Here, in her own words, Doctor Adanna Steinacker shares her experiences of racism and reveals what we can all do to bring about change for the better.
Racism, in all its guises, is a fundamental part of the life most black people lead. It’s a brutal reality most of us are forced to experience at some point, and the Black Lives Matter movement has helped enlighten people about that struggle.
However, I have never allowed the ignorance and narrow-mindedness of others to stop me from achieving my full potential. I’m a doctor, a CEO, a content creator and a mother. It’s a lot, I know! But I took it one step at a time and I never allowed myself to become demotivated.
I worked tirelessly to make it to med school, finally securing my place at Norwich University to study biomedicine. I’d achieved my dream, but when I began working in hospitals I was hit with the harsh reality of racism.
Patients would think I was a nurse or a cleaner, even when I was in scrubs with a stethoscope around my neck, and ask to see the ‘real doctor’. I’d be lying if I said those experiences didn’t hurt or frustrate me, but I never let it stop me succeeding.
While studying I spent a summer working in a village in Kenya and it changed my life. That experience brought out my confidence, so when I came home I was full of tenacity and vigour and felt compelled to share it with every person I came across.
That’s how I began my business, Medics Abroad, which helps provide clinical placements across Africa.
But it started out as a passion project for me. I just wanted to provide the bridge that would transform someone from a mediocre medical student into a phenomenal healthcare professional.
Providing clinical placements abroad for Westerners is not a walk in the park, though. There are a lot of tricky things to navigate, and one of the biggest issues I’ve had to tackle in my work is that of white saviour complex.
There is suffering all over the world. You walk down the street in London and see countless homeless people in poverty and turmoil. But, for some reason, people feel the need to showcase the suffering across Africa with pictures on their social media.
When people post these things, all they’re doing is saying, ‘Look at the good I’m doing in the world.’ It adds to a damaging narrative of what it means to be a black person today – even if it’s not done with that intention.
We do a lot of training to exorcise that mentality. It’s so important for students to understand they’re not going to Africa to ‘save’ anybody.
They’re made aware at every stage that they will be getting more out of this experience than they could ever give back. It’s an initiative I’m incredibly proud of and one I actually started while I was on maternity leave after having my first son, Kian.
What can I say? I like to stay busy and I needed something to do during nap times! My husband, David, and I are a biracial couple and we’ve faced our fair share of struggles because of it. When we wanted to buy a house, for example.
If I was the only one who could attend the viewing I was constantly asked, ‘You do realise how much this is, right?’ And we’d never get the property. David ended up having to do the viewings alone.
I was also turned away from a test drive for a car I’d booked. Everything was arranged, but when I showed up the manager of the garage told me that they didn’t have the car and they wouldn’t be able to offer me the test drive.
When something like that just doesn’t sit right, I always question, ‘Has this happened to me because I’m black?’ Chances are it has – and that’s such a demoralising mindset to be around.
But through all that injustice and prejudice, what can I do? With a lot of racism there is little you can do to fight it.
I’ve had to condition my mind to forgive these things, move past them and use the experiences to fuel my momentum.
Most black people will grow up being told by their parents they must work harder than their white counterparts to have the same success.
My parents always said to me, ‘You must be awake when others are sleeping, thinking when others are daydreaming, and trying when others are coasting.’ They’ve led me to where I am today.
When it comes to my sons, Kian, four, and Noah, two, I want to motivate them to live to their fullest potential. They are biracial, but most of society will perceive them as black, so I will have those conversations with them too.
As a mother, recognising that disadvantage is heartbreaking. Why should my boys be less entitled to opportunities because of their skin colour? But that’s the world we’re living in. It’s a messed up, skewed perception of worth.
Whether you’re black, white or biracial, there is so much we as parents can do for our children. Educating your kids and teaching them unconditional love and acceptance of others is something we all can and should be doing. The time for change is now – and it begins at home.’
Adanna’s 5 tips for leading by example
1. Read a range of books
‘We read our children books that celebrate characters and heroes of all shapes, sizes and colours, so the boys see greatness represented in different ways. Start around age one.’
2. Be mindful of what you say
‘Everything must be approached from a place of love, with friendship and kindness at the forefront. Be mindful what you say and make sure you’re not using race as the topic of banter or jokes around your children. It might seem harmless, but you’re actually drilling those racial biases into your child’s subconscious.’
3. Expand your circle
‘We have a colourful circle of friends that includes people from different cultures, religions and races, and our children see that and understand we don’t only have friends who look like us.
It might seem fake to think you need to find friends of different races, but if you do it with the purpose of expanding your mind and outlook, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.’
4. Show respect
‘To raise anti-racist children, we as parents must respect all races with the things we say and do. This could include anything from the kind of art on your walls, to the food you prepare.
Show appreciation for different races and cultures and your children will follow. Parents will need to confront their own bias in order to do this, but that’s all part of the journey.’
5. Be an ally
‘If you see injustices while your child is present and stay silent, they will mirror that. But, if they see Mummy or Daddy will fight for all people to be treated with respect, they will do the same.
From holding bullies to account in the playground to shutting down racist jokes their friends might make. Doing this will mould minds that can break the cycle of racism.’
As a contribution to both racial and gender equality, Adanna offers free monthly coaching to 10 black women who are transitioning to Entrepreneurship. She coaches them to gain clarity on their purpose and to elevate their personal digital brands.
– You can find out more on Adanna’s personal Instagram @adanna_steinacker, or CLICK HERE for her website