Racial Disparities in Maternal Healthcare: When ‘Not Seeing Color’ Is Not Enough

For years, I’ve felt uneasy when I hear people say, “I don’t see color.” I’d wonder, how can you not acknowledge someone’s color when they stand right in front of you, visibly different from you? It seemed like their way of expressing a commitment to treating everyone equally, but it never sat well with me.

Now, after working in the healthcare industry, experiencing healthcare’s systemic biases as a patient, and hearing fellow patients’ and clients’ stories of bias in healthcare settings, I understand why the phrase bothered me. When we say we don’t see color, we may unintentionally overlook the unique individual, their culture, beliefs, and individuality, missing the opportunity to understand the person right in front of us truly.

In the United States, there’s a maternal mortality crisis, and it disproportionately affects black women and birthing people. Black women and birthing people in the United States face maternal mortality rates three to four times higher during childbirth or in the postpartum period due to complications compared to their white counterparts. Moreover, they often face unique challenges and have their complaints ignored by medical staff. https://www.fertilityoutloud.com/content-hub/advocating-for-black-maternal-mental-health/

So, let’s break down the problem with the “I don’t see color” mindset, especially in the context of maternal care for black women and birthing people.

The Pitfall of “Colorblindness” in Healthcare:

The “I don’t see color” mindset has a glaring issue: it makes racial disparities in healthcare invisible. When healthcare providers or institutions ignore these disparities, addressing the root causes becomes a formidable challenge. Acknowledging these disparities is the crucial first step in implementing specific interventions and policy changes to improve healthcare outcomes for black women and birthing people.

The “I don’t see color” mindset can lead to:

Delayed or inadequate care: Black women’s concerns may not be taken seriously, leading to delayed diagnosis and treatment of medical issues.

Disregard for pain and symptoms: Pain and symptoms may be underreported or dismissed, leading to undertreatment.

Misdiagnosis: Black women may be at a higher risk of misdiagnosis, as healthcare providers may not consider the full range of potential conditions.

Lack of cultural sensitivity: Cultural beliefs, practices, and preferences may be ignored, resulting in less patient-centered care.

What We Should Do:

To make healthcare better for black women and birthing people, we need to:

Acknowledge disparities: Recognize that racial disparities in maternal health exist and commit to addressing them.

Cultural competence training: Healthcare providers should undergo training to understand the unique needs and concerns of black women and birthing people.

Equitable care: Strive to provide equitable care by addressing bias, actively listening to patients, and involving them in their healthcare decisions.

Data collection: Accurate data collection that includes race and ethnicity is essential to understanding and addressing disparities in healthcare outcomes.


Addressing the racial disparities in maternal healthcare is a critical and urgent issue. Trying to be “colorblind,” even if it comes from a good place, can actually keep unfair practices in place and overlook the specific difficulties faced by black women and birthing people. To make things better for everyone giving birth, we must admit these differences exist and do something about them. Doctors and healthcare organizations need to actively work on getting rid of unfair treatment, putting rules in place to fix these differences, and giving equal and personalized care to all patients, no matter where they come from. Only by taking these steps can we have hope of ending the problem of mothers dying during or after childbirth and ensuring the well-being of black women and birthing people in healthcare settings.

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