We’ve all heard the phrase “Black Don’t Crack” in reference to how well people with more melanin in their skin age.
Now, one study has found that medical students believe it to be true. Black people not only age at a slower rate than whites, but their nerve endings are less sensitive, their blood coagulates more quickly, and their skin is thicker.
Because of these false beliefs, Black people are often under-treated for pain compared to whites.
“Our findings show that beliefs about Black-white differences in biology may contribute to this disparity,” said Kelly Hoffman, a UVA psychology Ph.D. candidate who led the study.
Hoffman and her team asked 222 participants made up of white medical students and residents to rate on a scale of zero to 10 the pain levels they would associate with two mock medical cases, a kidney stone and a leg fracture for both a white and a Black patient.
Some of the beliefs about biological differences between Blacks and whites, like whites being less susceptible to heart disease and less likely to have a stroke, are true.
But researchers found that half of the sample endorsed at least one of the false beliefs, which led to less accurate treatment recommendations for the Black vs. white patients.
However, the white medical students and residents who did not endorse these false beliefs did not show the same bias.
“We’ve known for a long time that there are huge disparities in how Blacks and whites are assessed and treated by the medical community,” Hoffman said. “Our study provides some insight to what might contribute to this — false beliefs about biological differences between Blacks and whites.
These beliefs have been around for a long time in our history. They were once used to justify slavery and the inhumane treatment of Black people in medicine.”
(Photo: Push Pictures/Corbis)