Sensational headlines do not promote equality

I am offended by the use of the term ‘pale and stale’ and ‘decolonising’ in the title used for The Pharmaceutical Journal‘s podcast, ‘Pale and stale: decolonising the pharmacy degree‘, published on 12 November 2021.

The term ‘pale and stale’ — thank you for not including ‘male’ which usually accompanies this phrase — explicitly criticises people on the basis of their skin colour. You cannot criticise one race and promote equality at the same time.

I also think the term ‘decolonisation’ used in this context is offensive and again appears to apply criticism of one race, when the objective is that of equality, diversity and inclusion — this also includes white people.

I listened to the podcast discussing the work of pharmacy student Adanna Anthony-Okeke concerning the lack of representation of conditions that affect skin colour and expansion of statistics about conditions that predominantly affect black people. Including relevant clinical information about how disease and medicines affects all races is worthwhile and should be included and expanded in the pharmacy curriculum. This topic is not brand new, I learned about sickle cell anaemia and thalassemia as ethnic-based genetic diseases in my university pharmacy courses, decades ago.

In order to promote better dialogue on these topics, it is important to use words and phrases that do not offend, and help promote better communication and improve pharmacy education and patient care.

I hope The Pharmaceutical Journal will leave ‘sensational headlines’ to the tabloid newspapers and use wording more appropriate for a professional pharmacy journal in the future.

David Cousins


Response from The Pharmaceutical Journal:

Thank you for your letter. It can sometimes be difficult to get the tone right when dealing with these challenging subjects, and we do think long and hard about how we present issues of ethnicity and inequality, before publishing.

Use of the phrase ‘pale and stale’ applies to the pharmacy curriculum, rather than any individual. It is a term that has been used by other respected journals and we thought it neatly encapsulated the problem we were trying to articulate. 

Likewise, the use of the word ‘decolonisation’ is widespread in academia and we used it to illustrate how the pharmacy curriculum is viewed through a particular lens of culture and history, rather than anything that seeks to blame anyone in particular. 

We hope that the final message of the podcast is that everyone needs to work together to ensure students are equipped to treat everyone, regardless of their background or ethnicity.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, December 2021, Vol 307, No 7956;307(7956)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2021.1.120210

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