Serena Williams, the greatest athlete of all time, nearly died after giving birth. Grand Slam wins and endorsement deals did not save her from the reality of being a black woman in America.
A recent Vogue profile of Williams with new husband Alexis Ohanian along for good measure, revealed how quickly her life hung in the balance after giving birth to their daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian, Jr. It’s an extraordinary story. Not only did Williams identify her own life-threatening symptoms, she successfully advocated for herself and saved her own life.
Her postpartum complications continued from there.
ProPublica has been running an extraordinary series on preventable postpartum deaths in the U.S. Between 700 and 900 women die each year, a number far higher than other wealthy nations. And that number appears to be rising. One study they cite suggests that some 60% of these deaths are preventable.
But black women fare far worse. Black mothers die at three times the rate of white mothers, and nothing – not wealth, fame, access to expert advice, education – seems to be improving our odds.
Poverty and inadequate health coverage may be a factor in some cases, but the issue is far more complex. And it’s systemic. Women who give birth at hospitals that serve black populations are more likely to experience serious complications and inadequate care than women who give birth in other facilities. Long embedded biases in the health care system mean that black women struggle to find providers who take their symptoms and pain seriously, explain their treatment options or simply regard them with respect.
From a recent ProPublica investigation:
And the pervasive stress of racism and race-based trauma erodes the health of all people of color, but particularly women.
Serena knew her body, her risk factors and was comfortable speaking up on her own behalf — and she still nearly died. In a clear thinking country, statistics as grim as those surrounding black maternal mortality would be a cause for alarm and a call to action. The all-too-familiar silence is deafening.
|Corporate CEOs to Congress: Save the Dreamers|
|Some 115 CEOs and business leaders sent a letter to Congress yesterday, urging lawmakers to ensure DACA protections by January 19th. Among the signers were Mary Barra, Jeff Bezos, Tim Cook and Mark Zuckerberg. “The imminent termination of the DACA program is creating an impending crisis for workforces across the country,” they wrote. Expect to see the letter run as full-page ads in newspapers across the country.|
|YouTube kicks vlogger Logan Paul to the curb|
|Paul, who has recently come under fire for posting a deeply disturbing video which showed the body of a person who had died by suicide in Japan’s Aokigahara forest, has been largely canceled by YouTube. The channels managed by the popular vlogger have been removed from Google Preferred, a premium ad platform, and his series Foursome, set for its fourth season, has not been renewed. The professional jerk/prankster has more than 15 million subscribers.|
|The million dollar gender pay gap and a life lesson|
|Social feeds erupted in protest as a report of disparate pay for the male and female stars of the recently released feature film All the Money in the World surfaced. The film went back into production to re-shoot scenes after the studio decided to remove Kevin Spacey amid allegations of sexual misconduct. Mark Wahlberg negotiated $1.5 million for the work, while co-star Michelle Williams showed up for a standard $80 per diem – in solidarity with the stand the studio was taking. She was not informed of the negotiation. Needless to say, #TimesUp Twitter was not having it. Says The Broadsheet’s Kristen Bellstrom, this kind of altruism is notable, but not if it comes at the cost of your career. “While I don’t necessarily want to be a cheerleader for ruthless selfishness, when it comes to work, please remember that it’s okay to put yourself first.”|
|The creator of the “Shitty Media Men” list reveals herself|
|The list was posted last October, a private, crowdsourced Google spreadsheet for people to post allegations of sexual misconduct by men in publishing and magazines. A digital whisper network, it was intended to be a way for women to protect other women from harassing, powerful and often very violent men. The list grew to include an alarming number of allegations and sent ripples through the publishing world. Though it was meant to stay private, it went viral quickly – amplified by a Buzzfeed article, then later on Reddit. The firestorm it created rages on: Faced with a public doxing in an upcoming Harper’s piece, the list creator, Moira Donegan, revealed herself and her rationale in an essay last night. Among many other things, she’s lost friends and her job. “The hope was to create an alternate avenue to report this kind of behavior and warn others without fear of retaliation,” she wrote.|
The Woke Leader
|Christians of color rethink their cultural roots|
|The whiteness of evangelical spaces and the often upsetting disconnect between Christian devotion and racism is encouraging some deep reflection among Christians of color. While this conversation isn’t new, the rise of the evangelical Trump voter base has encouraged Christians of color to explore ways to incorporate their trauma, experiences and ancestral faith traditions into a worship practice that de-centralizes white evangelicalism. One organization fostering these conversations is the Mystic Soul Project, a Chicago based group. Journalist Deborah Jian Lee, author of Rescuing Jesus: How People of Color, Women & Queer Christians are Reclaiming Evangelicalism, offers important context to this movement and a poignant dispatch from one Mystic Soul retreat. “For Christians of color embarking on reclaiming ancestral traditions, letting go of the dogmatic elements of any particular tradition—whether Catholic or evangelical—is often a difficult first step,” she writes. Well worth your time.|
|How segregated is your school district?|
|School districts have been increasingly gerrymandered to exclude certain students. As a result, schools in the South, for example, are as segregated now as they were in the Brown v. Board of Education era. In some cases, race-based school districting is increasingly assigning white neighborhoods to schools that are farther away from them and whiter than their own communities. The situation is complex, but Vox offers a good visual explainer and an interesting tool that will let you check how your district fares.|
|A puppy gets an MFA in saving precious artwork|
|There is no reason this blurb needs to be here except sometimes the world needs a story about a puppy. Riley is a Weimaraner baby dog recently hired by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston to help get ahead of any potential infestations that might harm priceless artwork. His task is to sniff out moths or bugs who can damage textiles, wood or other organic materials. He is an adorable addition to the more standard protocols the museum uses to protect its collection. Riley is currently being trained. Good results could mean an outbreak of cuteness at fusty fine art establishments near you. I suppose it would be better if Riley were a rescue mutt, but at least he’s got a job. He looks like a very good boy.|