Blackface Controversy: It’s More than Northam

The admission by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam—a doctor by training—that he wore blackface during his med school days is just one high-profile example of deeply rooted racism in medicine, explains Duke University’s Damon Tweedy in an interview.

The infamous Tuskegee syphilis experiment in the 1930s seeded some of the mistrust of physicians among African Americans that persists today. To African American patients, the controversy is about more than Ralph Northam, Tweedy notes. “Someone had to take that photo; someone had to put that into a yearbook”—meaning med students who came up amid “tacit acceptance” of racism are practicing and training doctors today.

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