Putting on Academic Armor: How Black Physicians and Trainees Take Stances to Make Racism Visible Amid Publishing Constraints

Monnique Johnson, Lauren A. Maggio*, Abigail Konopasky

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Starting with reflexivity: As a Black woman medical student at a predominately white institution, a white woman full professor and deputy editor-in-chief of a journal, and a white woman associate professor with a deep interest in language, we understand that medicine and medical education interpellate each of us as a particular kind of subject. As such, we begin with a narrative grounding in our personal stances. Phenomenon: While there are a growing number of empirical studies of Black physicians’ and trainees’ experiences of racism, there are still few accounts from a first-person perspective. Black authors of these personal commentaries or editorials, who already experience microaggressions and racial trauma in their work spaces, must put on their academic armor to further experience them in publishing spaces. This study seeks to understand the stances Black physicians and trainees take as they share their personal experiences of racism. Approach: We searched four databases, identifying 29 articles authored by Black physicians and trainees describing their experiences. During initial analysis, we identified and coded for three sets of discursive strategies: identification, intertextuality, and space-time. Throughout the study, we reflected on our own stances in relation to the experience of conducting the study and its findings. Findings: Authors engaged in stance-taking, which aligned with the concept of donning academic armor, by evaluating and positioning themselves with respect to racism and the norms of academic discourse in response to ongoing conversations both within medicine and in the broader U.S. culture. They did this by (a) positioning themselves as being Black and, therefore, qualified to notice and name personal racist experiences while also aligning themselves with the reader through shared professional experiences and goals; (b) intertextual connections to other related events, people, and institutions that they—and their readers—value; and (c) aligning themselves with a hoped-for future rather than a racist present. Personal insights: Because the discourses of medicine and medical publishing interpellate Black authors as Others they must carefully consider the stances they take, particularly when naming racism. The academic armor they put on must be able to not only defend them from attack but also help them slip unseen through institutional bodies replete with mechanisms to eject them. In addition to analyzing our own personal stance, we leave readers with thought-provoking questions regarding this armor as we return to narrative grounding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)337-347
Number of pages11
JournalTeaching and Learning in Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • Black physicians
  • Equity
  • URM
  • inclusion
  • medical education
  • racism


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