Posted on March 2, 2022

Black Women Are Leaving the United States in Record Numbers—Here’s Why

Seun Shokunbi, Fodor's, February 24, 2022


I know too well why Black women feel unsafe in America. The most insignificant parts of any other woman’s week become nexus events forcing Black women into a corner, where we decide if we should risk it all to save ourselves. Many of us cross oceans to find refuge because the resources meant to “help” us in our own country turn into weapons used against us.

When I was involuntarily admitted into a psych ward last year (my first time being hospitalized for anything), help looked like sleeping on a gurney for 48 hours in the middle of an ER, unshowered. It looked like being sent to bathe where someone smeared feces over the walls, and hospital staff insulting or simply ignoring any questions I asked about why I was treated this way during the most difficult episode of my life.

My story isn’t unique and is, sadly, the best-case situation. Black patients are at a higher risk of being undertreated or dying as a result of racial bias in American hospitals. When it comes to mental health, Black women in the United States are less likely to seek therapy out of fear that they’d be indefinitely institutionalized and unfairly stigmatized. They also don’t believe doctors will offer treatments that provide significant improvements to their wellbeing.

I had no plans to stay within the prescribed rehabilitation planned for me when I was finally released from South Nassau Community Hospital. After barely getting out alive, there was no way I was continuing medical treatment in the States. Instead, I decided to move to Europe.

The Great Blaxit

My decision may seem dramatic, but the number of Black ex-pats moving to the continent is growing exponentially. Blaxit Tribe–Black Americans Who Want to Exit the U.S. & Move Abroad is one of the fastest-growing Facebook groups, with over 21,000 members either planning to leave the U.S. or who have already left. A Gallup poll showed that after the 2016 election, the percentage of poorer Americans planning their move out of America rose to 30%, higher than it was when Barack Obama became president.


“Travel can be a pivotal part of managing anyone’s mental health,” says Kenya Crawford, who is a licensed therapist and consultant on racial equity, LGBTQ folk, and mental health. However, she also adds that “travel has been positioned as [only] a luxury for most Black women who are attempting to survive in a capitalistic, racist, and misogynist society.”

My hospital stay was the final cylinder that fired my drive to leave America. After 10 years of being involved in social activism (e.g. Black Lives Matter protests), I doubted whether the political environment would ever change enough for me to thrive in this country.

Meanwhile, spending just two weeks outside of the U.S. lifted the strain I felt on my body and mind. {snip}

Is there something about American culture that makes it worse than Europe for Black women’s mental health? Crawford thinks so. “American culture is built on white supremacy that aims to devalue the livelihood of anything and anyone who does not strive to assimilate. This expectation has led to a toxic environment that can be nearly impossible to survive.”

The gag is that white supremacy originated from the European colonization of land belonging to Black and Brown people. So why is stress shortening a Black woman’s life expectancy by three years primarily in the United States? Look at what happened during my hospital stay for your answer. When it comes to the medical treatment of Black female patients, many American doctors use dehumanizing approaches that feel more like punishment than assistance. There’s an overreliance on numbing pain through medication, rather than considering how to change the circumstances that cause emotional pain.