Racializing the White Woman: The Need for Improving Racial Education in Structural Competency Informed Curriculum
Saleh, Kimberly Cecile
Structural competency informed education has been proposed as a way to teach students how to recognize and critically analyze the role of race in health. This study aims to evaluate the degree to which their education in Medicine, Health, and Society can effectively train students about race and whiteness as structural determinants of health, especially when looking at a woman who is white: the dominant race in the United States. Using data from the 2020 Structural Foundations of Health Survey, 175 students were evaluated to determine how they identify and analyze race when looking at a white woman in an advertisement for psychiatric medications. In previous years, MHS seniors have not been more adept than MHS freshman and pre-med seniors at identifying whiteness as a determinant of health. Similarly, when comparing the 2020 with the 2017 results, there was no measurable difference in students’ ability to identify and describe whiteness as a racial structure of health. In 2020, the respondents identified race 45.7% of the time and included a racial analysis 37% of the time. In addition, a thematic analysis of the quotes from students who included a racial analysis or one of whiteness in their response found that they primarily discussed representation (17.1%), racial privilege/income (11.4%), and white disease (8.5%). Future structural competency informed undergraduate education efforts should be refined to improve the analysis of race, particularly whiteness.