"When No One Sees You as Black": The Effect of Racial Violence on Black Trainees and Physicians

Tasha R. Wyatt*, Taryn R. Taylor, De Juan White, Nicole Rockich-Winston

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Purpose The United States has an implicit agreement known as the racial contract that exists between white and non-white communities. Recently, the racial contract has produced much tension, expressed in racial violence and police brutality. This study explores how this racial violence and police brutality have affected the practice and education of Black trainees and physicians who are members of the racial community being targeted. Method This qualitative cross-sectional study interviewed 7 Black trainees and 12 physicians from 2 Southern medical schools in 2020. Interview data were collected using aspects of constructivist grounded theory, and then analyzed using the concept of racial trauma; a form of race-based stress minoritized individuals experience as a result of inferior treatment in society. Data were then organized by the causes participants cited for feeling unsafe, conditions they cited as producing these feelings, and the consequences these feelings had on their education and practice. Results The results show that even though participants were not direct victims of racial violence, because their social identity is linked to the Black community, they experienced these events vicariously. The increase in racial violence triggered unresolved personal and collective memories of intergenerational racial trauma, feelings of retraumatization after more than 400 years of mistreatment, and an awakening to the fact that the white community was unaware of their current and historical trauma. These events were felt in both their personal and professional lives. Conclusions As more minoritized physicians enter medicine and medical education, the profession needs a deeper understanding of their unique experiences and sociohistorical contexts, and the effect that these contexts have on their education and practice. While all community members are responsible for this, leaders play an important role in creating psychologically safe places where issues of systemic racism can be addressed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S17-S22
JournalAcademic Medicine
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2021
Externally publishedYes


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