After listening to the National Public Radio show Fresh Air on cognitive flaws aka “Brain bugs” featuring Dr. Dean Buonomano professor of Neurobiology and Psychology at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), my wife and I played an “associative trick” game where you name the first thing that comes to mind when asked a series of questions, such as “Name an African civilization?”. This game, which is similar to Project Implicit, can reveal our biases towards gender, sexual orientation, race, and ethnicity. As a French Afro-Caribbean individual, I have met white scientists and colleagues who were surprised I hold a PhD.
Moving from Atlanta to Portland, aka “the best city in the world” according to my Portlander wife, I was concerned by the lack of diversity and history of racism. I have lived in Guadeloupe, Paris, Grenoble, London and Atlanta, and had faced racial stereotypes in places that are more diverse. I wondered what I would experience in the Pacific Northwest, especially since some white colleagues and family have asked me why diversity matters as we are all the same and why there is no White History Month.
We are all the same, but also different. The power dynamic is unbalanced, and this impacts our lived experiences. Since I joined OHSU, I have been happy to see its commitment to address issues of representation and the experiences of historically disenfranchised people. My bosses are a prolific female researcher and librarians, I have colleagues working for LGBTQA rights, the OHSU Library hosts a listening and discussion forum on the “Seeing White” podcast series, OHSU holds implicit bias workshop, and Dr. Danny Jacobs recently became OHSU’s first African-American president.
This year, the OHSU Black Employee Resources Group (BERG) and OHSU library are hosting a book display related to African-American history and the history of the health sciences and professions. Did you know one of the Portland Aerial Tram was named after Walt Reynolds, the 1st Black student at OHSU? Changes will happen for the better with better knowledge and better representation. So, let’s continue to make OHSU the best academic health center in the best city in the world by participating in these upcoming events organized by BERG and the OHSU Library:
- A display of books focusing on African-Americans and health (e.g. early Black leaders in nursing) curated by BERG is available for check out with an OHSU library card at the BICC Library (3rd Floor).
- A Book Drive collection for The Children’s Book Bank begins with a drop-off location at the BICC Library (3rd floor).
- A live stream Fireside Chat with Justice Adrienne Nelson, the first African-American to serve on the Oregon Supreme Court, and Dr. Danny Jacobs, President of OHSU, February 22nd 2019 from 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. in the OHSU Auditorium.
Authored by JP Gourdine