Jahkara Smith: I’m 12 times more likely to die during childbirth in New York City

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I started following actress Jahkara Smith, 23, on Instagram a few months ago after seeing her on Hulu’s Into The Dark series in the Pure episode. (If you’re a horror fan that show is well worth watching.) She was so good on screen that I looked her up. On Friday I caught her on Instagram live and was mesmerized. She was talking about Black women giving birth in New York and the statistics around how deadly it is. I knew that Black women had much higher rates of dying in childbirth in hospitals but I didn’t realize how astronomically high it was or that in New York it was even worse. I had the chance to watch her entire video because she posted it on her stories and I’m a fan. Here’s what she said in that video:

She was in the Air Force
I was in the Air Force for four years. They’re racist. I was one girl among four in a squadron of men. It was like working in a f’ing frat house. The colorism alone. The number of times I heard ‘I don’t like Black girls but your color is fine.’ It’s racist and all of it has to go.

On how dangerous it is for Black women to give birth in New York
If I get pregnant and go to New York to have this baby, I am 12 times more likely to die in childbirth than a white woman. So all the white women watching this live right now, understand that if you and I go to the same hospital in New York to have our kids, I’m 12 times more likely to die. I won’t even get to meeting my f’ing kids because of medical bias. If you are not familiar with this, I encourage you to look at this, my white feminists specifically. The medical care system is killing black women…

12 times more likely. Do you know how f’ing terrifying that is for people who can’t afford to move out of New York City? Ask yourself what you’re doing to help advocate for those women. Ask yourself what organizations you’re donating to. Ask yourself what doula organizations you’re donating to.

The darker you are, the worse that it gets. The privilege that I have being lighter is unfounded. Even when they treat me like shit, they’re going to treat a darker woman ten times worse.

On racist young people going into the medical field
I don’t feel sorry for them. I don’t think that they should know better because if you are young. If you are 18 to 20 and you are still inherently racist and you still have slick shit to say at times like this than you have no business serving the general public. Black bodies make up the general public.

[From Instagram, Jahkara J. Smith]

I think often about how Serena Williams almost died with postpartum birth complications, even though she’s one of the richest and most famous women in the world. Serena told her story in Vogue in January 2018, where she described her history of blood clots and even then, medical professionals still didn’t immediately believe her when she was advocating for her own health. I’m a fan of Jahkara now, I like how clearly she explained the issue and that she’s trying to educate people. She started out as a beauty blogger on Youtube while she was in the Air Force, her handle was Sailor J, and she was profiled by the NY Times a couple of years ago. I’d really like to see more of her on screen.

Also, Jamie King gave her Instagram to her friend Krystina Arielle to tell the story about how she was dismissed and treated rudely at the hospital when she was pregnant and sick. I follow Krystina on Instagram and Twitter, I’ve DMed with her and she reads us. She’s had so many medical experiences like this, but thankfully her baby is happy and healthy.

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Hello all, it’s @krystinaarielle again. I want to discuss another issue within the Black community that needs immediate reform. The medical care that we receive. In January 2019, after battling infertility due to endometriosis I found out that I was pregnant. I was ecstatic. At one point in my pregnancy I got really sick. I was in so much pain that I went to the emergency room. When I got to the back the nurse laughed under her breath when I would mention that I was in pain and rolled her eyes. After waiting for another hour I told her “I understand that you are busy but I’m in pain and scared for my baby.” The nurse told me “Well we have ACTUAL sick people here. You aren’t sick you’re just pregnant.” She then gave me half a bag of an iv and sent me home. The next day I was so sick my husband drove me back. I ended up spending four days in the hospital because I had the flu. The flu is extremely dangerous when you’re pregnant and had I just listened to her instead of my body God only knows where I would be today. I continued my pregnancy and didn’t find out until my emergency c-section how high risk my pregnancy truly was. These are not the only stories that I have and certainly not the only ones that I’ve heard about the disparate treatment we face in hospitals. The disparity in care for Black women is astounding. It is a strongly held belief by some medical professionals that we can “take more pain” and have “thicker skin.” This mindset is not only wrong, it’s deadly. Black mothers die at a rate nearly three times that if their White counterparts. When Black women go to the hospital and day that we are in pain we are met with immediate doubt and concerns that we are “only here for pain medicine”. Well, yes we are. Because we are in pain. Hence the visit to the hospital. This is not just a phenomenon with Pregnant women, it is an insidious prejudice that endangers all Black women. To be doubted in your most vulnerable state because medical books say we have a higher pain tolerance is disheartening at best. If we want to battle systemic racism we can not just protest the police brutality, we have to combat all forms of it that lead to the deaths of Black people.

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Hello all, it’s @krystinaarielle again. I want to discuss another issue within the Black community that needs immediate reform. The medical care that we receive. In January 2019, after battling infertility due to endometriosis I found out that I was pregnant. I was ecstatic. At one point in my pregnancy I got really sick. I was in so much pain that I went to the emergency room. When I got to the back the nurse laughed under her breath when I would mention that I was in pain and rolled her eyes. After waiting for another hour I told her “I understand that you are busy but I’m in pain and scared for my baby.” The nurse told me “Well we have ACTUAL sick people here. You aren’t sick you’re just pregnant.” She then gave me half a bag of an iv and sent me home. The next day I was so sick my husband drove me back. I ended up spending four days in the hospital because I had the flu. The flu is extremely dangerous when you’re pregnant and had I just listened to her instead of my body God only knows where I would be today. I continued my pregnancy and didn’t find out until my emergency c-section how high risk my pregnancy truly was. These are not the only stories that I have and certainly not the only ones that I’ve heard about the disparate treatment we face in hospitals. The disparity in care for Black women is astounding. It is a strongly held belief by some medical professionals that we can “take more pain” and have “thicker skin.” This mindset is not only wrong, it’s deadly. Black mothers die at a rate nearly three times that if their White counterparts. When Black women go to the hospital and day that we are in pain we are met with immediate doubt and concerns that we are “only here for pain medicine”. Well, yes we are. Because we are in pain. Hence the visit to the hospital. This is not just a phenomenon with Pregnant women, it is an insidious prejudice that endangers all Black women. To be doubted in your most vulnerable state because medical books say we have a higher pain tolerance is disheartening at best. If we want to battle systemic racism we can not just protest the police brutality, we have to combat all forms of it that lead to the deaths of Black people.

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everything hurts & then u die

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