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Racism, history and medical education
  1. Richard David1,
  2. James W Collins2
  1. 1 Pediatrics, University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois, USA
  2. 2 Pediatrics, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Richard David, Pediatrics, University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, Chicago, IL 60612, USA; rdavid{at}

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The year 2020 will be remembered as the year of the COVID-19 pandemic and the year of a sea change in attitudes about race and racism in America. On 25 May, a policeman in Minneapolis calmly put a Black man to death by pressing his knee into the neck of the handcuffed, prostrate victim and holding it there for over 8 min until the man became unresponsive. This execution-style killing was witnessed by millions. It made the myth of a ‘colorblind America’ seem like a bitter joke. The protests in thousands of cities and towns across the USA and in other countries reflected a turning point in recognition by the majority of people a truth that African–Americans had known for centuries: despite the inspiring words of the Enlightenment era revolutions, equality and fraternity had not been achieved in the Western democracies, and all men, however they may have been created, were not treated as equals by societies in which they live.

Meanwhile, trainees in the medical professions, along with their senior colleagues, battled the worst pandemic in a hundred years. However, even if not as dramatic and shocking as Derek Chauvin murdering George Floyd on camera, the pandemic revealed the ongoing inequity in survival for African–Americans that holds true for most causes of death in this country, be they age-old maladies or novel infectious diseases. It …

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  • Contributors RD and JWC discussed the approach and concept of the paper; RD wrote the first draft and revisions, incorporating JWC’s input. Both authors approved the final version.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.