Understanding my background is a strength, not a weakness

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” Maya Angelou

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the significant differences in mortality and morbidity amongst ethnic minorities. For some, it was a wakeup call, for others an unsettling reminder of the reality ethnic minorities faced throughout their lives. We already knew the discrepancies in the justice system, health care outcomes, housing, and education and whilst there are a number of factors that contribute this, the factor racism was simply ignored or downplayed.

My background

Growing up I witnessed the aggressive overt and more subtle covert racism to what both of my parents faced on a frequent basis. My father would say work hard, have a thick skin and keep your head down. But each time it happened I witnessed his very essence being sapped away from him. That ability to make someone feel less than human based purely on being a different ethnicity was what defined racism to me. It made me feel anger, pain, despair and demoralised, all at the same time.

As I grew older and progressed through my medical career, I became more aware of the racism and microaggressions faced from people of different backgrounds. Some people tried to assimilate, to try and be like the majority. Others went into the shell and shielded themselves from their environment. I understood their decisions, I had been there myself, many times.

Inner determination

There were several mentors and peers who made me believe in myself. To understand my background was a strength not a weakness. It gave me an inner determination. To some I may be seen as a role model, others a troublemaker and others still an insignificant nobody but when I look in the mirror, I see a British born doctor immensely proud of his mixed Pakistani and Mauritian heritage.

About the writer

Dr Hisham Nobeebacchus, GP partner in Yorkshire & Director for Yorkshire Health Partners.