Art by Cheyenne Varner, The Educated Birth and Everyday Birth Magazine
Black lives matter. Always.
I cannot state this enough: I stand wholeheartedly against racism, white supremacy, and police brutality. I stand with my black friends, neighbors, teachers, students, colleagues, clients, and all black people, in support of your rights, your humanity, your families, and your dignity.
As a midwife, I feel the need to speak about the connections between racial injustice and childbearing. In addition to the longstanding and ongoing racism in policing and incarceration in this country, black birthing people and babies in the U.S. face crisis-level disparities in maternal and infant mortality. This is also longstanding, rooted in the enslavement and colonization practices that this country was founded upon, and furthered by the systematic eradication of black and indigenous midwifery practice through the first part of the 20th century. To be clear: these disparities persist regardless of economic status, education, or other health measures. They are not caused by race, but by racism.
Many leaders in the field of black maternal health have observed that one of the biggest contributing factors to these dismal outcomes is healthcare provider bias -- whether it is implicit or explicit, it has the same effect. Black pregnant and birthing people are not being listened to. Their pain, their symptoms, and their concerns are too often not taken seriously. Conversely, when maternal care provision is attentive, trustworthy, easily accessible, and culturally congruent, outcomes are dramatically improved, as evidenced by the work of CPM Jennie Joseph.
One of the most powerful ways to support black lives is to support black birthworkers. This includes midwives, doulas, OB/GYNs, lactation professionals, and students in these fields. I’m providing some resources below for anyone wanting to learn more or contribute.
As someone who has for decades been working actively on unpacking my own privilege, unlearning white supremacy, listening to the voices of black and indigenous people and people of color, talking consistently with my son and my family about these issues, and using my voice in service of justice, I am here to say that I still have work to do, and that I can do better.
White privilege makes it so easy to “take a break” from speaking out. Anyone who has done this work has gotten pushback, and it’s easy to cave in, in order to try to keep everyone happy. I have been criticized by people who think I’m “making too much” of race/racism. But really, I have not been making enough of it. I am challenging myself at this crucial moment to show up more consistently, and more vocally. I am challenging myself to get outside my bubble and stop assuming that everybody “already knows” these things. I am challenging myself to speak more about these issues, examine the ways I work, and share the resources I have. Even though some will not like it, and some will have heard it all before, and some will call me out when I inevitably take a misstep.
I am here to serve equality and justice. I am here to affirm everyone’s full humanity. I am here to fight for the rights of every person to be treated with respect and dignity. This translates directly into my support for Black Lives Matter.
For as long as there has been oppression, there has also been resistance. There are so many ways to allocate resources toward equity, justice, community, and healing. Some people have reached out personally to ask me about ways to help in the realm of birth, so I’m including some resources here for learning about and supporting black birthworkers and reproductive justice initiatives. The reproductive justice paradigm comes from a rich and extensive history of theorizing and organizing by activists of color, who have long understood that reproductive “choice” does not apply equally to all. This framework clarifies the connections between reproductive health and issues such as: racial and economic justice; police, prison, and drug policy reform; decolonization and indigenous rights and sovereignty; immigration and healthcare policy; LGBTQIA rights; and work to end rape and domestic violence.
I hope you will use this list to learn, take action, and join me in speaking out.
Resources for learning about reproductive justice:
Resources for supporting black birthworkers, black maternal health, and reproductive justice initiatives:
Black Women's Maternal Health Collective (based in Iowa)
Black Mamas Matter Alliance
SisterSong Birth Justice Care fund
Every Mother Counts
Ancient Song Doula Service Equity, Continuity, & Hope fundraiser
Birth Center Equity Fund
Rise Up Midwife BIPOC birthworker fund
National Association to Advance Black Birth
Kindred Space Los Angeles Birth Center Fund
Health Connect One
Changing Woman Initiative
Sabia Wade, The Black Doula
Minnesota Prison Doula Project
The Big push for Midwives