SSHM statement against racism

The Society for the Social History of Medicine (SSHM) condemns the brutality and racial violence that has led to the death of George Floyd and countless Black people and people of colour, violence driven in large part by white privilege and barbarity. We recognise the structural problems caused by racism and the associated underrepresentation of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) scholars minoritized by whiteness within our community and the wider academic world and stand in solidarity with the global protests in support of Black Lives Matter. But solidarity is not enough.

Earlier this year we published a values statement drawing on discussions with our members. Within this we noted that ‘we use medicine and healing as lenses for exploring different experiences of health and disease, which are affected by class, race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality.’ We also recognised that we have a fundamental civic responsibility and that ‘our work helps citizens understand the historical circumstances shaping current healthcare systems and to use this understanding as a basis for both fostering institutional stability and driving political change.’

Our values statement underscores our work and our responsibilities as social historians of medicine, but we now recognise that we need to take further action to back our ideals. Currently we are taking some time to listen and develop responses that will lead to genuine, tangible change. We need to assess where we are and use our collective power to drive this change forward. As part of this work we commit to better understanding racial privilege and how it is systemically perpetuated within Higher Education institutions.

We are opening a public consultation to solicit our members and associates to offer their views and ideas, which will be integrated into our longer-term response. We would also like to invite BIPOC scholars, from undergraduate level to professor, to steer our future path. To enable this as a Society we are committed to ensuring that we provide an accepting and safe space for discussion and dialogue led by any and all minoritized scholars.

We currently aim to do the following:

  • To audit the role of gatekeeping in relation to our editorial practices
  • To establish an annual Fellowship / Library and Museum Fellowship open to students, scholars and those outside of academia with priority for marginalised scholars and work in areas related to race and health in history
  • Develop teaching resources for schools and universities to highlight relevant historical themes in the history of medicine
  • As well as providing such sources from the history of medicine, we are committed to teaching ourselves and others about the history of racism and how it is perpetuated through institutional structures. This activity could take the form of a discussion/book group focussing on anti-racism pedagogy and the decolonisation of the curriculum in relation to the history of medicine.
  • Produce a virtual journal issue on relevant material on inequalities in health in the SSHM’s journal, Social History of Medicine
  • Develop accessible digital sources on these themes, such as a series of webinars or blogs
  • Diversify our governance
  • Develop a mentoring programme, aimed at BIPOC scholars and other minoritized groups
  • Organise the donation of hardcopies of our journal, MUP books, and other texts from history of medicine donors to places where this work is currently inaccessible such as public libraries

We would like to amplify the following organisations that our members can support:

Black Cultural Archives https://blackculturalarchives.org/

Ahmed Iqball Ullah Race Relations and Resources centre and Education Trust https://www.racearchive.org.uk/

International Slavery Museum, Liverpool https://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/international-slavery-museum

We would like to highlight the following scheme for historians run by the Social History Society:

BME Events and Activities Small Grants: https://socialhistory.org.uk/funding/bme-events-and-activities/

As a Society focused on the social history of medicine we would encourage you to read about racism and inequalities within the healthcare sector, as well as in relation to health outcomes. The issues facing racially-minoritized people today are the consequence of historical and current structures and actions. The following are good places to start and are open access:

https://www.bmj.com/racism-in-medicine

https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/how-racism-is-shaping-the-coronavirus-pandemic

We acknowledge that BIPOC members of the Society are more likely to be violently attacked during the current pandemic. Some news articles on this phenomenon are here:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/feb/16/they-yelled-coronavirus-first-british-attack-victim-east-asian-man

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/may/12/uk-rail-worker-dies-coronavirus-spat-belly-mujinga

We also recommend the work of both the Royal Historical Society and the University of Glasgow as ways to think about race, racism, university heritage and culpability, as well as university praxis. Both are freely available: https://royalhistsoc.org/racereport/; https://www.gla.ac.uk/media/Media_607547_smxx.pdf.

Finally, we offer the following readings on higher education and discrimination: 

https://www.runnymedetrust.org/blog/three-steps-to-make-higher-education-more-inclusive

https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/8090/Report-finds-high-levels-of-discrimination-in-colleges-and-universities

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/amp/education-46473269

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