When NBC’s New Amsterdam first premiered in 2018, the series focused on the enormous problems with privatized medicine and its harmful consequences.
The show has since expanded to tackle a wider range of issues within the medical community including racism, climate change, bias against gay men, and more.
But as the hospital’s Medical Director Dr. Max Goodwin tries to “fix” more and more problems, his white savior complex has become increasingly erratic and dangerous. And he’s putting all his doctors and patients at risk.
Although Max seemingly has good intentions, his methods are flawed, to put it kindly. When he tries to tackle an issue, he doesn’t consult experts in the field, he doesn’t speak with those who are affected, he just goes and does.
When Max tried to “fix racism,” specifically the bias against Black women in the maternity ward, he didn’t actually listen to Black women. He steamrolled them and made ill-founded decisions on his own.
Eventually, Dr. Helen Sharpe was finally able to get through to him. She made him realize he needed to listen before acting.
But clearly, his lesson has not been learned. He went on and did the exact same thing when dealing with a Native American patient just a few episodes later.
He doesn’t listen. To anybody. He doesn’t consult. Anybody.
So far, Max’s patients have survived his reckless and impulsive decisions. But they won’t if he continues down this path.
Max’s efforts to address social justice issues within medicine are indicative of a much larger issue within white liberals.
Many white liberals have good intentions and want to help. They see social justice problems and want to make change. But they often don’t listen to those who are being affected, don’t pass the mic to those who need to be heard, and don’t address how they themselves contribute to the problem.
This was never more evident than in the recent racial reckoning that occurred after George Floyd’s brutal murder. Although many white liberals spoke out against police brutality, there was still a reluctance to acknowledge their own racism and implicit bias. They didn’t want to make change within themselves because confronting their own racism would be too uncomfortable.
This led many white liberals to post black squares on their Instagram feeds and do other acts of performative, meaningless activism that showed their support but ultimately, did nothing to create change.
On top of that, many white liberals’ outspokenness on the issues often leads to the silencing of BIPOC. During the era of #MeToo, white actress Alyssa Milano stole and took credit for a movement that was created by Black activist Tarana Burke. Subsequently, as #MeToo became more mainstream, Black women were excluded from the conversation as we focused all our energy on white women.
It’s hard for many people to admit that their good intentions lead to bad consequences. But that’s exactly what many of us are doing in this country.
Social justice issues like racism, police brutality, climate change, LGBTQ hate crimes, and more need thoughtful solutions. We need to listen and learn before we act. Otherwise, we’re just contributing to the problem.
New Amsterdam airs on NBC, Tuesdays at 10 PM.
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Lena Finkel is the Editor and Founder of Femestella. Prior to starting Femestella, she worked at People, InStyle, Tiger Beat, and Sesame Workshop (aka Sesame Street). She loves all things Real Housewives and The Challenge. When she’s not busy binge-watching TV, you can find her taking an absurd amount of photos of her tuxedo cat Tom.