Black immigrants reside in communities that suffer from historical and ongoing structural racism, while facing unique barriers related to the immigrant experience.

by Christina Pardo for Blavity News

Recently, the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise sent shock waves to Haitians across the globe. For many, the assassination of President Moise was another example of a “failed state,” but nothing could be further from the truth.

The people of Haiti continue to suffer the consequences of racism after they fought for independence from France, becoming the first free Black Republic in the Western Hemisphere. What followed was a history of exploitation and neocolonialism resulting in political and economic instability. As a result of a long history of traumatic events, ranging from political instability to natural disasters such as the 2010 earthquake, Haitians and their descendants continue to experience post-traumatic stress. 

The shocking assassination of President Moise is the crescendo of nearly 18 months of escalating epidemics of violence and COVID-19, with Haiti being the only country in the Western hemisphere without the readily-available COVID-19 vaccine. While all this occurs, the group with the most significant risk of devastating impact continues to be marginalized and neglected — Haitian mothers.

As a Black Haitian-American OB-GYN, I am clear about the consequences of minimizing women and mothers as we continue to organize and heal. Over the past several years, there has finally been an increased focus on the unacceptable rate at which Black women die from pregnancy complications caused by racism and its manifestations ranging from the impact of chronic stress on individuals, to bias in healthcare settings and differential access to resources. Public health and medicine have yet to fully acknowledge and mitigate how other spheres of oppression — like anti-immigrant rhetoric and violence — contribute to the Black maternal health crisis.

Haitian women and pregnant people continue to pay the ultimate price for this neglect. In New York City where I live, Haitian immigrant mothers have the highest risk of complications in pregnancy than any other group. Infants born to Haitian immigrants have also been shown to have increased risk of infant mortality when compared to most other Black immigrant populations. The unique barriers and contributors include those related to immigration, language/cultural barriers and something not discussed enough — xenophobia.Continue reading

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