Role of Structural Racism
“Laws have kept Black people from freedom, from voting, from education, from insurance, from housing, from government assistance, from health care, from shopping, from walking, from driving, from breathing…”
– Professor Ibram X. Kendi, Founding Director of the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research and one of America’s leading antiracist voices 1.
Structural racism is a system of policies, rules, and laws that produce and reproduce relentless, race-based inequities. More specifically, structural racism is the normalization and legitimization of historical, cultural, institutional and interpersonal injustices that routinely privilege and advantage whites, while producing long-term adverse outcomes for African Americans and other people of color. Structural racism is not something that a few people or institutions choose to practice. Instead, it has been woven into the fabric of the U.S. and is a feature of the social, economic and political systems in which we all exist 2. Read More
Structural racism in health care means that African-American women receive poorer quality of care than white women. It means the denial of care when African-American women seek help when experiencing pain, or when health care providers fail to listen to them, include them in decisions about their care, and treat them with dignity and respect 3. Structural racism has led to poor birth outcomes such as premature birth, low-birthweight babies, or worse – maternal or infant death – for African Americans at much higher rates than whites. In addition, African-American women experiencing the effects of structural racism over the course of their lives are subject to higher rates of toxic stress. Toxic stress is stress resulting from strong, frequent or prolonged adversity – such as racism and discrimination, extreme poverty, neglect, depression, exposure to violence, and emotional or physical abuse, among others. When this type of stress is constant, it becomes “toxic” to the body and leads to many physical, mental, and emotional health problems, and can put a mother and her infant at risk for poor birth outcomes.4 Read More
- Kendi, I. X. (2017). Stamped from the beginning: The definitive history of racist ideas in America. Random House.
- The Aspen Institute. Accessed online at: https://www.aspeninstitute.org/blog-posts/structural-racism-definition/
- Taylor J, Novoa C, Hamm K and Phadke S. “Eliminating Racial Disparities in Maternal and INfant Mortality: A Comprehensive Policy Blueprint”. (Washington: Center for American Progress 2019). Available at: https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/women/reports/2019/05/02/469186/eliminating-racial-disparities-maternal-infant-mortality/.
- Alio, A. (2017). “Toxic Stress and Maternal and Infant Health: A Brief Overview and Tips for Community Health Workers.University of Rochester Medical Center, NYS Maternal & Infant Health Center of Excellence. Accessed online at: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/MediaLibraries/URMCMedia/finger-lakes-regional-perinatal/documents/Toxic-Stress-_27June2017_Final.pdf