An Intro to Systemic Racism

This simple and accessible video series on systemic racism by Race Forward looks at race-based disparities in the areas of wealth, employment, housing, government surveillance and incarceration in one about one minute each. 

Each short video points out how disparities exist along racial lines in that area. Taken together you can start to see that when your wealth, employment, housing, level of government surveillance and likelihood of incarceration are so effected by your race it amounts to a whole set of things working together to create a race-based system.

Maternal and newborn health could easily be added to the list. While the rate is low compared to other countries, black women in the United States are four times more likely to die during childbirth than white women. Black infants are born preterm and with low birth weight twice as often as white infants.1    

These health outcomes, like wealth, employment, incarceration, also contribute to the set of things working together to create a race-based system. This system doesn’t require that individual people have racist thoughts, do or say racist things. But ignoring this race-based reality does help perpetuate it. While working to dismantle the race-basis of any of these things will help dismantle the whole system. 

Folks interested in dismantling systemic racism in maternal and newborn health can begin by learning about these disparities. That may leave nagging questions about how such disparities came about in the first place, and how they are perpetuated. That inquiry may require learning more about implicit bias and how racism is woven into the fabric of many institutions. 

For more on those issues try taking an implicit bias test, or look into how racism is being “taught” to computers being programmed for artificial intelligence. You can also follow the Standing Up for Racial Justice  (SURJ) political education guide. Just begin!   


1.  Hamilton BE, Martin JA, Osterman MJK et al. Births: Final data for 2014. Natl Vital Stat Rep. (2015);64(12). Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance System, (Dec. 13, 2016),

Also see our publication, “Racial Disparities in Birth Outcomes and Racial Discrimination as an Independent Risk Factor Affecting Maternal, Infant, and Child Health”