Home Views Putting in the Work Against Racial Bias

Putting in the Work Against Racial Bias

By Marjolijn Bijlefeld, Editor in Chief, Women In Optometry (WO)

In the past year, I’ve talked with program directors leading diversity and inclusion initiatives at schools and colleges of optometry, as well as organizers of the 13% Promise and the National Optometric Association’s efforts to increase representation of people of color in the optometric profession. Recent news stories about violence and aggression toward those of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) heritage brought new horrors into what has been a volatile and politically and racially charged time.

In March, WO conducted a Pop-up Poll on attitudes of racial bias toward the AAPI community—and the results were sobering. One respondent said we were “making mountains out of molehills.” Majorities of respondents said that they have seen no increase of racial bias toward the AAPI community in their professional or community circles.

Dr. Xu

Yet, listen to these stories of women ODs in AAPI and Black communities. It is clear that—noticeable increase or no increase—these optometrists are familiar with the aggressions, microaggressions and dismissive treatment they experience routinely. It’s a feeling of being overlooked, as Meng Meng Xu, OD, FAAO, of New England College of Optometry, puts it. “You always feel like you’re invisible,” says Dr. Xu. “People say hi to the person I’m walking with or assume I don’t speak English.”

It’s painful to hear first-hand about the racial bias these women experience. I stumble through my questions, not sure if I’m asking them well or whether I’m showing my own ignorance. It’s a subject that might be easier to avoid than engage. But taking action—even small, awkward steps—can be a catalyst. And it’s what needs to happen.

Please listen to this podcast with Janette Pepper, OD, and Mary Hoang, OD, from Southern College of Optometry, and read this roundtable story with six women who shared their thoughts and hopes. Our goal at WO is to continue this conversation and support optometric professionals, regardless of gender, race or ethnicity. These eight women—and undoubtedly countless others—are helping to show us how. Let’s keep it going.

- Advertisment -

Most Popular

OD Stress Levels Nearly as High as Start of Pandemic

Eye care professionals report that their stress levels today are nearly as high as they were when Women In Optometry asked this question at...

Meet the Student Advisory Board: Paige Wagar, UWO

Paige Wagar has always been disciplined. Wagar competed in ballet, jazz, tap, contemporary and musical theater starting when she was four. Finding that it...

How to Let an Employee Go Without Endangering Your Practice

By Bj Avery, Vice President of Practice Compliance Solutions In our compliance company, which specializes in human resource management, employee termination is a weekly issue...

Dr. Sara Varghai: Cracking the Hiring Code

Getting the right staff fit is a challenge for many optometrists. When Sara Varghai, OD, of Arlington, Virginia, opened Nova Optique + Eyecare almost...