In Their Own Voices: A Critical Narrative Review of Black Women Faculty Members’ First-Person Accounts of Racial Trauma Across Higher Education

Sherese Johnson*, Abigail Konopasky, Tasha Wyatt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Phenomenon: Black women often face more challenges in academic medicine than others and are leaving the profession due to unsupportive work environments, systematic neglect, and experiences of invisibility. Research offers insight into Black women faculty experiences, but studies have largely been conducted on their experiences rather than written by them. We analyzed first-person narratives exploring Black women faculty members’ experiences with racial trauma across the academy considering the intersectionality of racism and sexism to lay the foundation for understanding Black women physicians’ faculty experiences in similar spaces. Approach: We gathered first-person narratives of Black women faculty members in the U.S. from ERIC, Web of Science, and Ovid Medline. We used a variety of terms to draw out potential experiences with trauma (e.g., microaggressions, stigma, prejudice). Articles were screened by two researchers, with a third resolving conflicts. Drawing on constructs from Black feminist theory, two researchers extracted from each article authors’ claims about: (a) their institutions, (b) their experiences in those spaces, and (c) suggestions for change. We then analyzed these data through the lens of racial trauma while also noting the effects of gendered racism. Findings: We identified four key themes from the 46 first-person accounts of racial trauma of Black faculty members in higher education: pressures arising from being “the only” or “one of few”; elimination of value through the “cloak of invisibility” and “unconscious assumptions”; the psychological burden of “walking a tightrope”; and communal responsibility, asking “if not us, then who?” Insights: Black women’s narratives are necessary to unearth their specific truths as individuals who experience intersectional oppression because of their marginalized racial and gender identities. This may also assist with better understanding opportunities to dismantle the oppressive structures and practices hindering more diverse, equitable, and inclusive institutional environments where their representation, voice, and experience gives space for them to thrive and not simply survive within the academy, including and not limited to medicine.

Original languageEnglish
JournalTeaching and Learning in Medicine
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2024
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • anti-racism
  • Diversity
  • equity
  • inclusion
  • medical education

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