Simply an African American Woman’s Skin Color

Abbie Key
4 min readFeb 11, 2021

Maternal deaths after birth are preventable, but the United States is turning a blind eye to the causes. When comparing the United States to other countries it is easy to see that we have a much higher maternal mortality rate. “In 2018, there were 17 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births in the U.S. — a ratio more than double that of most other high-income countries. In contrast, the maternal mortality ratio was three per 100,000 or fewer in the Netherlands, Norway, and New Zealand” (Maternal Mortality Maternity Care US Compared 10 Other Countries). How is it that a first world country like the United states has a high maternal death rate? Simply put, it’s racism. People of color, mostly black women, are more likely to be mistreated, and neglected during and after childbirth than a white woman. When just comparing New Zealand and the United States, as stated in the article, New Zealand’s racism far more casual than elsewhere, says academic, “New Zealand’s racism is far more casual compared to other places in the world.” The article focuses on Ekant Veer, an associate professor at the University of Canterbury. “He said while racism existed in New Zealand, it was less violent compared to what he experienced in the UK.” While Ekant Veer is comparing New Zealand to the United kingdom, even the UK has more maternal mortality rates, where racism is more prevalent. Looking at the graph, the UK is one of the top four highest maternal mortality ratios.

So basically, the countries with more racial injustice, have more deaths related to pregnancy, specifically people of color. Now that these statistics are being shown in the light, people are working to make a change. The Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance System (PMSS) research is one of many organizations that helped find the data that brings these discriminations to people’s attention. In the article about the Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance System, it states that there are “41.7 deaths per 100,000 live births for non-Hispanic Black women.” This death ratio is higher than any other race, second highest being non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native women that has “28.3 deaths per 100,000 live births.” An organization that is working hard to help these statistics down is the Black Coalition for Safe Motherhood. The author of the article Leslie Farrington is the co-founder of the Organization with Laurie Zephyri. The organization “promotes health care advocacy and holistic support for Black moms through interactive community programs. The focus of our programming is overcoming the obstacles to obtaining safe, respectful, person-centered care that honors the values, preferences, and needs of Black moms and families is the focus of our programming.” Farrington and Zephyri wanted to make sure the mothers are being taken care of and are giving much needed support. Having a support system and knowing people who will make sure you are taken care of will no doubt change the postpartum maternal mortality. “The coalition’s ACTT Curriculum encourages Black women and their supporters to Ask questions, Claim your space, Trust your body, and Tell your story. It also takes advocacy a big step further: ACTT participants practice asserting themselves when they are not heard, or are dismissed or disrespected in medical settings” (Black Coalition for Safe Motherhood). They ensure the mothers are supported while also letting them know of their rights and encouraging them to take a stand against any inequality. I really appreciate the work these women are putting into making sure everyone is treated the same no matter the skin color. I hope to help women deliver as a nurse practitioner one day and to help these women in making much needed change.

While thinking about the Black Coalition for Safe Motherhood and their encouragement of letting the mothers know their rights, it reminded me of the article we read for class about the murals. In the article Educating People About Their Rights, One Mural At At Time the author Raboteau goes on quest to find “the other Know Your Rights murals [that] were spread out across four of New York City’s five boroughs (excluding Staten Island, where a great number of cops live) in poor neighborhoods most plagued by police misconduct. For the rest of that summer and into the fall, I photographed as many of them as I could, like a magpie collecting bright things for her nest.” Whether it is a stop and frisk, or being pulled over by the cops, these artists in New York want people to know their rights and to remind them they should fight for change. The murals are the same thing as what Farrington and Zephyri are doing with their organization. Letting people of color know their rights and to know that they have a right to stand up to inequality.

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Abbie Key
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In a world where you can be anything, be kind