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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Minimizing race through colourblind healthcare: examining Black women's experiences of medical racism during prenatal care Christy, Kayonne


Racial disparities in maternal and infant health have long been understood through the lens of systemic racism, a critical structural determinant of health. Pregnant Black women experience racism within all social institutions, including healthcare, where their experiences have regularly been characterized by overt discrimination and outwardly hostile medical environments. However, contemporary manifestations of racism now also operate more inconspicuously, and little is known about how pregnant Black women experience more elusive forms of racism within the healthcare setting. This paper advances an understanding of medical racism by examining how it subtly manifests in Black women’s prenatal healthcare experiences. Drawing on interviews with Black women in Jamaica and Canada, I introduce the concept of ‘colourblind healthcare’ to explain how medical racism, which is often conceptualized as an overt phenomenon, is also a covert and structural one. Colourblind healthcare is a form of allegedly ‘race-neutral’ healthcare delivery that minimizes the significance of race within the healthcare setting. When healthcare providers refuse to recognize race, whiteness is usually their assumed norm. Accordingly, colourblind healthcare is characterized by 1) healthcare providers privileging biomedical approaches to healthcare delivery over race-conscious ones, and 2) healthcare providers dismissing and overlooking non-white health concerns. My findings show that Black women navigate this elusive form of medical racism by either minimizing or centring discussions around race within the prenatal healthcare context. This paper highlights how seemingly non-racial healthcare practices in fact perpetuate racism by providing Black women with lower-quality care and putting them at risk of harm.

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