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In terms of race relations and injustice on the inside, in my own experience, the greatest and most unfortunate divide lies in the healthcare we receive.

While there is no doubt that all prisoners alike will likely receive inadequate healthcare at some point during their incarceration, it is more probable that Black prisoners will be treated more invidiously. Sadly, it is yet another form of systemic racism.

I find it so shameful that we are now in the year 2021, and yet racism continues to subsist. Why? Why such hatred? The answer remains to be seen. But the disparity in which we Black prisoners are treated when we visit the doctors is visible. 

If a Black prisoner visits a doctor with a complaint of pain, we are less likely to be believed than a White prisoner. Why is this so? This is something I have personally experienced. For example, I have numerous reports from the pain management clinic at the University of Virginia, which I visit nearly every month. Reports that indicate my MRI and x-ray results with all diagnoses listed. Yet when these outside specialists make recommendations, they are not followed by the institution. Unless of course, well, you know.

Why must it be so difficult for us Blacks to be taken seriously? Why, because we are taught to be strong and not limp around and whine and complain? We are culturally taught to be strong. Look at all we have, and still continue, to endure. If we allowed ourselves to be broken by every difficulty we encountered, we could not survive. But, we do. Don’t hate me because of my strength! Please!

What must I do to receive equal and adequate healthcare? Act weak and defeated and get in a wheelchair and have people at my beck and call? As long as I am able to care for myself, I will continue to do so. I just find it disgraceful that they would much rather see you in such a condition before they decide to help. If they decide to help. It’s sad, but it’s true.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Chanell Burnette is a writer incarcerated in Virginia.