Secret Black Handshake: When You & Your Black Doctor Don’t Get Along

Walking from Chidley Hall to the “cafe” on Chicken Day I spoke to everyone at North Carolina Central University. From Brooklyn to Chinquapin, North Carolina, I was shocked by my classmates’ different expressions of their Blackness. Years later, I continued my family legacy and became a Rattler on the Highest of Seven Hills. The music’s bass would shake the Set as the DJ shouted, “Sak Passe,” followed by the Haitian congregational response, “Map Boule,” on Friday at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. My time at NCCU and FAMU helped me understand the performance of Blackness had no script, hue or social limitation. We were trained for greatness with intentional exposure to the nuances of the Black experience. I understood that one bad relationship did not indict all Black folks. Equally, one great relationship did not symbolize all Black folks.

Before I dive into this piece, I need to know, Can I keep it real?

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We do not have a secret membership card or esoteric handshake for Blackness. We certainly do not have one in the hospital. Some patients really don’t respect their Black doctors. And some Black doctors really disrespect their patients. A more heightened set of rules apply within the encounter between a Black doctor and Black patient.

Patients probably expect the doctor to perform “my kind” of Blackness while maintaining the professional allure of being a physician. They cannot come off too real or too sadity. Negative encounters with Black doctors can shake a patient to their core. Some people need that tough love that can only be administered by someone who looks like them, while some folks expect a more endearing discussion. When either approach is applied incorrectly, this necessary relationship can break down.