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Myth #3: "Black People Have a Higher Pain Tolerance Than White People"

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Trigger Warning: Potentially Upsetting Historical References To Medical Malpractice On Black Communities.

Myth #3: "Black People Have A Higher Pain Tolerance Than White People!"

Studies have shown that this is the opposite of the truth: "African–Americans, compared to non-Hispanic whites, suffer a greater burden of pain and pain-related suffering" (Campbell, Edwards, 2012). "For example, African–Americans report greater pain in conditions such as glaucoma, AIDS, migraine headache, jaw pain, postoperative pain, myofascial pain, angina pectoris, joint pain, non-specific daily pain and arthritis, compared with whites". Numerous studies suggest that this is because black and ethnic minorities tend to be undertreated for pain compared to white people.

This myth originally came from Benjamin Moseley, a British doctor in 1787, who declared that "I have amputated the legs of many Negroes who have held the upper part of the limb themselves." This anecdotal and evidence-lacking theory was then picked up by pro-slavery activists like J.Marion Sims.  Sims used this theory to justify mutilating enslaved black women's genitals in order to try to perfect a surgical technique (anesthetic wasn't in use around this time by the way). While this may sound barbaric and historically distant, it still has implications today. 

A 2016 study of 222 White medical students found that half of those surveyed believed and endorsed at least one myth about physical medical differences between black and white people. (Hoffman, Trawalter, Axt and Oliver, 2016). One of these being that "Black people's nerve endings are less sensitive than whites". Belief in myths like this cause active harm to black patients, from delayed diagnosis to inadequate treatment and pain management of health conditions (Green, Anderson, Baker, Campbell, Decker, Fillingim, Kaloukalani, Lasch, Myers, Tait, Todd, Vallerand, 2003).

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