Student National Medical Association Kicks Off Anti-Racism Series

NEOMED’s Student National Medical Association teamed up on Tuesday, Sept. 29, with the American Medical Student Association, Bioethics Club, Student National Pharmaceutical Association, Geriatrics Interest Group and Black Student Association to host the first workshop in its Anti-Racism Series via Zoom.

Diamanta Panford, a first-year College of Medicine student and SNMA vice president, moderated the discussion. Phoebe Otchere, a second-year College of Medicine student and SNMA president, and Noella Ibekwe, a fellow first-year College of Medicine student and Minority Association of Premedical Students (MAPS) liaison, helped facilitate breakout sessions and activities.

Panford expressed that the goal of SNMA’s Anti-Racism Workshop Series is to build upon the University’s Stand Up and Fight for Our Diverse Community forums and continue the dialogue in a “safe, unrestricted environment.”

She commenced the workshop — which included more than 60 attendees, including faculty, staff and students — with a personal anecdote of how she felt that people often viewed her as a “walking paradox.” Panford, who was born and raised in England, had a strong English accent for many years and her family is originally from Ghana, so she often struggled to identify with the term “African American” after moving to the U.S.

Panford shared that she prefers to identify as Black — a more inclusive term.

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions,” she noted. “Just do so respectfully.”

After Panford, Otchere and Ibekwe kicked off the workshop, they encouraged participants to complete the following statement and share it in the chat box: “My name is ___ and I am from ___. One thing you cannot tell just by looking at me is ___. This is important for me to tell you because ___.”

A Little Anti-Racism Homework

If you were unable to attend the first workshop, you are invited to watch a recording of the workshop and can find a condensed version of the activities below:

Watch a video on structural racism from the Choices Program at Brown University, then ask yourself the following questions.

  • What is the historical context of structural racism?
  • What examples of structural or institutional racism can you think of?

Grab a writing utensil and jot down the following names:

  • Your best friend
  • Your roommate
  • Your favorite professor
  • Your favorite actor/actress
  • Your favorite fictional character
  • The author of the last book you read for pleasure
  • A religious or spiritual leader you look up to
  • A famous leader you look up to
  • Your primary care physician
  • Your hair stylist

Now look at those names and write their race and ethnicity next to them.

“This activity makes a lot of people uncomfortable and that’s ok,” said Panford. “The goal is to identify the people in our immediate circles and our important spheres of influence. The challenge is figuring out how to broaden our spheres and our lens of the world.”

Subsequently, the discussion transitioned to the white privilege activity, based on the well-known “Privilege Walk” exercise. The walk generally features statements that are read by a facilitator and participants are asked to take a step forwards or backwards based on their responses.

SNMA put a virtual twist on this activity and had all participants begin with their cameras off. If they agreed with a statement, each respective participant would turn their camera back on.

Below are a few examples of statements read from Peggy McIntosh’s essay White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.

  • I can choose bandages in ‘flesh’ color and have them more or less match my skin
  • I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group
  • I can do well in a challenging environment without being called ‘a credit’ to my race

Participants reported having a powerful experience with impactful and thoughtful activities that confronted their original ideas of white privilege.

With an amplitude of positive feedback from their initial workshop, SNMA plans to continue the series in the coming weeks to further expand on the dialogue of white privilege.

Stay tuned for details on this and other upcoming workshops in the Anti-Racism Series. Follow @neomed_snma on Instagram for updates.

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