Four hundred years ago, the first ship containing enslaved Africans arrived in British North America. Since then, systems and institutions in America have provided preferential opportunity to some citizens while simultaneously subjecting people of African ancestry to hardship and disadvantage. This opportunity imbalance has subjected African-Americans to disproportionately high rates of homelessness, incarceration, economic hardship, marginalized communities, and under-resourced educational institutions. This systemic racism has also driven health inequities, especially for women and children.
According to recent government data, Black infants in America are now more than twice as likely to die as white infants — 11.3 per 1,000 Black babies, compared with 4.9 per 1,000 white babies — a racial disparity that is wider than the one that existed in 1850 when the first infant mortality rates by race were recorded. The rates of maternal mortality are equally grim and cross all class and socioeconomic lines.
The reasons for the racial divide in both infant and maternal mortality have been debated by researchers and physicians for decades with considerable resources invested into programs, both in Cleveland and around the country, to combat these trends. But, are they working? And can they work if systemic racism isn't dismantled first?