The impact of racism on healthcare in the Black community

From left: Moderator Jenna Flanagan, Dr. Uche Blackstock, and Dr. Aletha Maybank, seated on stage during the virtual event, celebrating Dr. Blackstock’s book Legacy, hosted by the Brooklyn Public LIbrary’s Center for Brooklyn History (BPL-CBH) on April 10, 2024.
Photo by Milette Millington

On April 10, in a virtual conversation moderated by journalist Jenna Flanagan, Dr. Uche (pronounced oo-chay) Blackstock, discussed her book, Legacy: A Black Physician Reckons with Racism in Medicine (2024), which highlights the issues in the U.S. healthcare system and how they affect the Black community, as well as how to fix them.

The conversation was hosted by the Brooklyn Public Library’s Center for Brooklyn History (BPL-CBH). Dr. Aletha Maybank, who is the chief health equity officer and vice president of the American Medical Association (AMA), was also part of the conversation.

Blackstock, who is also the founder and CEO of Advancing Health Equity, shared why she decided to write the book, saying that she wanted to help everyone understand why the statistics on Black health are so disturbing.

“It’s not because there is something intrinsically wrong with us, but that there is something very intrinsically wrong with the social institutions in this country, that are embedded with racism, that essentially prevent us from living long full lives and those are lives that we deserve to be full of love, birthday parties, graduations, retirement parties… we deserve all of that,” she said.

She also emphasized that despite advances in innovation, technology, and research we still  see a worse life expectancy for Black Americans and other Americans of color, as well as worse maternal mortality and infant mortality rates.

Blackstock wants everyone to understand that, “so that people are not making assumptions about there being something genetically or biologically inferior about us, because that is the easy takeaway from many of the headlines that we see  in the news. Even health professionals internalize and believe in it.”

Dr. Maybank, who is of Antiguan descent and the chief health equity officer and vice president of the American Medical Association (AMA), spoke about the patterns she has noticed throughout her career.

She emphasized that the narrative about  Black and brown people being inferior, and not being smart enough, have not changed, and the strategies that are used in order to oppress and keep people down have also not changed.

“I think we’re actually in a time where we’re able to talk about it in a different type of way. I’m not saying we don’t get pushed back, but I think COVID-19 exposed a lot and offered this opportunity for people to talk about inequities more. Also, the public murder of George Floyd, I think, really propelled this conversation around racism more explicitly,” she stated.

She added that although it may not be comfortable for people, this is what we deal with in our environment, and it’s crucial that people organize to fight against racism and not let it continue happening daily.

Those who are interested can purchase the book here:

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