Our next blog post from the students of the module 'Race and Resistance' is by Leanne who is looking at Black Maternal Health Week:
For four years, Black Maternal Health Week has taken place during a week in April. Founded by the Black Mamas Matter Alliance (blackmamasmatter.org), it is a week dedicated to raising awareness about African American’s maternal health and the maternal mortality rate for African American women in the United States.
As stated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention DC website, 700 women die each year in the United States of something related to pregnancy. However, African American women are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than White women and therefore, this impacts them more significantly. The CDC also states that through research, up to half of these death are preventable. What is down to being a racial bias that continue to withstand today.
How did this issue begin?
During slavery, white people believed that Black people, including African American women, felt less pain, and this was used as a way to justify the treatment of black people during slavery. This idea was further established with the use of African American’s for scientific experiments.
As stated in the book titled Medical Bondage: Race, Gender, and the Origins of American Gynecology by Deirdre Cooper Owens, “Enslaved women played a central role in the advances made in gynaecology by early pioneering gynaecological surgeons, like Dr. Charles Atkins, who believed in the physical superiority of black women to bear pain easily.” During slavery, “these men held fast to their belief in black women’s physical strength and ease in childbirth.”
This resulted in the idea that black women were able to withstand pain more, particularly when it came to pregnancy and birth during slavery. Due to this misconception and belief constructed during slavery, this idea has now been carried into the 21st century and impacts African American women today in the form of racial bias which is through a bias during medical treatments.
Many African American women have experienced being ignored, treated incorrectly, and particularly, have experienced being undertreated for pain. That is shown through so many more African American women dying in relation to pregnancy and childbirth, compared to white women, when research shows that up to half of these deaths are preventable.
What can I do to help?
The Black Mamas Matter Alliance website provides information to educate people on this issue happening in the United States today. They provide literature suggestions, including books as well as articles and there are also ways to get involved through events. By the Black Mamas Matter Alliance website providing resources for people to access, to educate themselves and get involved, it raises awareness and by creating events for people to join, it provides a community for support too.
These are ways to resist, to help all African American women impacted, to save lives and to put an end to this issue happening in the United States.
1. Cooper Owens, Deirdre. Medical Bondage: Race, Gender, and the Origins of American Gynecology. (Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 2017). Pp. 9-10
2. Cooper Owens, Deirdre. Medical Bondage: Race, Gender, and the Origins of American Gynecology. (Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 2017). Pp. 10