Centering the Black Feminist Perspective: Supremacy Culture is the Barrier Black Maternal Health Never Needed

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Black Maternal Health Week is an opportunity to consider the alarming increase in Black maternal mortality as a social justice issue. The CDC reports that increases from 2020 – 2021 for all women increased, but the rates for Black women were significantly higher than other groups. Taking a collective pause to recognize this important issue is just as important as taking action. Black women are more than just numbers.

The evidence of positive and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs & PCEs)—also known as PACEs and resilience science—can lay the groundwork for deeper understanding of the Black maternal mortality crisis as a social justice issue. A PACEs lens considers the role toxic stress, including systemic racism, plays in short and long term health outcomes over a lifetime and the need to transform policies and systems. PACEs empower change that centers the most impacted communities.

In the Black feminist theory in maternal health research: A review of concepts and future directions review, social justice advocate and academic scholar Mia Brantley acknowledges the historical context of multiple systems of oppression against women of African descent. Brantley makes a compelling argument that what’s often absent from health research is Black Feminist Theory (BFT) as a framework for understanding Black women’s health and well-being. The review references BFT as the result of community activists and scholars being made invisible within a larger discourse surrounding gender inequality, which was often relegated to white, middle-class, women.

Brantley’s review sheds light on the growing body of Black Feminist scholars [that] have highlighted how, although the health of Black mothers is of the greatest concern, there lacks a focus and centeredness on Black women in maternal health research. It makes perfect sense that the work of Black feminist scholarship reveals that at the intersection of race and gender, Black women have specific experiences that are unique to being both “Black” and “woman,” which lends itself as a necessary framework for examining Black maternal health.

Trauma-informed awareness through a PACEs lens can support scholars to deeply embrace the invaluable perspective Black Feminist scholars have—and continue to provide, often with needless barriers. It’s important to consider that power is relational, contextual, and inequitably distributed; egalitarian relationships don’t really exist. Trauma-aware practices can support scholars in power shifting. Resilience-building frameworks can become an actionable roadmap to mobilize health researchers to center Black Feminist scholars and BFT perspectives on Black women’s maternal mortality and morbidity.

About the author: Kahshanna Evans brings her passion for uniting people through stories and trauma-informed awareness to her role as the Director of Creating Resilient Communities at PACEs Connection and as a senior level strategist and transformational change agent at Kissing Lions Public Relations. Kahshanna has been a leading strategic thinker and purpose driven content writer in various industries, including communications, tech, professional services, and wellness. Publications include Ebby Magazine, Social Lifestyle Magazine, MeetMindful, Huffington Post contributor’s platform, and as a senior writer for Industry Rules Magazine.

References:

Maternal Mortality Rates in the United States, 2021. 16 Mar. 2023, https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hestat/maternal-mortality/2021/maternal-mortality-rates-2021.htm.

Brantley, Mia. “Black Feminist Theory in Maternal Health Research: A Review of Concepts and Future Directions.” Sociology Compass, vol. 17, no. 5, May 2023, p. e13083. DOI.org (Crossref), https://doi.org/10.1111/soc4.13083.

Stevens, Jane. “PACEs Science 101 (FAQs) — Positive and Adverse Childhood Experiences.” PACEsConnection, 1 Oct. 2019, https://www.pacesconnection.com/blog/aces-101-faqs.

Dorlee. “Race Matters: How to Talk Effectively About Race.” SocialWork.Career, 17 Sept. 2015, https://www.socialwork.career/2015/09/race-matters-how-to-talk-effectively-about-race.html.

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