Mortality and Black Skin

Whoa. That’s morbid. 

A friend of mine, a mother of Black daughters, recently posted on Facebook that in her county, the infant mortality rates were very different for white and Black babies. She added that the maternal morality rate was almost three times higher for Black mothers than for white mothers. 

Her final statement was a gut-punch: “My daughters are three times more likely to die in childbirth than their white peers.”

Wait… what? That sentence hit me because I now have a daughter and, because she’s four, I hadn’t really thought of her as a pregnant woman entering a hospital to give birth. But reading my friend’s statement made me think of Anna’s future.

I did some digging on my home state… the places I lived during my growing-up and young-adult years… where I’d be if not for our Army Adventure:

Within a 1-year time frame, infant deaths per 1000 births:

Mecklenburg County
4/1000 are White
10/1000 are Black

Rutherford County
7/1000 are White
11/1000 are Black

Gaston County (my first three sons were born here)
6/1000 are White
13/1000 are Black

Durham County
3/1000 are White
12/1000 are Black

Cabarrus County 
6/1000 are White
10/1000 are Black

Forsyth County
7/1000 are White
12/1000 are Black

As I scrolled, I noticed that the Hispanic infant morality rate is about equal to that of white infant mortality rate. So why are Black babies dying at such a higher rate? About double?

Someone suggested it could be drug-related but a quick research on the topic shows that drug use and sales are equally distributed across races, so there should be no disparities in infant mortality rates due to drug use. Not saying drug use isn’t a problem, just saying that pregnant women come in to hospitals with drugs in their system at equal rates, but but their babies don’t have equal chances at survival.

Thanks to my friend’s post, I decided to look up the Maternal Mortality rate for the state of NC. The news is even worse for mothers than it is for their babies:


Maternal deaths per 100,000 births in North Carolina (2013-2017)

White: 19.8
Black: 56.8

If you are just digging into the problem America has with racism and the topic of police brutality is too sensitive of a topic for you, I get that. I have a police officer in my family and many that I love, admire, and respect. None of whom fall into the category of law enforcement officers who would behave in any way other than with justice and equality. But the vast majority of those who are good don’t outweigh those who are bad, when we are all depending on them for our safety. We have to have 100% good. We have to be as strict with our demands of law enforcement as we are with our airline pilots and our teachers. We can’t let bad apples remain.

The current situations this year with Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd happen to be what brought racial injustice to the news. But if the topic of police brutality hits too close to home because you are an officer, or are married to one, consider another angle of viewing racial injustice. Consider the lives of the babies born in American hospitals. Consider the lives of the mothers who enter our hospitals, expecting to leave with a brand new bundle of joy. Consider how devastating it is to know that because of your skin color, your baby is twice as likely to die before he or she even has a chance. Consider entering the hospital knowing you’re three times more likely to die than your white friends.

The above statistics are for North Carolina as a state (maternal) and by county (infant).
Here are the statistics for our nation… it’s not just a Southern problem:

One of the reasons “All Lives Matter” is so offensive to Black individuals is because statistics like these exist. When attempting to advocate for “Pro-Life” policies, we must consider the lives of infants at birth as well as their mothers, otherwise we (Christians) sound incredibly hypocritical.

Resources:
* NC Infant Mortality Rates by County
* NC Maternal Mortality Disparities
* Drug Use and Sales by Race
* Image: CDC – US Infant Mortality Rate

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To educate and organize Christians for civic and cultural engagement that results in better representation, more just and compassionate policies and a healthier political culture.
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Previous posts in this series:
Intro: #OnceYouSeeRacism
1. Build your “talking about racism” muscles. – {general racism}
2. The Dangers of the Colorblind Mentality – (color blind mentality}
3. Be Color Brave, Not Color Blind {color blind mentality}
4. See and Honor Color {color blind mentality; “the talk”}
5. What is an Ally? {allyship}
6. Allyship – digging deeper {allyship}
7. What Privilege? {white privilege}
8. Nobody is mad at you for being white. Nobody. {white privilege}
9. What “White Privilege” is and is not. {white privilege}
10. Juneteenth… {freedom, history}
11. Erasing History… {freedom, history}
12. Jim Crow Laws {freedom, history}
13. Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man – Emmanuel Acho
14. Systemic Racism and Bob the Tomato {systemic racism; education; lending}
15. You are here {systemic racism; health care}

About Jennifer

"Yes, they're all mine." The answer to the question I hear most often.
This entry was posted in #OnceYouSeeRacism, Racism/Race Issues. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Mortality and Black Skin

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