Pain is real.
As someone who has dealt with endometriosis and other autoimmune issues, I can attest that daily distracting body pains are part of my existence.
I’ve been extremely fortunate. While I’ve had some doctors brush off my pain, telling me that an anti-depressant will help with the pain (it didn’t), my pain was believed. I’ve had a few laparoscopies to curb the pain of my endometriosis, supported by my gynecologists.
But in online forums, women speak much about not being believed about their pain. It must be because of (fill in the blank) that they are hurting. Often, being overweight is used as a scapegoat for pain. But I can attest that even in my lighter-weight days, I still had pain.
Even research now points to implicit bias based on gender as a recent study concluded.
As there are times when being a white woman in pain is still difficult, our black siblings and siblings of color – especially women – are believed less. White supremacy has captured the well-being of our neighbors.
Even when white women aren’t believed about their pain, black women and women of color are believed less often. Racial biases in health care and pain management leads to the lack of care in our neighbors.
The YWCA’s website defines medical racism as this:
“Medical racism is the systematic and wide-spread racism against people of color within the medical system. It includes both the racism in our society that makes Black people less healthy, the disparity in health coverage by race, and the biases held by healthcare workers against people of color in their care.”
In the past year, we’ve seen how Covid-19 has greatly impacted people of color. Our black neighbors have 2.8 times the chance of being hospitalized by Covid-19 as white persons while our Hispanic and Latinx neighbors have a 3 times risk of hospitalization.
I’m reminded of the story of Dr. Susan Moore, a black physician in Indiana who died of Covid-19 in December 2020. She continuously had to advocate for herself, proving her knowledge of medicine. Her pain was not believed. Dr. Moore begged for Remdesivir. Eventually she was given pain relief. She was sent home after some treatment, and died a short time later.
Implicit biases have stood in the way of needed care. The American Medical Association has crafted a plan to address many of these issues. As time continues, it’s our call to also hold the system accountable for injustices which threaten the lives and well beings of our black neighbors and neighbors of color. 1 Corinthians 12 reminds us that we are part of the same body. With that in mind, why is it that some people in the body dismiss others pain and illness? One part of the body cannot say to another part of the body “You don’t have nerve endings.”
Pain is real – no matter what our race or gender or socioeconomic situation. No one in pain deserves to be dismissed. Doctors believed my pain. Don’t our black siblings and siblings of color deserve the same?
The Rev. Michelle L. Torigian is the Senior Pastor of St. Paul United Church of Christ, Belleville, Illinois. Her essay “Always a Pastor, Never the Bride” was in the RevGalBlogPals book There’s a Woman in the Pulpit. She also has chapters in the books Sacred Habits: The Rise of the Creative Clergy and A Child Laughs: Prayers for Justice and Hope. Torigian blogs at http://www.michelletorigian.com.
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