NYT: Black People Need Black Doctors



Can you imagine the uproar if the NYT had an editorial reading "White People Need White Doctors"? That's racist! But an op-ed saying that Black people need Black doctors, well, that's progressive!

The statistics that made my stomach cramp back then are largely the same today: The infant mortality rate in the black population is twice that of whites. Black men are seven times more likely than white men to receive a diagnosis of H.I.V. and more than twice as likely to die of prostate cancer. Black women have nearly double the obesity rate of white women and are 40 percent more likely to die from breast cancer. Black people experience much higher rates of hypertension, diabetes and stroke. The list goes on and on.

The usual explanations for these health disparities — poverty, poor access to medical care and unhealthy lifestyle choices, to name a few — are certainly valid, but the longer I’ve practiced medicine, the more I’ve come to appreciate a factor that is less obvious: the dearth of black doctors.

As a general rule, black patients are more likely to feel comfortable with black doctors. Studies have shown that they are more likely to seek them out for treatment, and to report higher satisfaction with their care. I’ve met countless black people who have either delayed or refused needed treatments because they were skeptical about their physician’s motives and honesty

So the argument the writer is making, I think, is as follows: Black patients are racist. They don't want to listen to white doctors because white doctors are white. To make Black patients feel comfortable, we need more Black doctors (the article went on and on to bemoan the fact that race-based admissions to medical schools are not even higher than they already are).

I think this argument is insulting to Black people, and labels them as racist. I don't think that most Black people will disregard the advice of a doctor because he's of a different race. And I think if you turned the argument upside down, and said "We need more white doctors because that's who white people will listen to", that would clearly be racist.

Reverse racism is alive and well on the pages of the New York Times.

(Abridged version originally published in AT)



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