Ain Heath Drew
Since the feminist movement of the late-
60s to present day, black women have consistently questioned our place and agenda within the larger contexts of both the feminist and black power movements.
We have always worked. We have always been contributors to the home. We have always fought side-by-side with our brothers when we speak about issues that impact our communities from police brutality to equitable education. While we don’t struggle on an island, there are certain problems that seem to effect black women on a much larger scale. And while I can list off several, the current, most pressing issue for black women and the sustainability of our communities is access to quality healthcare.
Black women have always been viewed as strong, able to endure the incomprehensible pain of slavery, the brutality of Jim Crow, and the abuse of modern patriarchy. We’ve gone from being seen as women of animalistic strength because that’s how they saw us – savages, to being seen as strong because that’s how we wanted to be seen.
But we are both soft and strong. This duality is what fueled the womanist movement.
Unfortunately, many healthcare prof
essionals don’t appreciate our duality. We are seen as strong – to a fault. So strong that our complaints of pain go ignored. So strong that it’s assumed we can endure what a white woman, in the same context, could not.
On January 2nd, 25-year-old Tashonna Ward went to Froedtert Hospital with chest pains and trouble breathing. She sat in the waiting room for six hours before leaving to seek more responsive care. Subsequently, Ward collapsed and died. This story isn’t an anomaly. Professional tennis legend Serena Williams also shared her story of racial bias when undergoing the birth of her daughter. The dismissal and misdiagnosis of black women’s pain crosses class lines. Not even the best insurance and access can ease our fears of what should be the most beautiful experience of many women’s lives – childbirth.
The black woman’s agenda has to demand that the healthcare industry attends to our needs and are held accountable when they refuse to listen to our cries. Too many of our sisters have died under circumstances they shouldn’t have simply because our pain is underestimated, and worse, disregarded. Equity in healthcare is a civil right, and we shouldn’t have to ask for healthcare professionals to be compassionate and empathetic. We cannot inch closer to equity without our health and wellness in the front seat.