Sharing the Power of White Privilege to Catalyze Positive Change in Academic Medicine


White privilege can be often overlooked and poorly understood in academic medicine, by those who wield it, and by those who suffer from its deleterious effects. Dr. Peggy McIntosh, a leader in research on equity and diversity in education, described white privilege as a set of unearned benefits that white people have based on being born white in a culture that favors the white race. White people have privilege because it was given to them by other white people, and it was taken by claiming superiority over people of color, starting before the European colonizations of Africa, Asia, and the Americas, and continuing through the present day. Many white people come from impoverished communities, suffer from socioeconomic disadvantage, and struggle with unemployment. They may also suffer from inadequate housing and limited education. Because they are white, they still benefit from privilege and positive stereotypes associated with light skin color. As our nation reckons with the murders of unarmed Black people by police, recognizing that  many white people have been allies and agents of change forBlack and other minority people, discussing how the power of white privilege can be shared is needed. The authors discuss the power of white privilege and how that power can be shared to promote change in academic medicine.

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The authors would like to acknowledge Dr. Peggy McIntosh, who provided mentorship for this project and whose pioneering work on white privilege has led to increased understanding of the phenomena. We also recognize that the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black people have allowed for a broader discussion of racism in medicine. The authors would also like to acknowledge the support and mentorship of Dr. Mark Stacy, Dean of the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University.This project was partially funded by a grant from the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine.

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Correspondence to Kendall M. Campbell.

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Rodríguez, J.E., Tumin, D. & Campbell, K.M. Sharing the Power of White Privilege to Catalyze Positive Change in Academic Medicine. J. Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities (2021).

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  • Academic medicine
  • Equity
  • White privilege