'Red Table Talk' Hosts Break Down the 'Invisible Black Women Epidemic'

The women of Red Table Talk are bringing visibility to the plight of Black women just trying to be seen.

Thursday’s episode of the Facebook Watch series introduced viewers to a crisis that they might not be aware of — “The Invisible Black Women Epidemic.” Joined by activist Tamika Mallory, Jada Pinkett Smith, Adrienne “Gammy” Banfield-Norris and Willow Smith broke down the facet of racism and misogynoir that attempts to erase Black women and their experiences. The group explored how Black women often feel neglected and ignored in their everyday lives and recounted specific occurrences where Black women were treated unfairly.

Mallory began the episode by pointing out that even in the fight for Black lives, there’s a desire to forget Black women who have suffered at the hands of police brutality. She recalled the murder of Breonna Taylor and, most recently, the police shooting of 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant. “Would [the officer] have shown up where there are white woman and shot center mass at a young woman?” Mallory questioned. 

“It’s unfortunate that this young girl’s story has ended this way,” she added, noting that if Bryant were a “perfect victim,” more people would call for her to get justice. “She deserves the same care and attention and for someone to advocate for her and her situation — even if she had a knife.” 

The Table welcomed Tressie McMillan Cottom, writer, professor and MacArthur Genius, who recalled a traumatic trip to the emergency room when she wasn’t taken seriously. Cottom explained that she was rushed to the hospital for extreme pain and bleeding when she was four months pregnant. But no one paid attention to her until after she bled into the chair, and even then, the doctor disregarded her concerns, telling her “spotting was normal, especially for someone as fat as [she] was.”

It took her returning to the hospital after being sent home and Dr. Cottom to “beg and plead” before she was finally given an ultrasound. A series of incredibly callous and traumatic experiences later, Dr. Cottom gave birth to a daughter who died shortly after her first breath.

“What happened is both traumatic but not singular, it happened to a lot of Black women,” Cottom said. “At every step of the process, no one really took seriously that I knew what was happening to me.” 

Gammy and Mallory shared their own challenging experiences with pregnancy and childbirth, with Gammy recalling that she wasn’t treated well during her pregnancy with Jada despite her father being the head of anesthesia at the hospital. “I was denied the pain that I was having at the time,” she said, recalling the hospital staff saying to her, “Oh, it’s not that bad. Just be quiet.”

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