Racial justice requires all of us to look beyond a month to sustained action

On this Black History Month, Universal has been celebrating Black doctors from history and Black Connecticut leaders who inspire us with their commitment to justice on Facebook and Twitter. We recognize that a few social media posts are not enough to uplift all the contributions of Black people to the many justice fights in the past and right now. We must honor all of them, by moving to action.

Last year, Connecticut’s state legislature declared racism a public health crisis, acknowledging what so many of us already know. All forms of racism – interpersonal, internalized, institutional and structural – can have traumatizing and even fatal consequences. 

We see this acutely in health care. When even tennis superstar Serena Williams cannot get adequate birthing care, how do other Black women stand a chance (source)?

  • Black women in the United States are more than three times as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women (source).
  • Black residents in Connecticut are three times more likely to die from asthma (source).
  •  Black Connecticut men are twice as likely as white men to die from prostate cancer, and are significantly more likely to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and to die from it (source).

And this is just a brief list of the health disparities experienced by Black people in our state.

A recent report from Access Health CT on health disparities (source) analyzed the differences experienced by two men born on the same day, just miles apart, in West Hartford and Hartford. The man that lives in Hartford dies almost 20 years earlier than the man living in West Hartford. We should not live in a state or country where your zip code determines your health or life expectancy.

We cannot have health justice or any kind of justice while health disparities and racism exist. We must actively seek to root out racism and dismantle white supremacist practice and policy. We must do more than acknowledge and celebrate, we must educate, activate, and advocate for equity and justice.

Universal is committed to health justice – we are champions for racial justice, together in the fight with allies across many issue areas. We believe that those most impacted by racist policies are those we should listen to for solutions.

Black History Month may be coming to an end, but the struggle for health equity and racial justice runs year-round, year after year, until we achieve justice for everybody. Universal means everybody.

If we want to truly commemorate Black history, we must co-conspire our way collectively to a just, equitable future.