On Maternal Healthcare, Race Trumps Everything

Oscar H. Blayton | 5/16/2018, 11:37 a.m.
There are so many lies in American popular culture, beginning with the moment we’re born – in the maternity ward. ...
Oscar H. Blayton

What these news outlets did not report is that the United States ranks 61st in maternal health, 42nd in children’s well-being and 89th when it comes to the political status of women.

The high infant and maternal mortality among black women and babies is masked by the low numbers among more affluent Americans. For example, Save Our Children points to a 2011 study that revealed that infants in Washington D.C.’s Ward 8, where half of all children live in poverty, died at a rate more than 10 times higher than the death rate of infants born in Ward 3, the richest part of the city. The report also pointed to San Francisco, where an African American mother is six times as likely as a white mother to lose her baby before her child’s first birthday.

Because the United States performs well on economic and educational status in the Save Our Children study, the country is able to mask its abysmal performance when it comes to the health and well-being of expectant mothers and newborn babies.

Black expectant mothers, whether they are well educated or poorly educated, deserve the best health care this country can afford. But pointing out the disparity in health care between well-educated black mothers and poorly educated white mothers brings into focus the significance of race relative to health care because education is supposed to be the great equalizer. But just as race trumps everything else in America, race trumps education.

Those who brag about America having the best health system in the world, like those before them who touted the benefits of chattel slavery, have no interest in the truth. They merely want to keep the truth from us, because knowledge is power.

Oscar H. Blayton is a former Marine Corps combat pilot and human rights activist who practices law in Virginia.