As Dr. David Ansell of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago explains, black women are significantly more likely than white women to die from breast cancer.  The gap is so dramatic that in Chicago, every year, “3,200 black people die prematurely just because they do not have the same health outcomes as whites.”

As Dr. Ansell explains:

“First, in the 1980s there was virtually no difference in the black:white breast cancer mortality. Second, by 2007 breast cancer mortality was 62 percent higher in African American women than white women in Chicago. Third, while the mortality rates from breast cancer have dropped for white women as they should have with access to modern screening and treatment, the rates for black women in Chicago have not budged. It is as if all the newest developments in breast cancer screening and treatment have bypassed black women in Chicago.”

Dr. Ansell attributes this discrepancy to the fact that Chicago is a city marked by profound structural racism.  Chicago’s primary structure of racism is its hypersegregated nature.  As you can see from this map, even though there are no Jim Crow style laws prohibiting black people from living in white neighborhoods (or vice versa), there may as well be.  In Chicago, as in every major city in the midwest and northeast, racial segregation does not merely keep the races apart, but it also ensures the survival of racial inequality.  In other words, white neighborhoods are ones with access to social goods like, the best schools and health care, while things like toxic waste and police brutality are concentrated in black neighborhoods.  In fact, one could argue that Chicago itself is a structure of racism.  As Dr. Ansell argues:

“Chicago’s racial disparity in health outcomes arises from our own unhappy history of race relations in the city. Chicago’s past has contributed to create the situation we have today: patterns of institutionalized racism, hypersegregated medically underserved neighborhoods, high rates of uninsurance and mistrustful attitudes towards the health care system.”

In Chicago, “Of the 24 community areas with the highest breast cancer mortality in Chicago, [almost all of are predominantly African-American] only one has an approved cancer treating hospital within it.”

The case of Chicago testifies to the truth of Gustavo Gutierrez’s claim that, ultimately, “material poverty means premature and unjust death.”

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