Feeling some despair headed back to Georgia, and the U.S. generally after a month in India.
It’s about this question: Will Brian Kemp govern Georgia like Lester Maddox?
Lester Maddox became the governor of Georgia during my childhood. He was openly racist, was famous for selling axe handles with which to beat down civil rights activists, and actively fought a state memorial immediately after Dr Martin Luther King was assassinated.
Until Brian Kemp, I don’t remember any Georgia governor who so actively and openly embraced race based voter suppression and racist immigration messages.
Yet Maddox apparently went on the most aggressive hiring of African Americans in the state’s history.
I’m finding solace knowing that people of color in Georgia nonviolently sacrificed their livelihoods and their lives to end the Maddox mode of governance.
Those sacrifices opened the door for people like Stacey Abrams, Andrew Young, and Jimmy Carter.
Our grandmothers and uncles and neighbors did this with an inner soul power (to quote Dr King) that could not be suppressed by axe handles or tear gas. I find strength knowing that we can call on that soul power to do the same again.
If you are an infant born to an African American mother in Georgia (also Mississippi or Alabama) your chances of making it past the first year are worse than that of an infant born in Syria. China and Venezuela also have lower infant mortality rates than the 12.5 deaths per 1,000 infants that the Kaiser Family Foundation reports for Georgia.
If you’re eligible to vote in the upcoming Georgia election on November 6, 2018, this is a PSA to: 1) vote, and 2) vote for candidates that can change the healthcare disparities impacting expecting mothers and their children.
I delved into these statistics after reading this Atlantic article and was stunned, saddened, outraged. The popular reports of life in Syria and Venezuela paint those countries as war zones, places in the throes of chaos, places where the healthcare system has collapsed and failed the most vulnerable. Coincidentally, the infant mortality rate for Black children in Georgia (the state) is identical to the overall rate of Georgia the country (12.9 deaths / 1,000) — and the democratic institutions of the two Georgias may be in similar shape. Georgia the country is making strides towards full democracy.
You might say that I’m comparing disparate populations — Black people in Georgia vs the overall population of Syria. Would you agree that a comparison of Caribbean nations to the U.S. Black populations is reasonable? All of these islands have significant African diaspora populations — equalling or exceeding the Black population of the state of Georgia. Many of the current Black inhabits of the U.S. claim Caribbean ancestry. Let’s then compare Georgia’s infant mortality with that of the most populous Caribbean countries and Puerto Rico (a U.S. territory).
These figures are from the Kaiser Family Foundation table cited earlier and the CIA infant mortality rankings. The United Nations and CDC keep similar statistics.
The overall impact of Georgia’s health policies — the defunding of rural health, unaddressed racial disparities, the refusal to support medicaid expansion among them — are richly detailed in this report When the State Fails: Maternal Mortality & Racial Disparity in Georgia. The results of these policies have been devastating — a perfect storm on the life expectancy of Black women and children, and also upon those of rural Georgians of all races and ethnicities.
What can be done?
- If you live in Georgia, please remember to vote — there are candidates on the November 6, 2018 ballot who are committed to ending health disparities based on class and race.
- You might consider moving to Georgia (in the mode of Freedom Summer). To quote Stacey Abrams “Georgia matters to everyone. If you change the leadership of Georgia, you change the South. If you change the South, you change the country.“
- Stay informed and advocate for universal healthcare in the U.S.
- If you’re a healthcare professional, consider getting involved in volunteer efforts in the Southern U.S.