Anu Hazra (he/him), Professor in the Section of Infectious Diseases and Global Health & Director of STI Services at CCHE.
CCHE’s value of Anti- racism states:
“We pledge to engage anti-racism as an ethic of care for the community we serve by deconstructing historical and present-day racist practices, namely the traumas and abuses perpetrated by institutions, systems, unethical research practices, and individuals. We commit to working against anti-blackness such as disposability, dehumanization, and misrepresentation. We value Black thought, Black voices, and Black Life.”
Featuring one of the Center’s values, “Anti-Racism,” I spoke with Anu Hazra (he/him), Professor in the Section of Infectious Diseases and Global Health & Director of STI Services at CCHE, for July’s staff spotlight article.
Growing up, Anu didn’t have a great relationship with his provider and therefore didn’t have a particularly affirming sexual health care experience. When thinking of his career, Anu had an interest in science and social justice but didn’t always see a clear connection between them. Anu decided to pursue medicine, specifically general medicine as a primary care physician. He was excited because there was a shift in ideology compared to his own experience with sexual health care; “we’re thinking of sexual health beyond the absence of disease, “ Anu explained. It’s no longer limited to just testing, it now explores how a client feels about their sexual health to get the full picture of what their health and wellbeing looks like. This holistic thinking shifted our conversation to one’s experiences with race and racism.
We discussed how racism is typically taught passively; In early education we’re taught that overt acts of racism are wrong. However, the discussion lacks that racism is present in many covert ways as well, such as microaggressions and systemic racism that pervade our lives in ways that we might not be aware of. We were left with a lingering question: What can we do about this?
What does this look like in a clinical setting? Racism and anti-blackness are present to start; despite what a (now deleted tweet (2)) says. Each and every hospital has to identify racism within itself and actively work to remove it. “Medicine is steeped with racism”. The forced disposability of Black people contributed to medical advancements throughout this country’s history (3). Anu continues, “if we don’t acknowledge that and know where it comes from, we are erasing the ugliness while doing a huge disservice to anyone who suffered for our growth.”
Consequently, medical mistrust is common within Black communities. This is apparent with attitudes towards covid-19 vaccinations (4). Common responses presented to Anu for why communities feel this way involve the Tuskegee Syphilis study (5). “Tuskegee happened a long time ago and when people use that they’re implying that it’s not happening in present day.” Anu tells me there are several active studies analyzing implicit biases affect medicine and care. Tuskegee is part of the history, but it can distract from racist practices now. Anti-racism not only asks us to identify racism, but to also work towards eliminating it from their practice.
“Being anti-racist is a very active stance to take” Anu says. It’s asking yourself to breakdown and challenge your understanding of race and ethnicity. How do you engage and interact with the world with an anti-racist lens? Anu says “It’s not easy”. He also says “it’s okay to stumble.” Racism and Anti-blackness are within all of us, we all mess up. We can learn from our mistakes that help us unlearn the internalized racism prevalent in cultures we exist in. The work is every day and there’s homework. To learn more about anti-racism and how you can support click here: How Citizens and Companies Can Support Antiracism in Chicago(6) .
(2) – https://www.thewrap.com/jama-editor-apologizes-tweet-no-physician-is-racist/
(3) – https://www.healthline.com/health/modern-medicine-fueled-by-racism
(4) – https://www.webmd.com/vaccines/covid-19-vaccine/news/20210202/black-vaccine-hesitancy-rooted-in-mistrust-doubts
(5) – https://www.cdc.gov/tuskegee/timeline.htm
(6) – https://www.insidehook.com/article/chicago/support-antiracism-chicago