Challenging the Perception that Black People Feel Less Pain

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Misconceptions about race and pain stemming from slavery and Jim Crow-era fallacies threaten the health and welfare of Black Americans. Historical incidents of race-based fallacies relating to health resulted in brutal and inhumane experimentation, and yet today’s physicians still cling to these myths. A 2016 study by the University of Virginia demonstrated that over 100 out of 222 white medical students believed fallacies about biological differences between Black and white people. Those individuals also perceived that Black patients felt less pain than white patients, even when both individuals suffered the same ailment. Students who believed in biological differences between races also agreed to false statements suggesting that Black people have less sensitive nerve endings, and age slower than whites.

This implicit racial bias comes with consequences. Because physicians may be unable to recognize a Black patient’s pain in the first place, African Americans are routinely undertreated…

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