Racism and It's Impact on Women

Racism and It's Impact on Women

Monday, January 20 marked Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a federal holiday recognizing the birthday of a man renowned for his nonviolent activism during the civil rights movement in the 1960s.

The following day will be the fourth annual recognition of the National Day of Racial Healing, always held the Tuesday after Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This recognition is led by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to be a broad community-based process of sustainable change in combating the effects of racism.

More than 550 U.S. leaders, including the American Public Health Association and the Association of American Colleges and Universities, organize community gatherings and activities to collectively bring people together in the spirit of healing the deep divisions created by racism. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly 60% of Americans believe race relations in the U.S. are poor, and nearly 80% of blacks say our country hasn’t gone far enough to give black people equal rights with whites.

Racism has a devastating effect on all people of color, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that racism leads to a high rate of black women dying in childbirth – black mothers are 3 times more likely to die in childbirth than white mothers. In New York City, they are 8 times more likely to die, and the infant mortality rate is more than twice as high for black children than for white children.

Dr. Deborah Kaplan, assistant commissioner at the NYC Department of Health, notes how deeply rooted in discrimination this problem is: “Racism was baked into the DNA of this country and since then every policy has reflected that history, including the myth that black people don’t experience pain like white people,” she said. “It affects people who are going to give birth and are complaining of pain or who may have a complication that is not taken seriously because of the color of their skin.”

Even tennis star Serena Williams fell victim to this type of discrimination – when giving birth to her daughter during a C-section in 2017, she reported that the medical staff did not believe her reporting she felt short of breath. Only when she insisted they check did a CT scan show she had a pulmonary embolism, requiring treatment that saved her life.

Statistics show that black people have a lower life expectancy than white people, and are more likely to suffer and die from chronic conditions like kidney, cardiovascular, and lung disease. The Southern Poverty Law Center says clearly,“racism is killing black Americans.”

The National Day of Racial Healing intends to bring people together to better understand our history and biases. The Kellogg Foundation has prepared a Conversation Guide to provide each of us with ways to talk about racism, racial equity, and racial healing with friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors. To get a copy or join the livestream on Tuesday, go to National Day of Racial Healing.

Chrysalis works to eliminate all types of discrimination, particularly gender discrimination. But the intersection of gender and race is clearly a huge barrier for girls and women of all ages, and it’s up to all of us to work toward ending it. Please share this information, and take time to have conversations with family and friends about ways we can learn and support our entire community.