10 Reasons African Americans Should March on Washington About Health Care

August should have been marked by black rage at the status quo—rather than white paranoia about change.

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Never mind Joe Wilson and the tea baggers. You know who really ought to be breaking congressional decorum and marching on Washington about health care? Black people. We ought to be so angry about the disastrous health care system that we disrupt society at every level until it gets fixed.

Why? Well, don’t expect our post-race president to make the point, but nowhere are the festering wounds of race in America more visible than in our broken health care system. From cancer to infant mortality,  its disparate outcomes across racial lines are staggering.

Right-wing advocates worked hard during the Bush years to frame them as the results of individual choices, and surely, we all need to do a far better job of taking care of ourselves. But it’s also plain that racial disparities in health cut too profoundly across too many illnesses to be dismissed as solely about bad behavior. You name the illness, and blacks are more likely to get it and less likely to survive with it.

Here’s a list of ills to boil your blood and get you shouting at your own congressional representatives.

10 reasons black people should be mad as hell about the health care status quo. 

1. Uninsured. Forty percent of black Americans reported being uninsured for some portion of 2007-2008, compared to 1 in 4 whites. And it’s not just about income, nearly a quarter of blacks making more than $84,000 a year lacked coverage at some point, compared to 16 percent of whites in that income bracket. 

2. Early death. If black America were its own country, it would rank 105th in the world for life expectancy, behind places like Algeria, the Dominican Republic and Sri Lanka. We’re barely in the developing world.

3. Infant mortality. Black infants are 2.5 times more likely to die than white newborns. Again, if black America were its own country, we’d rank 88th in infant mortality rates. (Hat tip to my Black AIDS Institute colleagues for the global comparisons.)

4. Cancer. It’s the second-leading cause of death in America, but that means more to some than others—the black male death rate is 37 percent higher than whites and the black female rate is 17 percent higher.

5. Breast and cervical cancer. Black women are twice as likely to die from cervical cancer as whites and while breast cancer deaths are dropping for whites, black women continue to die at higher rates than anybody else. Why? No preventive care to catch cancer early enough to treat it.

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