Black Women Best: The Fatal Stress of Oppression

Liberation in a Generation
2 min readMay 5, 2022

This excerpt is from the Black Women Best (BWB) congressional report produced by LibGen and the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls (CCBWG). It was written by Rejane Frederick with the support of the “Defining and Contextualizing BWB” Working Group, as listed in the Acknowledgments section.

As we endure a still-separate and -unequal society — founded on anti-Blackness, patriarchy, and ableism — we also endure fatal stress that compounds harm in life-debilitating and -eroding ways.

In studies that measured allostatic load (AL) — a biomarker that reflects the long-term biological wear and tear of chronically elevated cortisol levels and prolonged states of anxiety, resulting in increased risk of morbidity and premature death — Black women persistently had the highest and second highest AL scores regardless of age or socioeconomic status. Additionally, Black women consistently have higher rates of chronic conditions, such as hypertension, heart disease, and thyroid disorders, than all of their racialized counterparts.

Black pregnant people in the United States — regardless of socioeconomic status or educational background — are three times as likely to die during pregnancy or from complications after birth than their white, non-Hispanic counterparts. And despite having comparable, if not lower, developmental risk in most cancer categories, Black women are the most likely to die once diagnosed, for all cancers, than non-Black women.

Research looking at telomere length — another biomarker of stress-related aging — found that stress and economic hardship played a significant role in prematurely aging Black women, biologically making them 7.5 years “older” than white women despite being the same age.

“Time is fundamental to health promotion and human agency, as in having time to exercise and maintain social relationships. Further, scarcity in time is related to stress and illness. Time is also racialized, such that racial/ethnic minorities often have less free time and suffer a time penalty in multiple facets of life.”
—Dr. Gilbert C. Gee et al., “Racism and the Life Course: Taking Time Seriously

On a maroon background, the text reads: “When Black women thrive, WE ALL THRIVE.” The phrase “Black Women Best” comes below it, with each word stacked above the other.

--

--

Liberation in a Generation

Dismantling America’s oppression economy to build a Liberation Economy for all people of color.