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‘Under the Skin,’ by Linda Villarosa

If you’re infuriated by Linda Villarosa’s research, then it’s doing its job. Being Black is bad for your health, the professor and New York Times journalist argues in her book, subtitled “The Hidden Toll of Racism on American Lives and on the Health of Our Nation.”

Villarosa casts a wide net in the clearly, meticulously reported book, which doesn’t flinch from acknowledging that her previous writings about the health of Black people are part of the problem. She once bought into the idea that, for instance, Black mothers lost more babies than white mothers because of poverty or poor prenatal care.

But, using a variety of studies and sympathetic portraits of actual people, she argues that it’s nothing the mothers do but the way the system treats them that accounts for disparities in the health of Black and white women. Denial has led centuries of Black men and women to accept that poor health is their fault but Villarosa pinpoints breakdowns in our health care system that have led to that inaccurate conclusion, persuasively arguing that racism is alive, well and making millions of Americans die before their time.

Chris Hewitt is a writer and critic at the Star Tribune.

Under the Skin

By: Linda Villarosa.

Publisher: Doubleday, 288 pages, $30.

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