sick and tired: how racism impacts pregnancy outcomes
December 11, 2009 § 25 Comments
thanks to dou-la-la for this video.
how racism impacts pregnancy outcomes
notes from the video:
- the biggest myth in dealing with race and infant mortality is that people think that it is the consequences of social economics
- infant mortality rates among college grad white women is 3.7/1,000; among college grad black women is 10.2/1000
- college grade black women have a worse infant mortality rate than white women without a high school education (9.9/1000), in other words black women lawyers, doctors, engineers have a higher infant mortality rate than white women who didnt finish college
- life course perspective=that birth outcomes are not simply the product of the nine months of pregnancy, but are a consequence of a woc’s life experience
- racism is a stress that causes wear and tear on the body’s systems to adapt, hormonal, inflammatory functions, metabolic infections which creates an overload on the system
- everyday racism is like gunning the engine of a car without ever letting up
- studies done where during the day white and black patients blood pressure would be the same but at night the white person’s blood pressure would drop but the black persons blood pressure would stay the same
- there has been a lot done in terms of access to pre natal care to communities of color and yet have not seen a decrease in prematurity rates
- we expect pre natal care in nine months to reverse the cumulative effects of a lifetime of exposure to inequities. and that is probably expecting too much of pre natal care.
- if we really want to do something about improving pregnancy outcomes we need to start taking care of women over the course of their lifetime starting from in the womb and throughout childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and motherhood. taking care of women and families across their life course.
1 what really hit me about this video was the description of the consequences of racism as a stress that causes wear and tear on the body throughout the lifetime. this is what i find most difficult to describe to folks when they talk about ‘oh yeah, ive been discriminated too…for having freckles or kids used to tease me about my big ears…is that we are talking about apples and oranges.
the experience of day to day racism is continual trauma. and like all traumas, racial traumas manifest themselves through the body.
fannie lou hamer: we are sick and tired of being sick and tired. this is a visceral articulation of the experience of being a woman of color. to be ‘sick and tired’. to have one’s body constantly being revved up and never being able to bring it back down. and that when the white and black person went home, the black person’s blood pressure stayed as high as when she had been out in the public world. to me this is a very important point.
why? why didnt the blood pressure go back down when the black person arrived to the safety of her home. at night.
in part, because racism is not simply about individual attitudes, but it is structural. and by that i mean, the trauma of racism, is produced not simply by the racist attitudes and behaviours of ordinary folks in her day. but also by the structures that define and limit her life.
in other words: going home does not stop her from being black. furthermore, going home does not stop her from being conscious about being black. and black is not a neutral term/identity in this world. when we are triggered to be conscious of being black (or female), we trigger what is known as the stereotype threat. and of course stress.
2 this is also why i think the whole–oh, these women who are having these birth outcomes, are just uneducated about birth, and once they hear and read about natural birth, take some lamaze classes, understand the value of colostrum, etc. then those women will make better choices and boom! problem solved–is really condescending to women of color.
well, here’s the thing as the video points out. we already tried the whole educating marginalized women into better health outcomes. that is what the whole ‘pre natal care is vital to your baby’s health’ came from. and it hasnt worked. not at all.
and it should be noted that–education is the answer–is a very middle class (yes, even black middle class) response to a problem.
education is pretty much useless to improve birth outcomes, if women of color are being traumatized by racism daily, and the ‘education’ is ignoring that she will be a woc during her pregnancy, and birth, and the rest of her life.
3 i wrote this a couple of months ago: smart tips and empowered births
and why are black mothers dying at twice the rate as white mothers…? ill tell you my hypothesis. its because black women live in black communities. and in black communities the very air, the water, the grass, the houses. are poisoned. i think its environmental. mixed with not having access to fresh foods. and of course there is the stress of racism which is statistically deadly.
4 oh and just one more time: infant mortality rates among college grad white women is 3.7/1,000; among college grad black women is 10.2/1000–and–college grade black women have a worse infant mortality rate than white women without a high school education (9.9/1000), in other words black women lawyers, doctors, engineers have a higher infant mortality rate than white women who didnt finish college
i am not one to get into a ‘who has it worse’ racism vs. classism vs. homophobia vs. all the other structural oppression. i just want to take a moment and let it seep into my bones the incredible impact that racism has on the body and the life.
but of course when talking about race and class. it is important to note the wealth differential between white and black households. on average a white household will own 10 times more wealth (net wealth=everything you own) than black families with the same income and education.
5. and 1/3 of the us women population is of color. and 4/5 of the global womens pop is of color. and racism is global.