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US doctor gets cancelled for questioning the narrative of ‘structural racism’ in medicine

A senior physician has been forced to resign from a top medical journal after casting doubt on the claim that his profession is riddled with prejudice. These days, if you’re white and deny being racist – it just proves you are.

On February 24, the Twitter account for the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) shared a link to a podcast discussion between Edward Livingston and Mitchell Katz, two white physicians. The title was ‘Structural Racism for Doctors – What is it?’. During the discussion, Livingston made the mistake of expressing an honest opinion – something you should be very careful about doing nowadays – rather than reading verbatim from the ‘anti-racist’ script. 

In particular, Livingston describedstructural racism’ as “an unfortunate term,” and argued that “taking racism out of the conversation will help.” He went on to say, “Many people like myself are offended by the implication that we are somehow racist.” How quaint. How naive of Livingston, a deputy editor at JAMA. He didn’t realise that admitting one’s complicity in the original sin of racism is now mandatory in American academia. (It reminds one of the years BGW – Before the Great Awokening.)

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Livingston might have gotten away with this act of heresy had it not been for the even greater naivety (one might even say witlessness) of the person running JAMA’s Twitter account. In a tweet linking to the podcast discussion, that individual wrote, “No physician is racist, so how can there be structural racism in health care?” He or she really should have known better. Woke orthodoxy, as handed down by the likes of Robin Di Angelo and Ibram X. Kendi, tell us that practically everything is racist – especially white Americans.  

The backlash was immediate, with numerous doctors and other medical professionals righteously ‘calling out’ JAMA for its transgressions. (You can tell these people are doctors by the letters appended to their Twitter names.) Kendi himself even chimed in, observing, “The heartbeat of racism is denial. And too often, the more powerful the racism, the more powerful the denial.” If you admit to being racist, well then – obviously – you’re racist. But if you deny being racist, well, that just means you’re racist too. (In other words: heads you’re racist; tails you’re not unracist.)

Then came the grovelling apologies. On March 4, Dr. Howard Bauchner, editor-in-chief of JAMA, apologised for “the harm caused by both the tweet and some aspects of the podcast,” noting that “the language of the tweet, as well as portions of the podcast” did not reflect his commitment to “call out and discuss the adverse effects of injustice, inequity and racism.” That same day, Dr. James Madara, the CEO of the American Medical Association, issued a statement of his own. It acknowledged the “harms” caused by the tweet and the podcast. However, all this wasn’t enough to save Livingston.

At some point, a petition was launched by the Institute for Antiracism in Medicine asking JAMA to “stop perpetuating racism.” (It has garnered over 7,000 signatures.) According to the petitioners, “Structural racism has deeply permeated the field of medicine and must be actively dissolved through proper antiracist education.” In light of this apparently well-established fact, they demanded a formal review of Bauchner’s leadership, as well as “a series of town hall conversations with Black, Indigenous and People of Color patients, health care staff and allies to ensure restorative justice.”

On March 10, Madara issued another statement. After noting that he had “asked for, received and accepted” Livingston’s resignation, he announced that an investigation was underway “into how the podcast and associated tweet were developed, reviewed, and ultimately posted.” The discussion itself was purged from JAMA’s website, and a note was added describing comments made in the podcast as “inaccurate, offensive, hurtful, and inconsistent with the standards of JAMA.”

Then, on March 25, Bauchner was placed on leave, pending the outcome of the AMA’s investigation. According to the organisation’s Journal Oversight Committee, this decision “neither implicates nor exonerates individuals and is standard operating procedure for such investigations.” One wonders how the questioning will go… 

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‘Were you aware that Dr Livingston believes he is not racist?’ 

‘No, of course not. Had I known that I never would have let him do a podcast.’

‘And what about the tweet stating that no physician is racist?’

‘I had nothing to do with that. Of course I believe that every physician is racist.’

Jokes aside, we are now at the stage where people are being forced to resign for balking at the idea that they must be racist. Sure, the statement “no physician is racist” is almost certainly false. (There has to be at least one.) But as an aspirational statement, it makes sense: i.e., we should assume that no physician is racist unless we have good reason to believe otherwise. Wokeness turns this logic on its head: everyone is racist until proven otherwise.

Livingston expressed an honest opinion, that ‘structural racism’ is not a useful term. To suggest his comments were in any way “hurtful” is completely absurd. Why couldn’t his detractors have simply explained their disagreements with him – either in writing or via another podcast discussion? Why did Livingston have to be removed from his position?

The reason, it would appear, is that Madara, the rest of the AMA leadership and the activists who petitioned them are engaged in a political project, rather than a scholarly one. They are in the business of advancing something called ‘anti-racism’ (not to be confused with actual opposition to racism) and since Livingston served as an obstacle to that objective, he had to be removed. Whether he or they were closer to the truth about ‘structural racism’ is immaterial. 

The Livingston affair is yet another example of academia’s shift from an institution primarily concerned with truth-seeking to one primarily concerned with activism. Evidently, the activists have now gained control over major institutions – the American Medical Association, no less – which suggests the holdouts are very much on the back foot. This trend will only be arrested (if that is even still possible) when enough people take a stand. It’s not just institutions that are at stake here, but free inquiry itself.  

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