Race-Based Medicine and Women’s Health

Black Women's Health Care

Recommended Reading:

“Killing the Black Body”

Social justice advocate and law scholar Dorothy Roberts has a precise and powerful message: Race-based medicine is bad medicine. Even today, many doctors still use race as a medical shortcut; they make important decisions about things like pain tolerance based on a patient’s skin color instead of medical observation and measurement. In this searing talk, Roberts lays out the lingering traces of race-based medicine — and invites us to be a part of ending it.

“Though the Human Genome Project proved a decade ago that human beings are not naturally divided by race, an emerging technologically driven science is resuscitating race as a biological category written in our genes.”

Black Women, and especially Black Mothers suffer from this perception of Race as a biological category, not a political and social one.

Dorothy Roberts: Race, Gender, and the New Biocitizen

Dorothy Roberts examines the role of race and gender in the construction of this new biocitizen in light of the current expansion of race-based, reproductive, and genetic biotechnologies along with neoliberal reliance on private resources for people’s welfare. Roberts argues that science, big business, and politics are converging to support a molecularized understanding of race, health, and citizenship that ultimately helps to preserve inequities.

Dorothy Roberts: Race, Gender, and the New Biocitizen from BCRW Videos on Vimeo.


Racism not Race

Watch the TED talk

Race Matters in Women’s Health

Moving from an account of the evolution of race—proving that it has always been a mutable and socially defined political division supported by mainstream science—Roberts delves deep into the current debates, interrogating the newest science and biotechnology, interviewing its researchers, and exposing the political consequences obscured by the focus on genetic difference

Black Women's Health Care

“Monumental. . . . An important contribution to the literature of civil rights, reproductive issues, racism and feminism.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“Compelling. . . . Deftly shows how distorted and racist constructions of black motherhood have affected politics, law, and policy in the United States.” —Ms.

Revisiting ‘Killing the Black Body,’ 20 years later

Greg Johnson– U Penn

“Twenty years ago, Dorothy Roberts, the George A. Weiss University Professor of Law and Sociology at Penn Law School and the School of Arts & Sciences, released her formative book, “Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty,” which laid bare the systematic assault on the bodies of black women in the United States”

“Roberts, also the Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professor of Civil Rights, says she was driven to write the book after reading news articles in the late 1980s about black women who were arrested and jailed for using drugs while pregnant. Roberts saw the prosecutions as punishing black women for having babies, which led her to research the history of punitive policies directed toward African-American women, and write about the regulation of their childbearing.

“The other thing that motivated me was that I was, at the same time, studying feminist theory and jurisprudence, and I was struck by the way in which most scholars neglected to address these issues that were especially relevant to black women,” she says.”

Read the full article:


Dorothy E. Roberts (born March 8, 1956 in Chicago, Illinois)[1] is an American scholar, public intellectual, and social justice advocate. She writes and lectures on gender, race, and class in legal issues. Her concerns include changing thinking and policy on reproductive health, child welfare and bioethics.

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