That was me: A millennial woman’s experience with racism

A black girl was called the N-word on the playground in elementary school in the 90’s-that black girl was me.

A black girl was called ugly because of her dark black skin in elementary school in the 90’s-that black girl was me.

A black girl created and independently executed a project for the science fair in elementary school. The authenticity of the project was questioned by the judges because something that good couldn’t really come from someone like her-that black girl was me.

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A black girl was told repeatedly that she “talked like a white girl”-that black girl was me.

A black girl was told she wasn’t good enough to be national honor society president by the white woman faculty adviser-that black girl was me (who organized a sit-in and became president anyway). 

A black girl was accused of plagiarism by her white female AP English teacher because the paper was “written so well”-that black girl was me.

A black girl was called a sell-out for going to Wake Forest instead of an HBCU-that black girl was me.

A black young woman was asked “how” she got into Wake Forest despite having great test scores and gpa-that black young woman was me.

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A black young woman was told by her college pre med faculty adviser that she couldn’t get in to a top medical school despite having a good portfolio- that black young woman was me.

A black young woman was confronted with tears by her white young woman friend about why the black young woman got inducted into Phi Beta Kappa and she didn’t (despite the fact that the black young woman had one of the highest gpa’s on campus)-that black young woman was me.

A black young woman was told by her white young man friend that affirmative action got her medical school acceptance in place of him-that black young woman was me.

A black young woman was told by her good friend and roommate that she was too intimidating to be friends with anymore because “everything good” was happening to the black young woman-that black young woman was me.

wake forest graduation

A black woman was repeatedly mistaken for something other than a Vanderbilt medical student despite wearing a white coat and proper identification- that black woman was me.

A black woman was stopped mid sentence in a residency interview by a white program director and told “I’m sorry. You are just so articulate”-that black woman was me.

A black woman was followed in the university store at her alma mater while trying to buy her baby a onesie – that black woman was me.

howard white coat ceremony february 2007

A white male medical student wrote a negative review on a black woman resident because a resident required the student to know the patient’s name before getting to deliver the baby-that black woman was me. 

A black woman resident is confused for another black woman resident on repeated occasions despite not sharing any physical characteristics with that resident besides a different shade of the same skin color- that black woman was me.

july 2011 howard white coat

A black woman physician was asked to show her credentials to prove she belonged in the physician’s lounge- that black woman was me.

A black woman physician was dismissed by a patient with the reason “I like her but I don’t want her to be my doctor. I just can’t put my finger on it” –that black woman was me.

A black woman physician was formally reported by white nurses for disagreeing with their plan of care – that black woman was me.

A black woman physician received feedback that she was “intimidating,” had issues with “tone,”  was not “professional” and that she was “not responsive to feedback”-that black woman was me.

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Sadly, these experiences are shared by many like me who have different names.

They are a mix of both macro and microaggressions, but hurtful just the same.

So the next time you think racism in healthcare doesn’t exist, refer to the above list.

And think of me.

Tera Frederick Howard MD MPH

 


37 thoughts on “That was me: A millennial woman’s experience with racism

  1. Wow, just wow. Such discrimination! We all got it as women physicians; but you really got a load of it. Please send this to the NYTimes.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am not a physician but I can relate to many of her hurtful experiences. Sad that in 2020 one more individual had to die because of police brutality for the world to unify and cry “enough.” The scars we carry push us to persevere and build a strong character based on compassion, integrity, understanding and responsibility. In the process, we inspire and become role models to young generations.

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  3. Thank you for sharing. People need to work actively to reject racism. Your story was very moving and aligns completely with the experiences that my BIPOC friends and Colleagues have told me that they experience regularly. The sad thing is that people committing micro aggressions may not think it’s racist behavior, but it is it is and needs to be called out by everyone including people who want to work to be allies of people of color. I certainly can’t speak to this like a black woman in medicine, but as a physician I know that we need to do better in the healing arts. Thanks again! Great website!

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  4. Thank you for sharing your experiences. I hope this will allow others to see how covert and outwardly overt racism is for black people in America! Amen but look at you ..look at God!

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  5. Tera, I was a teacher at the middle school you attended and I always admired you. You are strong and have a beautiful spirit. I think of you often, and am so glad to see you still hold your head high in spite of negativity.

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  6. Outstanding! I often say our men is fighting it on the outside and the women are on the inside. God bless us all!

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  7. Powerful writing. Thank you for sharing this. It’s painful to know this happens. I shared this on facebook. I hope it hits a wide audience.

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  8. Such a shame that you / we still have to endure so much racism and just pure hate in this day and age. We shouldn’t have to constantly prove or defend ourselves in so many situations, just because we are people of color.

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  9. I have been a friend of your parents for about 10 years. Although I have not had the privilege of knowing you, I am well aware of your heritage. Your parents and their example to you and all that know them is your strong foundation. Congratulations on your successes in spite of difficulties and Good Job, Tommy & Angela.
    God bless,
    Myrna Whiddon

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  10. Tara, thank you for this. It reminds me of the stories of persecution I have heard from Russian believers. I knew persecution happened under communism and many died, but I had not personally experienced it or heard it directly from someone who had. This blog helps me to better imagine what ignorance and prejudice must be like. Jesus is Wonderful You are loved. Mark and Debbie

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  11. Thank you for sharing your experiences. As a fellow black female OB/Gyn, I am sad to say that those experiences are all too familiar to me. ASI read your essay, I felt like I was checking off boxes. Hopefully, this opens the dialogue for change. May God bless you and stay strong!

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  12. You are such a Champion for bringing voice to your truth. This is so amazing and so are you. I pray that you keep stating and speaking for the realness of life.

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    1. Wow. It’s so awesome to hear from you! You taught me AP calculus and I remember how loving you were towards me. Thomas also has fond memories of you. He is a teacher now. People like you bring much honor to the teaching profession.

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  13. Dear DrMommy,

    Thank you so much for sharing such hurtful comments. I’m resharing on FB after your work was posted by an old friend of mine who works in the church. Your willingness to share is how we can help others understand white supremacy and how insidious it is and how anyone who is white that may have said or even thought something like these horrific debilitating comments is actually racist when they often think they are not. Implicit bias and the resulting micro and macro aggressions are so awful. Bless you for persisting and excelling and sharing your talents in healthcare. The truth is we need you. We need you and your daily work, especially in maternal prenatal care for mothers of color and we need your example. For young women of color so they have role models to follow and that inspire them. And, we need your thoughtful reflections on your loved experiences so we can all learn from you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Blessings and prayers. Best, an admirer

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  14. Thank you for sharing your story! I am not a physician but have been working in management consulting / healthcare technology for 2.5 decades and share so many of your macro and micro aggressions from birth until the present. (Yesterday, I was just characterized as being really articulate by a childhood friend to several WW on why they should hear me out). I am hoping and praying that we are at real point of change because I am EXHAUSTED from having to go above and beyond all day every day just to exist in this country. I know we will get through this as we are very strong and resilient people… but I am so very tired as are so many I know in the Black community. Much love to you and all your loved ones 🖤

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  15. Such a powerful story! Thank you for sharing!! Are you on Twitter? I shared your post about your books, and would love to share this too and be able to tag you. I searched, but couldn’t find you. If you wouldn’t mind sharing, what’s your Twitter handle? I’m loving the rest of your blog too!

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    1. thank you for reading. I do not have a twitter account, unfortunately, but I know I need to set one up.

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  16. Thank you for your courage, your strength, your persistence!! Thank you for knowing better and believing in yourself!! Thank you for for living through what no one should have to live through and for coming out the other side to be a role model and a hero!! Thank you!!

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