Not to be grim on this Mother’s Day, but I recently came across this NYT article about Black women’s health as part of my research assistant job. This is just one of many texts I’ve read that covers the ways in which Black women disproportionately experience complications (and even death) during pregnancy. When I read things like
“black college-educated women were more than twice as likely to experience severe complications from childbirth as white women without a high school diploma”
it kind of makes me feel like my efforts to live well are in vain. What if I’m healthy but the doctor doesn’t recognize my pain because of supernatural assumptions about Black women’s strength? Does it really matter if I eat well and exercise regularly if the stress I experience on the job, on the subway and once I get home will just bring me down anyways? I’d like to think I have some control over my health, but do I really? In some ways, being intentional about living a healthy lifestyle is my way of saying, “I know that shit is going to happen, but I won’t take it laying down. I won’t take part in my own destruction.” I want that to be enough.
I know that as a Black woman in the academy, it’s already extremely hard to meet men that are even somewhat eligible, yet, I still have faith that I will eventually have a family of my own someday. In the class I teach, we recently read the introduction of Raising the Race by Riché J. Daniel Barnes, which illuminates how professional Black women adopt a strategic mothering approach where they stay at home or alter their work schedules to be a better support for their nuclear families. This offers an alternative to the be-all-do-all strong Black woman archetype. Honestly, maybe they are on to something. Maybe we need to think creatively about better strategies to ensure our livelihoods. Already too knee deep into my doctoral studies to turn back, it is quite clear that an advanced degree won’t save me. What will?