Birth is racist. There I said it!
We are currently celebrating Black History Month, but there isn't much to celebrate when you look at black pregnant women's statistics and their outcomes. We know that black women are 2 to 3 TIMES more likely to die during childbirth than white women. You cannot deny the data. We also know that black babies are twice as likely to die as white babies in their first year of life. I could go on and on.
Why are so many women and children of color dying unnecessarily? I have a couple of ideas of why I think it is happening, and I would like to hear from you on whether you agree or not. I would also like to hear how you think we can change the paradigm.
1. Color "blindness" - The idea that we can be colorblind and that it is a good thing is killing our wives, mothers, daughters, sons, sisters, brothers, etc... When you or I choose to ignore the color of someone's skin we are choosing to ignore WHO they are. When we choose to ignore someone's skin color, we are choosing to ignore science and research. When we choose to ignore the color of someone's skin, we are choosing to be racist.
We know that people of color have higher stress hormone levels. Guess what crosses the placenta? We know that people of color have a greater risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, primary and repeated cesareans, and other life-threatening complications. We know that people of color are at risk of not having access to whole foods. Google "food deserts," and you can begin to understand why babies of color are more likely to be born smaller than white babies.
Color is a beautiful thing. If we lived in a world of gray, it would be boring. If we can admire the different colors of flowers and be in awe of the different shades of blue that the sky and water can be, then why do we not observe and take in all the beautiful colors of each other? But, not just see the color, but see the whole person. When considering recommendations for care, labs, supplements, and/or suggestions on nutrition, we should know the color of their skin and ethnicity is a factor we must consider.
2. Color "sightedness" - contradictory much? I see this as a two type of people problem. Our first type are those above who choose to believe that they do not see color. You can think that to be the case, but you see color whether you want to admit it or not. The second type are those who are honest with themselves and others and admit to seeing color. Within the second group, there are three groups. The first group are anti-racist, meaning that they know they have implicit biases but are doing the work to change the narrative. The second group may not be racist per se, but they haven't recognized their implicit bias yet. Then the third group are just racist. There is no way of being nice about it, and we shouldn't be nice about it. We as a nation have been nice for far too long to those who hate others.
When we believe that someone's skin color determines how much pain they feel, that people of color have thicker skin, or that they have weaker lungs than white people, we are racist. When we take these ideas, and we go into any medical field, we are not only racist, but we are also complicit in the death of any person of color that comes into our care. Black women are dying during the childbearing year because they are not heard. They tell us that there is something wrong, but instead of listening, we brush them off as" dramatic."
So, where and how do we change the story? Well, it starts with me. It begins with me listening, truly listening to you. Listening to your struggles, listening to your accomplishments, hear your words, hear the unsaid. It starts with me loving my family and teaching my children to love and serve others. It continues with supporting women of color who desire to become a birth worker to have greater diversity in our community. It carries on with me choosing to serve those who look different than me and sitting at their feet to learn the best way to love them. By learning to love those who look different than me, I am changing the future of birth and racism. I will not stand by while women and children die and not do or say something. SILENCE IS VIOLENCE!
Do I have all the answers? Of course not! But, I also cannot depend on those who are dying to give me the answers. If my choices, beliefs, and/or ideas are why people are dying, then it is no one else's job but my own to do the hard work and change.
There is so much I can say on this topic: so many statistics and stories I could share. But I am just writing this because if you are a woman of color, I want you to know that you are seen, and you are heard. If you are a man of color, I want you to know that I see you, and I hear you. If you are a white woman or man, I see and hear you, but I hope and pray that you will see and hear those of color. That you will walk with me in no longer being silent. That you will realize that you are a part of the solution.
Women and children do not have to die because of the color of their skin. Oh, and by the way...the color of your skin does not determine how, when, where, or with whom you can give birth. You get to choose what is best for you and your family. No one else gets to do that for you.