Is ‘Racism’ Killing Black People?

Gregory Hood, American Renaissance, December 15, 2017

What else could it be?

Black women are more likely to die during childbirth. And it’s your fault.

“Black women in the US are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than their white counterparts,” states an article in the Huffington Post, and racial disparities exist “even when socioeconomic status is accounted for.” The author, a “health & social justice advocate based in Washington, DC,” says the racism helps explain it:

Maternal mortality in the Black community is at its core tied to the experience of living while Black in the US, which can be a very stressful and traumatizing experience. The stress prompted by racism, discrimination, poverty, sexism, injustice, and violence, can cause a physiological response known as ‘fight or flight.’ While this stress response is beneficial in short-term situations, chronic exposure becomes harmful.

There has been a spate of recent articles blaming white racism for the relatively high black rate of maternal mortality. Indeed, racism is so powerful that even the tragic deaths of wealthy and educated blacks are laid at its door.

For example, NPR’s story on black maternity highlighted the death of Shalon Irving, an African-American woman who was a lieutenant commander in the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service. Irving died only a few weeks after giving birth, and the explanation could hardly be poverty or poor education.

Indeed, as author Nina Martin noted:

[E]ven relatively well-off black women like Shalon Irving die and nearly die at higher rates than whites. Again, New York City offers a startling example: A 2016 analysis of five years of data found that black, college-educated mothers who gave birth in local hospitals were more likely to suffer severe complications of pregnancy or childbirth than white women who never graduated from high school.

Rather than ask whether genetics might play a role, the author quotes the chief medical director of Planned Parenthood Federation of America to tell us that Irving’s story is really about “how profound the inequities really are.”

NPR reaches back into Irving’s childhood in Portland to find more evidence of America’s all-encompassing racism: “Even in its current liberal incarnation, Portland is one of the whitest large cities in the U.S., in part a vestige of the state’s founding by Confederate sympathizers who wrote exclusion of blacks into their constitution.”

CNN’s article on the subject included a quote from Dr. Elizabeth Howell, an obstetrician-gynecologist, who at least identified “genetic” factors as something to be considered when analyzing racial disparities. However, author Jacqueline Howard did not entertain such a possibility herself, instead citing unnamed commentators on the impact of “implicit bias and variations in the ways in which health care is delivered to black versus white women.”

More broadly, journalists often blame the “stress” caused by white racism for practically every health problem that affects blacks disproportionately. To cite a few examples:

This “racism equals stress” argument has even been used in the New York Times opinion page to justify limiting free speech, because speech that causes stress can be construed as a form of violence.

Of course, making an essentially unproveable and unfalsifiable assertion about all of society based on something as vague as “racism” is not science. If the trauma is so great, one would think foreign blacks would stop trying so hard to come to the United States.

Even if we grant the premise about the “stress” of being black, the trauma is likely to come from fellow blacks, who are far more likely than whites to commit crimes. Indeed, a study involving more than 2,000 blacks found their blood pressure dropped after they moved out of black communities such as those found in Chicago, Oakland, and Birmingham. Professor Kiarri Kershaw suggested one of the most probable explanations was that after moving into whiter neighborhoods, they experienced less violence, and therefore, less stress.

Furthermore, if the “stress” of white racism causes negative heath outcomes for blacks, one would expect the same for Hispanics. Instead, even the Huffington Post has discovered what has been called the “Latino Health Paradox.” According to a October 2010 report from the CDC, American Hispanics have a longer life expectancy than whites—and a far longer expectancy than blacks—despite lower-than-average incomes and education. Hispanics are also the group least likely to have medical insurance: 32 percent are uninsured, as opposed to 21 percent of whites, 18 percent of Asians, and 13 percent of whites. The long life expectancy of Hispanics undercuts the “racism” explanation, just as high Asian SAT scores demolish the claim that standardized testing is designed to serve white interests.

Hispanics, even including immigrant Mexicans, have a slightly lower infant mortality rate than whites. This is especially striking because Hispanics approach childbirth differently from other races. They are far more likely to refuse an epidural or avoid painkillers altogether. (Interestingly, Asians are most likely to take an epidural.)

Hispanics have been spared the crisis in maternal mortality plaguing blacks. According to figures from 2007, the maternal morality rate for black women was 28.4 deaths per 100,000 people, with a figure of 10.5 for whites. However, the figure for Hispanics was even lower, at 8.9 deaths per 100,000 live births. Figures from 2014 show the Hispanic rate is 16.8 per 100,000, compared to 20.7 for whites and 52.5 for blacks.

These figures reflect a rising national maternal mortality rate which more than doubled from 1987 to 2013. Explanations for this rise vary, but could include everything from better reporting that creates the illusion of more deaths; increased rates of obesity, diabetes and other health problems; or the older average age of American mothers. Age could help explain the relatively low maternal morality rate among Hispanics, especially Mexican immigrants, who tend to give birth at an earlier age.

The CDC’s figures for 2011-2013 show the disparity between white and black women, but do not break out Hispanics as a separate category. Instead, “women of other races” are shown to have a slightly higher maternal mortality rate than whites. However, as this category presumably includes Native Americans (who have a high maternal mortality rate almost comparable to that of blacks) and other groups, this doesn’t tell us very much.

The overall picture is complicated. A study in Hawaii found that Native Hawaiians have better outcomes in pregnancy and birth compared to whites, a finding that surprised the researchers. Japanese and Chinese mothers had worse outcomes than whites.

Unless Hispanics and Native Hawaiians are somehow immune to “white racism,” the theory that “stress caused by bigotry leads to negative health outcomes” does not appear to explain differences in maternal mortality. There are other possible explanations. There are social and biological differences in how different races go through pregnancy and childbirth, differences in the physical make up of women of different races, and differences in how infants of different races develop. On average, mothers of different races also have children at different ages.

A health problem that arguably has a more direct relationship to “stress” and racial morale is suicide. Black men have a far lower suicide rate than white men. Indeed, blacks have the highest levels of self-esteem of any racial group in the United States, which is odd for a group supposedly crippled by racism. Whites have a higher rate of drug overdoses than both blacks and Hispanics, and the mortality rate among middle-aged white Americans is soaring. And white women are more likely to report depression than blacks or Hispanic women, who are supposedly encountering chronic racism. Unlike people who study black health outcomes—who see their research widely reported in the media—some of those who have thrown light on the problems of whites have been threatened.

Anti-white rhetoric in colleges, in the media, and in pop culture has intensified in recent years, as the term “white” itself has become something of an insult. No one in a position of power appears to be concerned about white suffering, let alone how the anti-white atmosphere created by the cultural establishment might be contributing to it. At the same time, these same institutions blame whites for every conceivable problem facing African-Americans.

Ultimately, the message is clear. Black pain matters; white pain doesn’t. More importantly, whites are responsible for black pain, while white pain, even if it is recognized, has no cause worth investigating. The attention to dubious science that blames “white racism” for poor black health shows that the media and even some of the medical establishment are more eager to criticize white people than to solve medical problems.

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Gregory Hood
Mr. Hood has been active in conservative youth movements in the US.
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