From the start of colonialization, race has had a profound influence on local and global socioeconomic relations, and as such, this course has been a great way to revisit topics that I have covered in my other Global Studies courses, relearning everything through the perspective of race. Racial relations are ones that have been touched upon or covered as units of several of my other courses, but what set this course apart was that the entirety of it was focused on race.
Each week, I learned something new in relation to race. In lectures, we learned about theoretical concepts of race and how many different racial schemas (or ways of categorizing race) exist within the US, and abroad in places like Ghana, China, France, and Germany, which we examined as case studies (I also had the chance to explore racial dynamics in South Korea as a case study in one of my weekly papers). We also learned about the legal implications of race, and how US immigration laws strictly shaped and controlled who could immigrate to the US.
In addition to class lectures, we had a weekly writing assignment in which each of us had to explore how our race impacted our childhood, migration story, heritage, social networks, neighborhood, appearance, and experiences at Pitt. I was especially surprised to learn about the privileges that came attached with being an Asian American. Because my dad had specific skills in the IT area and was coming to the US for a professional degree, our family was able to migrate here. Because I grew up in an Asian majority, wealthy neighborhood, I was shielded from the disastrous effects of racism and poverty for a long time. This greatly added to my potential of having positive life successes, from being able to access a strong education to having a supportive network of teachers and friends. Little did I know how much I was being privileged by my race, despite having been legally discriminated against as a minority group in US history, and still sometimes enduring ignorant racial slurs within the contemporary US landscape.
This class has truly affirmed my belief and understanding of what it means for race to be a social construct. I have learned that our legal, social, political, and economic systems advantage some races, while sidelining others, and this creates a glorified public image of some races, while dirtying “others”, making us unconsciously believe that some groups of people are unworthy of dignity or the resources to be a citizen, to have equal rights, to have equal access—to just be human.
Understanding how race privileges, but can also strip away advantages and resources is knowledge that will empower me to be a better physician in the future. I will forever carry on the lessons I have learned in this class to continuously deepen my understanding of complicated societal race relations and make sure race is not someone’s barrier to accessing health care.