During a recent haircut, the stylist plucked a white hair for me. (Thanks). But upon closer examination, though the last foot of it was completely white, the few inches closest to the root were actually black. (Put it back!) Pigmentation of hair is a mysterious thing that most folks relate to genetics, age, and stress. A few possible correlates to my life:
I have this habit: I count people. Every time I arrive at a function or meeting, I’m like a covert operative and immediately analyze the situation. But I’m not looking for possible emergency exits, I’m counting the number of white people.
Sometimes I count the people of color instead. Basically I count whichever one is in the minority. These days, this usually means counting people of color and it’s usually in the single digits. Thus, the habit is not as all-consuming as it might initially seem; usually it only takes about one second.
And while this sort of behavior might give me something in common with bigots, I’m not a bigot. I’m just not colorblind.
In times of stress we revert to old habits so it's not surprising that a few days ago I found myself tallying the race if each resident in every program that I was considering. As a medical student on the verge of graduation, the deadline for submitting our rank lists is just around the corner.
Unlike applying for college, medical school, or even most jobs, the residency application process is a mutual one. Nobody is accepted and nobody is rejected. Each residency program makes a rank list of the applicants they want with their favorite at the top. Each applicant does the same with residency programs. The lists are submitted and computer magic spits out the optimized combination. On “match day” the results are released and each applicant is given a slip of paper with the name of the program that they’ve been assigned.
The process is similar to dating. It’s a complicated social dance of desperately trying to get a program to like you while at the same time trying to figure out which program will make you the happiest. The process is only intensified by everyone around telling you that it's the most defining decision of your career.
As I reduced each smiling face into a hashmark on my paper, I thought about the email that had prompted this undertaking. It was from my friend and fellow Family Medicine applicant. In it she ruminated about the ranking process. She noted that most of the programs that we were applying to were dominated by white faces. Was that an appropriate thing to be concerned about? How much weight should diversity carry in the ranking process?
What I've been reading:
by Viet Thanh Nguyen
about this blog
A place where I can write my thoughts on race, on privilege, on class, on being a doctor. Part of the endless struggle to become a little bit more enlightened and feel a little less alienated.
Agree with me. Call me out. Pass it on.
I post once or twice a month with smaller comments on mini-blog.
My name is Jess. In the interest of full disclosure: I'm a 30-something-year-old Chinese American and believer that the quest for social justice and equity must be an intentional and active one. I'm a Family Medicine physician. I'm queer. I'm a radical. I grew up in a mostly white suburb and my parents are white-collar workers. And I don't eat meat, but I miss it sometimes.
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