Harriet S.MeyerMD, Contributing EditorDavid H.MorseMS, Journal Review EditorRobertHoganMD, adviser for new media
Why are African Americans in such poor health? In a putatively equal-opportunity society in which every hospital and clinic promises color-blind care, the answers to this complex question reside not just with American racism, but with Western conceptions of race as a whole, suggest W. Michael Byrd and Linda A. Clayton. Every African American lives with the corrosive residue of a 2000-year legacy of presumed inferiority. It is a legacy so ingrained in our culture that we often fail to see it. But its far-reaching effects are clear enough: a race- and class-based dual-tier health care system, a resilient health deficit for black Americans that dates from slavery, the willing acceptance of starkly different indicators of "normal" health status for blacks and whites, and, perhaps most controversial of all, the medical profession's relegation of physicians and nurses of color to an inferior caste. All these factors have a negative impact on African-Americans' health.
Race and HealthAn American Health Dilemma: A Medical History of African Americans and the Problem of Race—Beginnings to 1900. JAMA. 2001;285(9):1219. doi:10.1001/jama.285.9.1219