Black Patients Dress Up and Modify Speech to Reduce Bias, California Survey Shows

A recent report from Kaiser Health News entitled “Black Patients Dress Up and Modify Speech to Reduce Bias, California Survey Shows” which I was quoted, seemed to miss my point. The health care system is geared against Black patients regardless of how they dress or speak. Dressing and speaking well in my experience has little to do with how Black people are treated. Many studies support the notion that often Black patients don’t get the same quality care as white patients in similar health care systems. I thought I had conveyed to the reporter that unconscious or conscious bias, on the part of providers, was commonplace. This article implies that we have the option to get that care if we dress or speak well. Certainly, that is not my experience with the title of the article also implying that most Black people will do that. While it may be more common than with other ethnic groups, I have no statistics at hand and it certainly does not approach a statistical number that would imply that it was most black people who feel this way. I appreciate anyone who will take on this issue is a public way. Perhaps it will improve the collective conscious of all elements of the health care system as well as Black patients on what they will face in trying to get good health care. But I have little evidence that the system will change anytime soon. That is why the African American Wellness Project strongly encourages all patients, but particularly those that are Black, to develop the tools necessary to deal with a system that often has little respect for you, such as: 

  • Being prepared for visits;
  • If necessary, have an advocate; and
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for second opinion.

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