Day 26 - 28 Love Letters to Black Women
This Black History Month, I am sharing 28 stories of Black women who shaped me and showed me the way towards liberation. Because Black women are often not cited for their ideas, I thought this would be one way to give flowers to those who influenced me.
On Day 26, I would like to honor the work of journalist and educator Linda Villarosa for her work to shift narratives about racial health disparities.
Linda Villarosa was born in Chicago and grew up in suburban Denver, as one of the only Black children in a predominantly white community. Linda would grow up to be the health editor of Essence Magazine and the New York Times and author several books.
In her newest book, Under the Skin, Villarosa lays out how the long history of racial bias and discrimination from medical professionals has directly contributed to racial health disparities leading to an increase of early death in Black people in America. The book shares how current (and false) ideas about differences in Black bodies compared to white bodies have origins in justifying slavery.
In the book, Villarosa shares stories of horrific experiences of Black people attempting to receive medical care. As I read these stories, I was struck by the harshness of the “care” provided. It brought MANY memories of my own experiences. A few years ago, I was very ill, dehydrated, and had a high fever. My body wasn’t responding to the OTC medicine, so I went into the emergency room. I’ll never forget the look of pure disgust when the doctor came to see me. I’d seen that look before and felt the racism radiate off of the doctor. After I told him what was wrong, he sneered and said I just had the stomach flu. He said he could give me an IV to rehydrate but that was “just a waste,” so I should go get some gatorade and go home. It was clear to me that my life and health did not matter to this doctor. He didn’t think I was worthy even of hydration. He discharged me with no care provided. I was lucky and was able to get another appointment with a GI doctor. This doctor looked concerned when I told him my symptoms. He asked a couple of questions and found out I’d been on three rounds of antibiotics. He immediately tested me for c-difficile. He was right. C-difficile can be deadly if not caught early and treated, and if I had not gone to the second doctor, I may have died just because the first doctor couldn’t be bothered with my Black life.
My experience is not unique. I’ve had other similar experiences, as have other Black women. The medical system does not seem set up to see our full humanity and treat us like we matter. Linda VIllarosa’s work to highlight how racism is taking years away from Black people in this country will hopefully inspire medical professionals to address their bias and racist ideas about Black people.
Thank you, Linda Villarosa, for your work to highlight the root and history of racial health disparities - our very lives depend on the change you advocate for. #28LoveLetterstoBlackWomen #BlackHistoryMonth2023 #Day26
Image Description: Picture of Linda standing in front of a stone wall. She is smiling and wearing a black blazer and teal button up shirt.