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‘Why we need to start talking about racism in pharmacy’

Now is the time to start a conversation in earnest around racial discrimination faced by many in the sector, says Beth Kennedy

Over the past few weeks, pharmacy professionals have been sharing their experiences of racism, with the discrimination faced by so many in our society coming to the forefront after the Black Lives Matter protests swept the globe in May.

Many of the experiences we heard about in pharmacy related to racism from patients, tallying with the results of a C+D survey with 886 respondents that ran between June 18 and July 27. Sixty-four per cent said they had experienced racism from patients in the past six months, with a shocking 7% recording physical abuse.

Racism is not absent from the dispensary either. Over half of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) respondents reported racial discrimination from their colleagues in the past six months. It’s clear that racism does exist in the sector. To take a step towards ending it, it’s important we recognise racism when it occurs and equip ourselves with the tools to call it out.

But this is often easier said than done. As many respondents to the survey reported, racism isn’t always blatant; a racist slur tossed angrily in the direction of the victim. So often, it is difficult to pinpoint. Examples of microaggressions reported by respondents include their opinion counting for less than other team members, excessive scrutiny, and a sense of being made to feel ‘other’ due to the colour of their skin.

Racism in the pharmacy is having a noticeable effect on the profession, with over a quarter (26%) of all respondents to the survey saying they have, or have considered, leaving a job due to racism. This figure rises to 51% among BAME respondents, out of whom almost one quarter (23%) said racism from patients and/or colleagues had led to depression, while 34 respondents (5%) had experienced suicidal thoughts and 21 (3%) had experienced thoughts of self-harm.

The first step towards tackling this problem is to admit there is one, both from patients and some team members. The second is to begin a full and frank conversation about racism in pharmacy and its consequences – for we can only move to stamp out racial discrimination once we have pinpointed the many guises it takes. To that end, C+D is holding a free webinar tomorrow (August 6) with a panel of experts at 3pm to discuss all of these issues, as well as the steps we need to take to eradicate racism in pharmacy.

This is only the first step on a long journey towards ending all forms of racism in the sector, and one that I hope you will join us on.

Beth Kennedy is C+D editor


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