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Antiracism in the Field of Neonatology: Learning When It’s Right to Write

February 2, 2022

In sitting down to reflect on how I came to write Antiracism in the Field of Neonatology: A Foundation and Concrete Approaches (10.1542/neo.23-1-e1) for the January issue of NeoReviews, I am struck by how much I feel the need to justify being the one to write it.

This paper was borne out of a series of talks I gave across the country in 2020 and 2021 about the ways in which structural racism and COVID-19 were coming together to amplify racial, ethnic, and nativity-related health disparities. I had been studying health disparities for years and wanted to turn the newfound social awareness of racism as a determinant of health into concrete actions neonatologists and other neonatal clinicians could take. I was spurred by the words of Dr. Don Berwick, who cautioned physicians in JAMA back in 2017 that silence in the face of social injustice was complicity. I felt that my burgeoning expertise as a health equity physician scientist meant I could not be silent. I had to gather what I had already spent years learning, and everything I learned after Mr. George Floyd’s murder, into a compendium for action.

While turning those talks into this paper, I remember feeling a deep sense of responsibility and doubt. Was I the right one to take what I was learning about racism and anti-racism and put that knowledge on a platform for others? Whose space was I occupying? Was I doing enough to ensure people knew that my spoken and written thoughts were rooted in others’ lived experience, wisdom, and insights? Was I saying the right thing? Truth be told, these questions still keep me up at night.

Where I’ve landed is I’m going to get it wrong sometimes. Sometimes I must write and speak. And sometimes I must listen. And sometimes I will pick the wrong course of action. I think that’s ok. As long as I keep reading, learning, and listening. Because there is still so much I need to read about; people I must listen to; things I must learn. I am especially excited for the new health equity-oriented case series that NeoReviews will be launching soon.

It will also be a constant journey to distinguish between the times when I have something I want to say and it’s appropriate to say it, and the times when I must snag the podium but pass the microphone. This is my path as an accomplice and co-conspirator for social justice.

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