Reviews for Under The Skin: The Hidden Toll of Racism on American Lives and the Health of Our Nation

by Linda Villarosa

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A damning account of how race and racism determine the quality and quantity of medical care in the U.S. Patients in America enjoy what journalist and professor Villarosa characterizes as “the most advanced medical technology in the world.” Yet, she adds, by most measures, Black and other minority Americans are denied this technology. Though the author writes that there is nothing inferior or different about the Black body, for generations, a racist medical complex has persisted, supposing that, for example, Blacks possess “skin [that] is thicker than white skin” and feel less pain than do Whites. Less pain equals less anesthetic relief. So it is with many other aspects of health care. Daring to evoke critical race theory at a time when it arouses so many conservative legislators and school boards across the country, Villarosa examines the intersectionality of class, race, and gender. She notes, for instance, that George Floyd was suffering from Covid-19 at the time of his death, a fact that has bearing on the larger fact that there has long been significant “racial disparity in life expectancy” in the U.S. that was only heightened by the systemic lack of medical care in minority communities. Villarosa enlists numerous case studies to prove that point. On mental health, for instance, she observes that Black and other minority people are largely excluded de facto from treatment, a matter that again intersects with issues of “race and masculinity” that work to keep Black men from seeking help. Furthermore, whereas relatively few Whites died from AIDS after the development of the vaunted antiviral cocktail in the mid-1990s, it persisted long after in Black communities, which Villarosa, then writing for the New York Times, had to fight to report on, since “the epidemic was supposed to be over in America.” A closely argued case for racial and class equity in health care, revealing a medical regime sorely in need of reform. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.