Sickening

Anti-Black Racism and Health Disparities in the United States

2021
Author:

Anne Pollock

An event-by-event look at how institutionalized racism harms the health of African Americans in the twenty-first century

From the spike in chronic disease after Hurricane Katrina to the lack of protection for Black residents during the Flint water crisis, Sickening surveys the diversity of anti-Black racism operating in healthcare. It deconstructs the structures that make these events possible, including mass incarceration, police brutality, and the hypervisibility of Black athletes’ bodies, revealing the everyday racialization of health in the U.S.

Anne Pollock offers a model and method for situating everyday forms of antiblackness within a larger machinery of death-making that—whether it grinds people down slowly or extinguishes them swiftly—counts on our inability to connect the dots. Riveting, infuriating, and essential, Sickening reminds us that neither statistics nor structural analysis will save us, and all those committed to social change must heed the stories we tell (and are told) about racism and inequity if we are to get free.

Ruha Benjamin, author of Race After Technology*

A crucial component of anti-Black racism is the unconscionable disparity in health outcomes between Black and white Americans. Sickening examines this institutionalized inequality through dramatic, concrete events from the past two decades, revealing how unequal living conditions and inadequate medical care have become routine.

From the spike in chronic disease after Hurricane Katrina to the lack of protection for Black residents during the Flint water crisis—and even the life-threatening childbirth experience for tennis star Serena Williams—author Anne Pollock takes readers on a journey through the diversity of anti-Black racism operating in healthcare. She goes beneath the surface to deconstruct the structures that make these events possible, including mass incarceration, police brutality, and the hypervisibility of Black athletes’ bodies. Ultimately, Sickening shows what these shocking events reveal about the everyday racialization of health in the United States.

Concluding with a vital examination of racialized healthcare during the COVID pandemic and the Black Lives Matter rebellions of 2020, Sickening cuts through the mind-numbing statistics to vividly portray healthcare inequalities. In a gripping and passionate style, Pollock shows the devastating reality and consequences of systemic racism on the lives and health of Black Americans.

Anne Pollock is professor of global health and social medicine at King’s College London. She is author of Medicating Race: Heart Disease and Durable Preoccupations with Difference and Synthesizing Hope: Matter, Knowledge, and Place in South African Drug Discovery.

Anne Pollock offers a model and method for situating everyday forms of antiblackness within a larger machinery of death-making that—whether it grinds people down slowly or extinguishes them swiftly—counts on our inability to connect the dots. Riveting, infuriating, and essential, Sickening reminds us that neither statistics nor structural analysis will save us, and all those committed to social change must heed the stories we tell (and are told) about racism and inequity if we are to get free.

Ruha Benjamin, author of Race After Technology*

Contents


Acknowledgments


Introduction


1. Terrorism: The Deaths of Black Postal Workers in the 2001 Anthrax Attacks


2. Un/natural Disaster: Chronic Disease after Hurricane Katrina


3. Mass Incarceration: On the Suspended Sentences of the Scott Sisters


4. Environmental Racism: Protecting GM’s Machines While Abandoning Flint’s People


5. Police Brutality: Enforcing Segregation at a Pool Party


6. Reproductive Injustice: Serena Williams’ Birth Story


Conclusion


Notes


Index