Before desegregation in the United States, black women were not allowed to give birth in the same hospitals as white women. The hurdles black healthcare professionals faced in education segregation paired with fewer resources resulted in care that was sorely lacking compared to the care white people received. Coupled with poorer living conditions within this broken system, poor health outcomes felt inevitable for generations of black Americans, and still do to this day.
Even after hospitals became integrated, black communities have remained underserved. In many ways, the passage of the Affordable Care Act is the first time black communities have had a significant move towards equality in healthcare since integration, and it’s not irrelevant that the states that have fought the ACA most vehemently are those where black people face worse systemic discrimination than others. Seven of the ten states with the highest black populations chose not to expand Medicaid. Over half of the people categorically unable to afford insurance are black, and 30% of people without affordable coverage options are black.
This is an area where we clearly have a lot of work to do. The ACA alone isn’t enough to bring true equality in healthcare, and we must also defend it with everything we’ve got in order to protect the progress we’ve made. Pressuring your legislators to protect and expand it (at the state level as well as federal!) is just one of many ways you can work for racial justice in America.
This incredible photo features Maude Cullen, nurse and midwife, who provided healthcare to underserved communities in South Carolina. She trained hundreds of midwives to help bolster quality maternal care throughout the state. Read more about her here: https://buff.ly/3dzIZGz
Photo Credit: W. Eugene Smith, LIFE Magazine, 1951