Why in the United States, the richest country in the world, are black women 2 to 6 times more likely to die in pregnancy and birth compared to white women? (It’s not just in the United States, but that’s where the current statistics are taken from – in Ireland migrants and ethnic minorities are disproportionately failed, suffer, and die due to racism/white supremacy)
White supremacy has built the conditions in which Black women in particular will suffer. We have modern gynaecological knowledge from medical experimentation, assault, and abuse of three known and named American slaves – Anarcha, Lucy, and Betsey at the hands of white men, for the benefit of white women. .
Today, our ignorance continues : Black patients receive less pain medication for broken bones and cancer. Black children receive less pain medication than white children for appendicitis. White people’s ‘racial bias’ (racism) systematically undertreats Black people – believing their skin to be ‘thicker’, their pain threshold higher, and/or simply not empathising with a person of colour compared to a white person. Black people are left longer waiting, not believed, racially profiled as being on drugs, and not considered as high of a priority to white people. .
Not only do we have white supremacy at the foundation core of modern medicine, we also have little to no access in poorer communities for medical access and check ups. There’s more to this point – when we get into why we even have poor neighborhoods, communities, entire cities.
As white people, it is on US to listen to these facts, and to centre them in improving maternity and healthcare. There is NO REASON why a Black person, or person of colour would receive inadequate healthcare to white people. We are participating in the mistreatment, abuse, and death of ethnic minorities when we do not address this straight on.
What can we do?
To be a Black mother in America is an uphill battle from the moment of conception. Access to safe healthcare where her concerns and needs will be listened to is few and far between.
I touched on the gynaecological racism and torture that has lead us to today –
And then we get to the history of breastfeeding – where enslaved Black mothers were made to leave their own babies starving to feed a white baby at the breast.
After abolition – living in poverty created by white people, without critical community and support – breastfeeding is a communal learned skill – the infant formula companies begin to weave their way in. White saviours.
Historically Black mothers and babies have been denied the right to breastfeeding. Systematically they are taken advantage of, swooped in with formula, living in poverty – with milk dried up and no choice but to feed a baby expensive infant formula. To feed a hungry baby and make it stretch to afford more, bottles become watered down or filled up with fillers. The health of Black babies at risk, the postpartum mental healthcare for Black women nonexistent, and the racism within our healthcare systems that have been proven to treat white children with more care than people of colour.
I digress.. White women, our pregnancies, births, our breastfeeding, our communities have benefitted from the inhumane treatment, abuse, and torture of Black mothers and babies.
What happens when Black women receive better healthcare? When they have access to holistic pregnancy and birth support? When they can breastfeed and find empowerment in their body and mothering that white supremacy tried to strip?
What happens is that WE ALL BENEFIT. Our society becomes healthier, happier, more successful.
What can we do?
– accept how uncomfortable it is to realise that we benefit from the mistreatment and abuse of others.
– look into becoming a service user representative for your local hospital to bring these issues up. Let’s face it, a Black person is less likely to be listened to and taken seriously
– as we already see. Black people and ethnic minorities should be taking up most of the space at the table, and as the leaders. When a Black person enables change within this system, everyone benefits.
– learn your own biases (racism) – we all have them, we were born into a society of white ‘supremacy’, it’s impossible not to – but it IS possible for us to work on this and end it.