Whether in medical practices, hospitals or therapy centers: racism in the German health system is not uncommon. It happens both consciously and unconsciously. Thoughtless comments, false stereotypes anchored in people’s minds, or inadequate medical treatment – there are racist patterns that often underlie anti-black racism in particular. This is the result Afro census, the first major survey among thousands of black, African and Afro diasporic people in Germany on various areas of life. Racist stereotypes are expressed in very different ways:
- For example, almost all participants in the Afro census stated that – although not relevant to the situation – they went to the doctor after their Origin questioned were or questions were asked about it.
- Pains are often not taken seriously. The assumption persists that Black people can handle pain better. Also widespread: the so-called southerner syndrome (morbus bosporus). Patients whose origin is assumed to be from the Mediterranean region are said to have an excessive sensitivity to pain and an excessive expression of pain. If the assumptions are wrong, the result can be inadequate treatment. It has long been known that the perception of pain is individual – regardless of origin and gender.
- Based on the appearance or name of patients, it is assumed that people don’t speak German. A reference to a language barrier is noted in the documents. Without checking the situation personally, the patients are automatically spoken in louder and artificially “simplified” German.
- Language barriers can longer waiting time mean and overall less attention and thoroughness in treatment can be the consequences.
Doctors are often not familiar with skin of colour
If such experiences occur, health suffers above all. Patients lose trust. Also because doctors are not familiar with skin of color. Most medical textbooks refer almost exclusively to white people and show what diseases look like on white skin. However, most of the world’s population does not have fair skin.
Just recently, a black medical student in the UK drew attention to discrimination in diagnosis and a Specialist book published showing symptoms on different skin tones. Because many symptoms are difficult for the untrained eye to recognize on dark skin. This applies to a simple skin rash, but neurodermatitis also manifests itself in a completely different way. It becomes dangerous if a disease like Lyme disease is not recognized. While red rings are typically seen on white skin, they are bluish-grey on black skin. If Lyme disease is not recognized and treated, late effects such as nerve inflammation can occur.
Education about subconsciously racist structures
Those affected and experts are calling for more education and training. Skin of color must also be taken into account in the course of study for prospective physicians. But staff in clinics, practices and rehabilitation facilities must also be informed and made aware of subconsciously racist structures.
experts on the topic