Racism and Bioethics Resources

To help advance discussion of racism and structural injustice in bioethics and health-related fields, the Center developed this set of resources to invite and shape reflection, as well as prompt action to combat racism in our society, policies, and interpersonal actions.  We are grateful for these contributions from faculty and friends of the Center.  

This list embraces the importance of recognizing that multiple sources of injustice, oppression, and bias intersect in the lives of individuals and in society’s policies and practices. Dorothy Roberts observes, for example that “racism and patriarchy are not two separate institutions that intersect only in the lives of Black women. They are two interrelated, mutually supporting systems of domination, and their relationship is essential to understanding the subordination of all women.”* Indeed, they interconnect in the experience of people of all genders, as well as in the economic and political structures that form the context of health and disease, public health, and healthcare. Moreover, we believe it is valuable to recognize differences and similarities across experiences, and to reason by analogy. Therefore, though its focus is on racism, this list includes some resources related to sexism, ableism, and other persistent injustices that plague bioethics and health-related fields.

Works of fiction, including some young adult fiction, often promote discussion more effectively than didactic lessons and argument.  For this reason, we have included works of fiction in this list. Iris Murdoch suggests, “One is often compelled almost automatically by what one can see. ... [T]he work of attention builds up structures of value round about us, … at crucial moments of choice most of the business of choosing is already over.  This does not imply that we are not free, certainly not.  But it implies that the exercise of our freedom is a small piecemeal business which goes on all the time and not a grandiose leaping about unimpeded at important moments.” Narratives, including fictional narratives, both afford us opportunities to see what we may not encounter in life, and demonstrate how, again quoting Murdoch, “moral life, on this view, is something that goes on continually, not something that is switched off in between the occurrence of explicit moral choices.  What happens in between such choices is indeed what is crucial.” ¤

Two topics are particularly underrepresented in this list: (1) disparities in health and healthcare, and (2) challenges of recruiting representative study populations in research. Literature searches on either topic will yield voluminous citations. Yet, too often research on these disparities focuses on race, not racism. Too often underrepresentation of people of color in research is attributed to their mistrust of medico-scientific research and the healthcare system, rather than to a legacy of untrustworthy practices and institutions. (See On Racism: A New Standard For Publishing On Racial Health Inequities by Rhea W. Boyd et al., 2020.)

We recognize that a long history of injustice and ongoing injustices cannot be addressed by providing resources or by engaging in discussion alone. But injustice of the past and present also cannot be addressed without resources and informed, committed discussion. In that spirit and in good faith, the Center offers the following and invites others’ comment, contributions, and indeed commitment.

(Image: Mural by Kemel Poindexter, Abdula, Andrea Cunningham, Addul-Fattah, Malig Hazlip, Shyaire Howard, Abdur-Rahman, Malcolm Walker, Michael Williams, Eric Worlds)

♦  Future
♦  Archived

Collections and Lists


♦  Intersection of race, bioethics, and health
♦  Addressing racism
♦  On social class, education, and poverty
♦  Fiction inviting consideration of racism

Other media

♦  Intersection of race, bioethics, and health
♦  Bioethics and racism
♦  Health humanities and racism
♦  Professionals’ personal accounts of racism
♦  Racism and healthcare education, practices, and research
♦  Publication practices, race, and racism
♦  Research on health effects of racism

Urban Bioethics

Indigenous Peoples and Bioethics
♦  Research ethics
♦  Clinical and public health ethics