While the sociopolitical repercussions of racism and discrimination are often covered in the media, the detrimental impacts they have on mental and physical health are rarely discussed. Not only do news channels and social media activists ignore the adverse health implications these injustices can have on racialized communities, but they almost perpetuate them. People of colour are constantly bombarded with harmful depictions of members of their own community being brutally attacked online, which can take a significant toll on their mental health. This may result in psychological trauma and cause problems within one’s personal life and relationships, but it can also lead to mental disorders like chronic anxiety and depression. 

Moreover, substance abuse and addiction are often linked to the psychological manifestations of racial discrimination. A decline in mental health can serve as a segue into issues concerning physical health as well. Victims of racial discrimination often experience an increase in blood pressure and can even contract cardiovascular disease. Racialized and typically impoverished communities lack adequate healthcare services as well, putting them at a further disadvantage.

Not only do socioeconomic barriers create disparities in healthcare, but so do educational institutes that produce future health practitioners. Students in medical school are not sufficiently taught to recognize certain medical conditions on darker skin tones, making it difficult, if not impossible, for them to diagnose an illness on a person of colour. This may allow otherwise identifiable symptoms to go unnoticed, putting black and brown individuals at risk. Medical textbooks and images depicting symptoms of disease online also rarely include dark skin, which contributes to the issue of racism in the healthcare system. 

The medical community is littered with dangerous misconceptions surrounding people of colour. Some allow their political views to cloud their judgement and proceed with the notion that certain races have a higher tolerance for pain and, therefore, require less medical attention than non-racialized groups. Outdated textbooks even contain entire sections explaining the various thresholds of pain that certain ethnic and religious groups can withhold, which does not reflect factual evidence.

Though it is nothing new that illnesses, and even viral outbreaks like the COVID-19 pandemic, disproportionately affect racialized communities, this fact should not be dismissed as ‘normal.’ We, as a community, must take action against the inequalities surrounding the healthcare system and start advocating for change within it. It is important to note that although our end goal should focus on global change, local action is a significant first step1.

  1. Paradies, Y., Priest, N., Ben, J., Truong, M., Gupta, A., Pieterse, A., Kelaher, M., & Gee, G. (2013). Racism as a determinant of health: A protocol for conducting a systematic review and meta-analysis. Systematic Reviews, 2(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/2046-4053-2-85
  2.  McFarling, U. L. (2020, July 20). Lack of darker skin in textbooks, journals harms patients of color. STAT. https://www.statnews.com/2020/07/21/dermatology-faces-reckoning-lack-of-darker-skin-in-textbooks-journals-harms-patients-of-color/
  3.  Sabin, J. A. (2020, January 6). How we fail black patients in pain. AAMC. https://www.aamc.org/news-insights/how-we-fail-black-patients-pain.

About The Author

Related Posts