Breathing Race Into the Machine
Life of Breath Podcast Episode 11
‘When you press the button, you’re actually making the idea of race and racial difference’ Lundy Braun
We are publishing this podcast in the middle of the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests when uncovering racism in medicine could not be more urgent. The appalling disparity in the severity of COVID19 in people of colour compared to white people demonstrates how structural racism is embedded in our biological models and healthcare systems.
Lundy Braun explores these issues in her 2014 book ‘Breathing Race Into the Machine: The Surprising Career of the Spirometer from Plantation to Genetics’ which uncovers an astonishing case study of the subtle and invisible ways that racism gets into scientific knowledge. She is a Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and Africana Studies at Brown University in the United States.
This podcast combines highlights from a talk that Lundy gave at the University of Bristol in May 2018 and a conversation exploring the issues in more depth.
During the podcast Lundy references the following
- ‘A review of Hoffman’s Race traits and tendencies of the American Negro’ by Kelly Miller (1897)
- Structural Racism and Supporting Black Lives — The Role of Health Professionals (Hardeman et al, 2016, New England Journal of Medicine)
- And, illustrating how these ideas still persist today, Lung function, genetics and socioeconomic conditions by Philip H. Quanjer (2015) which cites the 1869 military study by B.A. Gould.
Lundy’s book is ‘Breathing Race into the Machine: The Surprising Career of the Spirometer from Plantation to Genetics’ (2014)
- Myths about physical racial differences were used to justify slavery — and are still believed by doctors today by Linda Villarosa (2019) New York Times Magazine
- How to Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
- ‘Race Correction’ in Medicine: A History of Lung Function Measurements blog post by Coreen McGuire
The featured image is by Khanjan Mehta on Flickr