Required Reading on Racial Health Disparities

On a related note, this post on Thejugglingmatriarch’s Blog should be required reading for all midwifery students and birth workers. It is a beautifully written piece outlining the ways in which our history of slavery as a nation directly affects Black women’s and Black children’s health outcomes today. She says in part:

Nearly 300 years of slavery, and the formal and informal systems of segregation that followed in the century and a half since, have left a specific mark on the lives of black women, leaving them vulnerable to all measure of abuse.  This is especially clear when we look at the issue of reproduction. As slaves, African American women were compelled to create property for their masters, to understand the painful truth that on a legal level, the children they birthed were not their own.  As free people in the twentieth century, they have been roundly condemned for having babies at all, caricatured in the later decades as “welfare queens” and irresponsible single mothers, and/or victimized by campaigns that forced sterilization without consent and tied government economic support to compulsory contraception. Talk about being damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

African American women have resisted this abuse and victimization since the moment it began, but they have fought against a government and a society with little empathy and a seemingly inexhaustible willingness to continue sacrificing their health and wellbeing for economic gain.  The reasons why are complex, but to put it very simply, American society has evolved into a place where there is an often unspoken acceptance of the notion that black women and children just don’t matter very much.


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