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Racism in the Medical Field

Even in our seemingly equal society today, women are still mistreated and deprived of so many rights all around the world, because of their gender and race. Especially in America, the color of one’s skin, even worse if it’s a woman, has a huge impact on how the person is treated and spoken to.

In an article on The Oprah Magazine, Erika Stallings put our imagination to the test, creating a little point of view.

“Imagine this: You go to the doctor and routinely feel unseen, unheard, misunderstood. Sometimes you fear you’ve been misdiagnosed. But your concerns are brushed off. You aren’t apprised of the full range of treatment options—the doctor seems to assume they don’t apply to you, or that you can’t take in all the information. Your local hospital is underfunded, the equipment outdated, frequently nonfunctional.”

Seems familiar? Yes, that’s what I thought!

It is true that not every black woman has experienced these sorts of situations, but that doesn’t mean that the percentage who did isn’t high enough to be concerned.

In 2012, author John Hoberman published his own book called “Black and Blue: The Origins and Consequences of Medical Racism”, in which he systematically describes the way of how American doctors think about racial differences and how this kind of thinking affects the treatment of their black patients.

The enlarged idea that Dr. Hoberman wanted to present was that some patients may go to the doctor for a simple monthly health check and come out of that office with 15 more issues than he came in with. The description of his book also implies that the mind and the way the majority of doctors think is very traditional and conservative:

“Doctors have always absorbed the racial stereotypes and folkloric beliefs about racial differences that permeate the general population. Within the world of medicine, this racial folklore has infiltrated all of the medical sub-disciplines, from cardiology to gynecology to psychiatry.”

Why is it that women of color get mistreated the most?

“Throughout history, medical racism has often been based on the myth that Black people have different – and inferior – bodies.”

For other ethnicities, being black and of the female gender makes the perfect combination of being able to mock, treat differently or abuse that person in any shape or form.

“Phrenology was one example of this – the belief popular in 19th-century Europe and America that character trait could be read through differently shaped skulls. The idea that Black people were naturally submissive was used by some slave owners to justify their trade.”

Coming at the same time with many excuses like: “Your body is structured differently!” or “You have to fit a stereotypical European, thin body mold”. These misconceptions that doctors present even to this day have a huge impact on women’s mentalities and in their lives in general.

In 2020, senior writer for the World Economic Forum, Harry Kretchmer said in an article about “The brief history of racism in healthcare” that:

“Even today, spirometers are usually “race corrected”. Researchers say that history shows this practice could represent an implicit bias, discrimination, and racism, and masks economic and environmental factors.”

Obviously, the usual victims of racial bias are the patients, but we don’t find it hard to believe that even doctors themselves have to deal with insults, attacks, and questioning of their experience.

On the Harvard Health blog, Monique Tello, brought some cases to our attention, one of them being also one of her colleagues, Dr. Altaf Saadi. She said, “A colleague of mine, Dr. Altaf Saadi, recently wrote about her experiences treating patients at our own hospital. She has been questioned, insulted, and even attacked by patients because she is a Muslim woman who wears a headscarf.5 She is not alone. Recently, published reports include overt bigotry expressed towards doctors of black, Indian, and Jewish heritage.”

This is yet another piece of evidence that not even in the 21st century after a global pandemic has been poured over us in order to teach us a lesson, women are not respected the way they should be and their rights are still very much forgotten for a lot of people. This also shows that especially the American health system, along with a bunch of other countries, is not even close to perfection and needs to change and create reform for the better.


The Oprah Magazine

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