When I tell this story to my Black (or otherwise minoritized) mentees, it’s often a lightbulb moment that illuminates a dozen experiences they have had and might not have been able to characterize. Or have characterized perfectly, but have not been able to say out loud. Yes, you are being held to a different and likely unachievable standard. No, it isn’t just happening to you. Unfortunately, you will likely never be able to prove it. And, …
Shekinah Elmore, MD, MPH
Yes. This internalized superiority is tossed about on a routine basis, and not just in the medical arena.
That sense of superiority is the item that white people need to learn to negotiate for themselves. It isn’t just a matter of allowing real performers to achieve — and this sense of superiority prevents it through the assumption that all white people are automatically better, often an unconscious assumption — although this is important (no nation will survive with only privileged people sitting on top, handing things to each other and their children generation after generation).
It is also a matter of allowing for true diversity in excellence, not just the lip service to which they’ve become accustomed.
In competitive arena like medicine, the items that most people want — beyond getting into medical school — will be limited. By definition, competition means that the attractive item will be in lesser supply than the number of people who want it. At higher leadership levels, it is difficult to obscure that, when there are true zero-sum realities, white people tend to resolve the conflict (who gets the promotion?) through their internalized superiority, rather than examining their privilege (unjust — unearned — enrichment).
As long as this internalized sense of being better than all pigmented peoples — and especially Blackness — persists, so will these subconscious attempts to elevate at the expense of Black people and, well, everyone else.