Today we continue to mourn for the Garner family. Erica Garner, who was 27-years-old, died on Saturday after suffering a massive heart attack. She is survived by her two children, the youngest (who was born in August), named after her father, Eric Garner. Unfortunately, a name alone was not the only legacy that would follow his progeny. Following the delivery of her baby boy, Garner suffered a heart attack and was informed that she had an enlarged heart. This enlarged heart made her susceptible to the massive heart attack that would deprive her brain of oxygen and lead to her current diagnosis. Now, we are left to make sense of this and attempt to understand why the Garner family has to suffer more crippling loss as well as why their story resonates so deeply with many of us. The answer is that anti-black violence killed both of them, and it is the same violence that has robbed many of years of love and happiness.
We must first understand that racism and anti-black violence have taken many forms and that they do not all manifest in quick spurts of deadly violence. Some, are quiet killers. They may take years to grow while being fed by a plethora of factors that have been intentionally and logistically put in place. Erica Garner's death is not an unfamiliar or unlikely event. Black women are disproportionately affected by heart disease and are more likely to die from health problems like heart attack and stroke. The list of diseases that affect Black women at a higher incidence is quite extensive: Breast Cancer, Cervical Cancer, Fibroids, Diabetes, Premature Birth, etc. Healthcare providers tend to speak in accusatory and victim blaming tones when addressing these issues. Stating the primary culprit is the food and lack of exercise of the patients. These statements hold some truth. Exercise and diet are the best preventive medicine, but they are irresponsible when they do not consider the history of racism and barriers that black women face.
A history of disenfranchisement, redlining, and special hybridized forms of sexism and racism have left Black women neglected and susceptible to health issues. Redling is the intentional segregation and denial of resources to black people through systemic and predatory loan practices. When you force black people into certain neighborhoods, coupled with voter suppression, you leave these communities vulnerable and their best interest unrepresented. These consequences are still present. It is evident in the present segregation of cities and the polluting of black communities. Environmental racism has reared its ugly head and companies, along with city officials, are allowed to pollute these neighborhoods in efforts to cut cost, like what we have seen in Flint, Mi. Water is the cornerstone to maintain a healthy body, and the lack of access to clean water, let alone having to drink poisoned water, will have immeasurable negative effects on your health.
In addition, black neighborhoods tend to see a higher incidence of tobacco advertisement. The health deficits caused by tobacco have long been documented. These communities lack basic adequate health care and often become food deserts. The residents can't access fresh fruits and vegetables for miles, and when these resources are within reach, they are typically unaffordable. Healthcare professionals often have biases that impede our care, along with the lack of trust black individuals have developed secondary to experimental and abusive medical practices in our communities, which makes building healing relationships difficult. The stress of living in poverty has also been shown to negatively impact heart and mental health. The disruption of black communities from the crack epidemic and mass incarceration have put black women in numerous difficult positions. All the while, you have anti-black rhetoric leading the charge in stopping the progression of universal healthcare, free education, and taxes that provide numerous poverty relief efforts. The list and factors are extensive. However, one thing is clear, the health disparities of black women is a result of unrelenting violence.
Eric Garner is survived in his name that has branded his daughter and grandchild. He is also survived by a legacy of anti-blackness that has also clung to his progeny. The violence that has taken Erica Garner from us may not be as visible as the violence that took her father, but it is just as dangerous and preventable. Erica Garner's death deserves just as much protest, anger, and pressure for change as her father's death. Her death deserves policy, to be a defining topic of elections, and to roll off every tongue and every news station. She was killed by years of anti-black assaults. We must call for the end of all violence against us. We deserve healthcare, food that nourishes and strengthens our bodies, clean water, doctors and nurses that we can trust, and reparations. We deserve to live past 27-years-old and for our bodies to age just as well as our skin. Black women are under attack, and we must not leave it to just their magic to stop it.
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