A psychosocial perspective concerning reproductive and sexual health for Black women acknowledges the role of institutional racism in preventing proper care through generations of women. Considering this, institutional racism can be used as a term to refer to all of the technicalities involved in preventing proper healthcare whether they be historical, social, political or practical.
In this article, the experiences of Black women in America concerning healthcare access, will be explored as a microcosm of what Black women experience worldwide. As a theoretical basis for this aim, the article “Racism, African American Women, and Their Sexual and Reproductive Health: A Review of Historical and Contemporary Evidence and Implications for Health Equity” by Cynthia Prather et al. is useful. All of the information given below is sourced from this text.
The inquiry observes inadequate healthcare and the social determinants including the effects of racism, unemployment and residential segregation which make Black women more vulnerable to negative health outcomes. These effects may not be easily reversed as they have a greater historical root.
The current demonisation of Black women’s sexuality is currently perpetuated through various media images, however it developed in more volatile conditions. The nude public inspections occurring during slavery and normalisation of rape has made it possible for the Black women’s body to carry distorted views of its divinity. The disregard for sexual agency and health made it possible for people active in governments and individual capacities of socio-political capital to see no issues with allowing Black women to be sites of medical experimentation.
The article gives an account of the faults of each era to love and protectBlack women. Matters only worsened after the period of slavery as the changing of laws did not guarantee fair health care practices as forced sterilisations, ovariotomies and other non-consensual gynae procedures continued. As the healthcare system correlated with the misconstrued assumptions concerning Black women, mistruths became structural making way for Eugenics programmes to be rife during the civil rights era as well.
Access to care thus became intermingled with the possibility that specific procedures would be conducted as a requirement along with access. Black women are therefore put into a very difficult position as their options for care were limited. Their bodies became subjugated in a fundamental way through the stifling of the great human expression of giving life. This is how the legacies of body ownership were converted into Black bodies being unfree as far as healthcare was concerned.
A few important examples of this would be the Tuskegee Syphilis study, which studied uneducated male participants from Alabama to study the effects of untreated Syphilis and was conducted between 1932-1972 by the U.S. Health Department. The study was problematic as it endangered the women sexually exposed to untreated participants. However, the healthcare system is continually dropping the ball. A 2012 Center for Disease and Control Prevent (CDC) report states that African American women are three times more likely than white women to have pelvic inflammatory disease and have higher statistics of HIV, Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea contraction.
The above historical breakdown serves to display what the authors of the source title “generational transmission” of poor sexual health. It is woven into the fabric of the economy and education system, limiting information and financial access to basic healthcare. New generations of Black women will have to struggle through various obstacles within society in order to safely birth a child or care for their reproductive health whether external stereotypes or immense psychological angst triggers a healthcare weakness.