Understanding and Awareness


I always felt that that the stereotypes associated with being a Young Black Male was unfair, but eventually, I learned to navigate stereotypes so they wouldn't cause significant disturbances in my life.  I believed that you shouldn't care about how people perceive you, because at the end of the day, they have no impact on your life.  On one particular night, I learned that people’s perceptions and stereotypes can not only negatively affect your life, but in some extreme cases can cost you your life. I was about 22 at the time and I was out with a few friends, all of us had been drinking and spent most of the night engaged in conversation. I had stopped drinking for about an hour, when I began to feel ill. I went to go lay down, but as time passed I quickly began to take a turn for the worse and feared it was a health crisis. My friends immediately called an ambulance and I was rushed to the hospital. After being in and out of consciousness, I came to in the emergency room and was waiting to be seen by the emergency doctor. The paramedics began to ask me questions, which I answered honestly.  About an hour later, I overheard a conversation between the paramedics and the emergency physician. It was this conversation when I realized the paramedics saw all the stereotypes of a Young Black Men instead of a patient in a health crisis. 

The doctor came in and said, "What's the problem with this one?" The paramedic responded, "He has some medical history, but he says he only had a few drinks, though I expect he had way more, and he was probably doing the new drug that the kids are doing and must be having a severe response to those drugs.”

The doctors agreed with the paramedic's statement and proceeded with his work. The doctor had no idea I had heard his conversation with the paramedic. I was in such shock and disbelief that I had a tough time talking with the doctor about my medical condition. It was hard knowing that no matter what I said to him, all he saw were the stereotypes of a Young Black Male who had too many drinks and was abusing drugs. I was given fluids and was released. I later went to a walk-in clinic where I would be provided with the appropriate treatment for my health condition. I was fortunate that I could receive the treatment I needed.  That night could have ended much worse for me. Health providers were providing services based on negative assumptions of young people, which could have potentially cost me my life. Stereotypes are dangerous, and unfortunately there have been many more similar incidents in my life, specifically with the health care system. The stereotypes of being a Young Black Male negatively impacted the quality of service I received.