Race and Medical Double-Binds
UVA Law Faculty Affiliations
Race and medicine scholarship is beset by a conundrum. On one hand, some racial justice scholars and advocates frame the harms that racial minorities experience through a medical lens. Poverty and homelessness are social determinants of health that medical frameworks should account for. Racism itself is a public health threat. On the other hand, other scholars treat medicine with skepticism. Medical frameworks, they argue, will reify racially charged narratives of biological inferiority. This Piece affirmatively claims that the debate is unresolvable. Rather, the relationship between race and medicine should be conceptualized as a double-bind, a concept that creates space for mutually contradictory claims. Indeed, such contradictions are a feature of a double-bind such that the harm a minority faces is intensified. This understanding also breaks ground for antidiscrimination scholarship more generally, which historically has assumed that prominent double-bind frameworks do not apply to racial minorities. Accurately mapping all sides of the conceptual space that race and medicine advocacy scholarship occupies creates space for future work to think of ways in which to resolve the double-bind.