial and ethnic health inequities and a core element of our public health efforts.” The National Institutes of Health similarly states that structural racism “lies at the center” of health disparities.
Previously, leading health experts dispassionately embraced intellectual curiosity and the scientific method to understand and address health disparities. Take, for example, a Health and Human Services initiative launched in 2000 called “Healthy People 2010.” The initiative made eliminating health disparities across populations one of its overriding goals.
The final review noted that such disparities arise due to a “range of personal, economic, and environmental factors that influence health status, including factors such as biology, genetics, individual behavior, [and] access to health services.”
The 560-page “Healthy People 2010” review doesn’t once speculate or assert that disparities are caused by racism, and for good reason. Across society, racist beliefs are rare and declining. Doctors in particular are laser-focused on treating individual patients, regardless of skin color.
Yet racism is now blindly stated as fact, in service to the anti-racist demand that medicine be viewed through a racial lens. As Yascha Mounk points out in his recent book “The Identity Trap,” it remains baffling why attempting to purge unverified individual racism through training and other coercive measures would even solve supposedly systemic issues. Orthodoxy supersedes not only facts, but basic logic.
Problems aside, anti-racist ideology is enforced and propagated through peer-reviewed medical journals, the information bank that journalists, judges, and lawmakers generally entrust to make sense of what “science” says about critical issues.
The American Medical Association’s “Organizational Strategic Plan to Embed Racial Justice and Advance Health Equity,” for example, cites research as a “lever for change.” It goes on to clarify that “methods will be informed by social epidemiology and critical race theory.”
The American Medical Association’s strategy is perverse. Research is fundamentally about the pursuit of knowledge, not a “lever” for social transformation. Once the objective of research is determined to be something other than the pursuit of knowledge, it ceases to be research, but opinion weaponized as “fact” operating under the guise of “science.”
Consider, for example, a recent meta-analysis (i.e., compilation of studies) published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It found that Black patients in the emergency department were more likely to be physically restrained.
A curious scholar might probe whether this finding is related to factors like the disproportionate number of Blacks treated in the emergency department for substance abuse disorders or schizophrenia. Instead, the “researchers” dismiss this possibility by saying that racial difference in these measures would also be proof of racism.
The Journal of the American Medical Association is not alone in this radicalism. Health Affairs, another widely cited journal, devoted their October 2023 issue to “structural racism,” essentially accepting the argument that disparities are evidence of racism.
The New England Journal of Medicine, the world’s most widely cited medical journal, has pledged a commitment to anti-racism that routinely plays out in its pages. For instance, a commentary published in early October notes the disproportionate number of Black medical residents who face remedial intervention or dismissal from their programs, which is alleged to be a sign of racism.
In writing on the “impact of racism on our public nation’s health,” the CDC now claims that racism is a “fundamental” cause of “health inequities, health disparities and disease.”
Yet Occam’s razor would point to radically lower medical school admissions standards for Black students, who are more likely be unprepared for the demands of the job.
Kendi’s fall from grace at Boston University has led to little soul-searching among his most devoted acolytes in academia. Yet reflection and honesty are urgently needed, especially in medical schools and research.
Anti-racism has subverted the intellectual underpinnings of the medical enterprise, replacing scientific rigor with racial obsession. Anti-racist screeds may be the fast-track to publication in the most prestigious journals, but patients gain nothing and stand to lose much from that ideology’s conquest of medical scholarship.