CMDA's The Point

Brief Reflections on My Recent Education in American Racism

October 8, 2020
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by Robert E. Cranston, MD, MA (Ethics)

CMDA’s Board of Trustees recently created the R2ED Team, which is a taskforce focused on racism and reconciliation, equality and diversity. As followers of Christ, we want to see persons of all colors and ethnicities blessed by the gospel of Christ and involved in the work and ministry of CMDA as much as possible.

Omari Hodge, MD, is the chair of this taskforce, and in a recent CMDA Matters podcast, he acknowledges the strides that have been made in facing racism in America during the last 50 years or so, but he also encourages us to continue to push for greater improvements in recognition and inclusion of all peoples. Paraphrasing, the taskforce emphasizes “The Five Ps,” namely:

  1. Pursuing change by intentionally advocating for diversity.
  2. Praying for God to bless CMDA with ethnic diversity.
  3. Preparing ourselves by educating and informing CMDA members on diversity issues.
  4. Probing and looking for new leaders from ethnically diverse groups.
  5. Preferring by intentionally preferring people of different ethnicities for leadership roles and CMDA membership.

As I listened to Dr. Hodge’s interview with CMDA CEO Dr. Mike Chupp, I asked myself what I personally could do to be more inclusive of all peoples, but particularly in America, of people of color. As I prayed about this and searched my own heart, and as I began to think more proactively, several actions came to mind.

I began reading about American racism, drawing from a number of sources, some of whom I am closely aligned with spiritually, and others with whom I share little common ground. A wise man once told me that if you are only reading and listening to those you already agree with, you would never fully understand people who support the other side of the discussion. (After a recent U.S. presidential election, a person from one party said to her friend, “I don’t understand how he got elected. I don’t even know anyone from that party.” Unfortunately, this is true of people from all points on the political spectrum.)

I began listening to some good books. I commute an hour each way to work every day, and a number of important books are available as recordings. I subscribe to a recorded book service, but my daughter accesses numerous books from her local library on her phone. I find myself hearing things I do not usually hear in the standard blogs, websites and books I read. A few of these were classics, others more recent.

I sought out Kevin, an African American neurosurgeon in our medical group, whom I knew to be a person of vibrant faith in Christ, and I arranged to meet with him virtually to listen and learn from him. Kevin is widely respected for his surgical/medical skills—the surgeon I would choose for my own craniotomy—and he is also open about his faith in Christ. We discussed his perspectives on American racism, as well as the books I had already read. He then gave me a list of other authors to further my education.

He suggested a few books which neither he nor I would completely agree with, along with some material by Dr. Tony Evans and Rev. Tom Skinner. I had already read Bloodlines by Dr. John Piper, which I would heartily recommend. He also linked me to an interesting presentation by Dr. Uche Blackstock that is part of a neurosurgical continuing education project.

Kevin emphasized two important points that I concur with, and that I am trying to remember. The first is that flagrant, hateful racism has decreased over time in America, but implicit bias remains, and that is something we need to be aware of in ourselves at all times. The second is that, as children of God, we will continue to be works in progress. When we think we have arrived, we will know that we still have room to grow. Gratefully, Christ has promised that He will aid us in our daily walk and growth. Philippians 1:6 tells us, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (ESV). Until then, He will continue working on us if we let Him. My goal is to continue to allow Christ to mold me into the kind of Christian He wants me to be, and right now that molding is leading me to examine my own implicit biases and strive to love all my brothers and sisters the way Christ loves us.

Robert E. Cranston, MD, MA (Ethics)

About Robert E. Cranston, MD, MA (Ethics)

Robert E. Cranston, MD, MA (Ethics), MSHA, FAAN, CPE, is a board certified neurologist, with additional training and experience in palliative medicine, executive coaching and medical leadership. He currently serves at Carle Foundation Hospital, in Urbana, Illinois, as an attending neurologist, Medical Director for Talent Development and Learning and (Past Chair—14 years) of the Carle Ethics Committee. He is a clinical associate professor of medicine (neurology) at University of Illinois College of Medicine, Urbana-Champaign and Carle Illinois College of Medicine, and he is a member of the CMDA Ethics Committee.

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