Addressing Infant Mortality Is a Chance for Racial Healing

By Rollins, Bryant | The Florida Times Union, June 29, 2008 | Go to article overview

Addressing Infant Mortality Is a Chance for Racial Healing


Rollins, Bryant, The Florida Times Union


Byline: BRYANT ROLLINS

Last Wednesday, the Infant Mortality Task Force held its first meeting at the Jacksonville Community Council Inc. to begin mobilizing support for implementation of the 15 recommendations in the recently released study.

The 45 volunteers who gathered under the leadership of the Rev. Tom Rodgers have an opportunity to lead our city through a thoughtful process of racial awareness, racial reconciliation and racial healing, while advocating for solutions to the infant mortality crisis.

According to the study, racism is a root cause for our city being one of the worst places in the world for pregnant mothers and newborn infants.

We in Jacksonville tolerate outrageous Third World conditions. This is inexcusable in a vibrant, growing city that aspires to be world class.

By focusing openly, directly and courageously on racism as a root cause, the task force can create models that embody the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s idea of "the beloved community."

We can come together to address the issue of infant mortality as it affects all our citizens - white, Latino, Asian and African-American - citizens of all colors.

RACE AND INFANT MORTALITY

A revealing fact in the JCCI study is that high-income black women experience rates of infant mortality that are higher than low-income white women. This is alarming.

According to the study, a dominant cause of infant mortality is unhealthy, overstressed, mothers who fail to come to full term, or who deliver underweight newborn infants.

For African-American women, a main cause of this is the chronic, cumulative racial stress they experience on a daily basis because of how black women and men are treated in Jacksonville.

This is compounded by the fact that most African-American men and women have not figured out how to survive these challenges to self-esteem and self-worth free of stress.

In his acclaimed book The Race Myth, biologist Robert Graves writes that stress among black women and men comes from living in a culture that constantly devalues people because of the color of their skin. …

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