February has been recognized as Black History Month in this country since 1976. This is an important time to reflect on and honor Black history, while also recognizing that much of what Americans consider to be “history” did not occur that long ago. The legacy of slavery in this country continues to be manifested in Black people’s experiences with the healthcare system and the resulting health disparities we see today.
- 11.4% of of non-elderly Black Americans remain uninsured compared to 7.8% of white Americans.
- In nearly every state, Black people are more likely than white people to die early from preventable causes which can be attributed in large part to generations of structural racism, oppression, and other factors beyond health care delivery such as lack of insurance (see here for inequity metrics by state.)
- Nonelderly Black people are more likely than white people to fall in the Medicaid “coverage gap” because a greater share live in states that have not expanded Medicaid.
- Low-income Black adults have been particularly impacted by the economic fallout of the pandemic experiencing higher rates of job loss compared to their white counterparts resulting in loss of private coverage.
These statistics can be overwhelmingly discouraging, prompting many of us to wonder how we might start to address these inequities at an individual level. As a white ally to the Black community, I believe that an important first step is self-education. My path to self-education began when I was in college, when I realized my education prior to then had been woefully inadequate in matters of race. One way in which I continue to educate myself is by immersing myself in books that deepen my understanding of the enduring legacy of racism and what we can do about it. A few of my book recommendations include:
- The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Greatest Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
- Becoming by Michelle Obama
- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
- Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
- Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America’s Heartland by Jonathan M. Metzl
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
- Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
- How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
- We Keep Us Safe: Building Secure, Just and Inclusive Communities by Zach Norris
Please feel free to share any additional book recommendations with me – thank you!
Black history should be honored every day. We must galvanize as a country to confront the dangerous reality of systemic racism, expose the inequities in healthcare, and support Black communities as members and allies.