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07
May 2021

Do Black People Feel Pain the Same as Others?

  • By: Samantha Denäe

“Black people can handle higher tolerances of pain more than other races, particularly the white race.” This is a myth that has been surrounding Black people for centuries, leading everyone to believe that the pain threshold of this particular race is of almost superhuman strength. It is a myth that is not only false, but one that is also detrimental to Black people, especially Black women, and is built on many traumatic experiences. 

This notion of pain tolerance came from the days of slavery when Black people were operated on without any anesthesia, making slaves accustomed to pain – not raising their pain threshold. The idea that this particular trait was handed down to generations of Black people has created a discourse within the medical community. 

In a 2016 study, fifty percent of medical students and residents still believed that Black people could not feel pain in the same way as white people because they have "thicker skin and/or their nerves do not work in the same manner" as their white counterparts. If you include the physicians who are already practicing medicine that believe this same myth, then we have a much bigger issue at hand. This way of thinking and teaching causes Black people to have longer wait times in the emergency room, receive pain medications at lower rates than others (even believing that Black people will use the pain medications for reasons outside of its intended use), receiving late disease diagnosis, like Endometriosis, at slower rates than others, and most importantly, death. Even more alarming, this inaccurate idea is seen more and more throughout the maternal morbidity crisis. Black women are dying at higher rates than any other race during childbirth. There could be other factors involved but believing Black people can tolerate pain due to having “thicker skin” is literally killing us. 

This issue has been pressing on the Black community and its relation to healthcare for many years and has caused Black people to lose its faith in the healthcare system in general. It’s a system that does not care. The racial bias within the medical system throughout this world does not seem to be ending any time soon if only five years ago fifty percent of a group of medical students and residents still believed in this concept. It is imperative that colleges where medical students take their prerequisite’s and medical schools alike put an end to this, so that Black people can receive proper medical treatment. In the end, it really is all about equality and striving to have what others have had for centuries: fairness and equal opportunity.

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