National Association of Birth Centers of Color

Midwives of color doing the work

The National Association of Birth Centers of Color, an organization focused on the elimination of racial disparities in birth outcomes and helmed by midwives who are already doing this work, has formed and their website is up! This organization is putting into practice a model of care that both draws what new research has shown about the profoundly harmful effects of racism for women of colors and their babies and the rich tradition of community healing practiced by midwives of colors.

From their website:

Mission:

NABCC’s mission is to increase the number of maternity clinics and birth centers owned and/or operated by practitioners of color who are committed to serving communities of color.

We support the growth and development of maternity care models that ensure access to timely and quality perinatal health-care, by providing practical, social, educational, and emotional support to improve positive outcomes.

 

Vision:

The elimination of racial disparities in birth outcomes among communities of color.

Infant Mortality Awareness Campaign

Healthcare in the US, Midwifery, Reflections on racism and oppression in midwifery

by Jessica Roach on Sunday, September 30, 2012 at 7:14pm
In what is the final day of September and the end of the Infant Mortality Awareness Campaign, I am compelled to write down these thoughts and send them around. I am often vocal about what I believe to be my truths, with some quiet time in between. Speak when it is necessary, reserve your energy for when it is time.

I am the mother of a pre-term, low birth weight baby and the Godmother of one as well. I have held a baby gone too soon born at 32 weeks and had a nephew that didn’t see his first year. If we all look at our families, we see that most of us (1 in 3) have a baby that is of a “statistic” in our lives. It has become so much a part of our norm. That is a statement, not a question, because I do not have any. What I have, is the need to have the real discussion, rather than the politically correct normative blah blah that discusses us and our babies as being “Minority Health Disparities” for the sake of framing language to solicit more funding to “examine” and “prevent” the problem. Do not mistake me here, there is a great deal of good work being done to raise awareness and work towards a solution. I am simply saying, we are still dancing around the core of the issues most of the time.

Let me be clear, because we do not have time for anything else, it is Women of Color, particularly African- American and Native American, that are most affected. I do not believe this is by chance, nor do I believe it should ever be allowed to be discussed by a healthcare practitioner as a matter of fact in the first appointments of pregnancy. It starts to formulate our stories for us, which creates a physiological stress response from the beginning of fetal development. So imagine how our babies feel inside of us. It should never be a “therefore” in risk factors.

Time and time again, it is shown that even when the playing field is leveled and issues such as economics or access to care are removed as variables, our babies are still affected at a disproportionate rate. So what is left? Why is this happening? I have my thoughts and we have the research that backs those thoughts up….and it is the uncomfortable conversation that most are unwilling to have.

I have said it before and I will say it again, this is not about the need for education, but rather the lack acknowledgement of the complete dismantling of our values and customs in order to control mass populations. It is the realities that our “race” is automatically a check box on a form that puts us as a risk factor. Think about that for a minute, being called a risk factor. How does that equate to appropriate support and care from the beginning of pregnancy?

I do not claim to have the answers, no one of us does. It is part of the problem. It takes a village, a core group of support, to raise a child, how could it not be the same in growing one. We do not stand as a singular entity, rather as one of the many cells that create the whole of the being. We are interconnected on multiple levels, the human body is reflective of life as a whole. The social constructs we use to define, are also used to oppress, and if mamas have to start their journeys with their child fighting oppression, their energy is being refocused in a manner that does not allow for healthy birth and birth outcomes. If you want to have a conversation and start to answer the question “why?”, start talking about the atmosphere of colonialism and systemic institutional racism, discuss the lack of trust we have in a healthcare system that treats us as a statistic rather than a human being. Get to the core of the conversation, let us sit at the table, rather than giving advice from outside of it. Mostly, take responsibility to learn for yourself, because it is a distraction from our very survival to spend the time and energy educating.

Tomorrow, is October 1st….and our babies will still be born at lower birth weights and too soon….and many will not see their first year birthday. EVERY day is an awareness day, until our story has changed. The work will not stop for any of us after today. It will not stop until the context of the conversation changes and we are able to tell our stories and dictate our realities vs allow anyone else to define.

So when you wake up tomorrow, remember that being aware is a 24/7. Stay woke, because there is no time to sleep on this, or to wait until next September to have the conversation. Keep having them, until someone is sick and tired enough of hearing it that they will work to change it. Be the solution, rather than part of the problem. Hug a mother, hold a baby, never take either of those two for granted…and keep doing the WORK

For Jaden, Malcolm, and Hendrix (R.I.P)

Dispatches from our foremothers (and fathers and sisters and brothers)

Reflections on racism and oppression in midwifery

What woman here is so enamored of her own oppression that she cannot see her heelprint upon another woman’s face? What woman’s terms of oppression have become precious and necessary to her as a ticket into the fold of the righteous, away from the cold winds of self-scrutiny?

—Audre Lorde

 

By Lisa Wiley

_____
 
The vital and gritty and transformative discussions being had within this community online and at large have been mightily inspiring to be privvy to and to participate in. What is continually striking however, to at least this author, is that as we engage in this dialogue, so many follies exposed and so many pearls of wisdom unearthed are mirrors of those that have been exposed and unearthed by feminist movement. 
 
From the first whispers of the first wave, to the tenacity of tomorrow’s political outcry, the inertia and intentions of feminism have been challenged for their racist and classist denouement. And here we are, midwives and reproductive rights activists vying behind the radical notion that women and families deserve to be met wherever they are at and in whatever capacity with which would ferry them to their highest state of wellbeing — here we are with these noblest intentions, and yet here we are being accused of perpetuating a bourgeois midwifery. From bourgeois feminism, to a white, privileged, monied, complacent, bourgeois midwifery.
 
This work that we need to do here is not new work. The mistakes that we have made and are making have been made, and just as poignantly, the lessons that we have got to learn have been or are being learned contemporaneously with the work being done within the midwifery and otherwise birth community in order to move forward with clear eyes and tangible knapsacks filled to their depths with self-analysis and introspection and acknowledgement of the role of privilege within our profession and culture at large — to move forward with the radical conviction that to do so and to perpetuate this dialogue and to move forward in direct action will in fact make for positive change. 
 
It is my aspiration over these coming weeks to, through my own readings and self-examination, cull experiences and learnings and quotations from feminist herstory that might spark poignant and pertinent dialogue in this space, such that we are not either doomed to repeat the mistakes of our forebears or to expend essential time repeating learned and lived experiences. Ideally such dialogues will help us to further and deepen introspection into our own thought and action, and perhaps lend insight into what our next steps should be and to where they should lead. 

THANK YOU to donors! Nearly $3000 for ICTC 2012 scholarships!!

Fundraising for ICTC 2012

$2942.81 for ICTC’s conference scholarships!!!  Thank you all scholarship supporters!!!!

Thank you for joining AROMidwifery in raising funds for scholarships for Birthworkers of Color to attend the International Center for Traditional Childbearing’s 8th Annual Black Midwives and Healers Conference this month in Miami.

The fundraiser launched on August 27th.  Exactly one month later the scholarship closed, and we transferred $2942.81 to the International Center for Traditional Childbearing.  The ICTC awarded more than 10 scholarships with these funds!

Over 80 donors contributed to this vital cause! You know that supporting students and midwives for color is one of the single most important things that we can do for the profession of midwifery. Donors and other supporters also made the campaign successful by sharing on Facebook and other social media. NACPM, MANA, several state midwifery organizations, and the YWCA put their muscle behind the campaign too, sending out email blasts to their membership. At a September anti-racism training organized by the Wisconsin chapter of the NACPM, attendees raised $500 in contributions in one afternoon!

The Wisconsin antiracism workshop collectively donated $500!

This sort of collective energy has real transformative power. If just one month of effort can yield such rich concrete results, think of the long-term change we can make. If we work together, midwifery can be a movement for racial justice in pregnancy and birth. We can realize a vision of sustainable support for birthworkers of color, helping all mothers and babies, families and communities, to thrive.

Thank you so much for being part of the collective effort that realized this goal in such a short time!  Many hands make light work and we are grateful for yours! We look forward to working with you again.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for your generous donations!

AROMidwifery

“I promise, I will do something this time”: Scholarships for ICTC’s Black Midwives and Healers Conference 2012

Fundraising for ICTC 2012

“I promise, I will do something this time.” 

Join AROMidwifery (Anti-Racism and Oppression Work in Midwifery) as we support scholarships for the 8th International Black Midwives and Healers Conference

Think back to the first time you felt moved to fight against racism. Was it at a conference? After reading a book? Was it after watching Power Point slides demonstrate over and over that black mothers and babies die at a rate twice that of white mothers and babies in the US? Think of that feeling in your gut just moments after you wished you had said something or done something against a racist comment, but didn’t quite have the courage yet. Now hold that feeling and listen again to that promise you made to yourself . . . “Something must be done. I promise, I will do something this time.” Now is the time to do something.

I want to be a midwife as much as I want to breathe. I know this is something I can do.  I have the resources and support I need to achieve my goal. I also know that when I am among a group of midwives, chances are, they will look like me, talk like me, and among them I will feel comfortable, welcomed, and safe. They will see me as a unique individual, rather than a representative of my ethnic group. They will accept me as one of them. This is my privilege – my white privilege; always present, even as a student midwife.

I also know there are many other people who want to become midwives as intensely as I do. Yet women of color who hear this call don’t have the privilege that I have. Generations of economic injustice mean that aspiring midwives of color often lack the financial support that many white student midwives can count on. Moreover, when students and aspiring midwives of color are among a group of midwives, there is a good chance that the majority of the people in the room will not look like them. They may not feel truly accepted, safe, or welcomed. If they speak in these groups, they may be expected to represent their ethnic group, rather than being listened to as individuals. They very likely cannot find preceptors or peers of their own skin color. This is institutionalized racism, and it is always present in the United States, even in midwifery.

In the past year I have begun to learn about my white privilege and how it comes at the expense of others. I operate in an educational and professional system that was designed for my demographic. I have to work hard and my struggles are real, but there are no obstacles in my way because of the way I look or where I come from–in fact, these factors work in my favor. A student midwife of color has to work harder than me to find funding for study and to be accepted for a preceptorship. And it’s not because I’m better or smarter than her. It’s because I’m white.

These are hard realities to face, often too hard for many white people who deny that this reality exists. It’s hard to know what we as individuals we can do. It’s easy to get caught up in feeling guilty or helpless. But these feelings themselves keep white privilege powerful. If we want to make real change, we must face these difficult feelings and move to action. I know that this work may not be done in my lifetime, but I am driven to find a way to start.

One very small way I can do this is to support women of color in coming together in a safe and unified space that supports unity, power, and a sense of belonging – a privilege I already have.   

During the first CPM Symposium this past March, there was a courageous group of women who shared the hurt and frustration of institutionalized racism within the natural childbirth community. This was a gift to all in attendance. It is a gift to realize you have hurt someone. It gives you the opportunity to stop the hurt and help to heal. There is an immediate need to heal and begin to repay this gift.

White midwives asked, “But what can we do?” There was an answer. There is a need to fund scholarships for women of color, both students and midwives, to attend conferences. It is time to take a step in answering that call.

Helping to fund attendees of the Black Midwives and Healers Conference is a particularly important first step, because several of the brave women of color at the CPM Symposium expressed that this conference can provide a rare safe space for practicing and student midwives of color.

It takes courage to really face your privilege, but once you realize that privilege for one is harm for others, it cannot be ignored. Please join me in taking a small step toward challenging white privilege and making the North American midwifery community inclusive and empowering for all women. Help AROMidwifery and ICTC support midwives and students of color by donating to our scholarship fund for the 8th International Black Midwives and Healers Conference.

AROMidwifery is working to raise as much financial support as possible in the next 5 weeks.  All funds raised will go directly to the International Center for Traditional Childbearing (ICTC) on October 1, 2012 to be used for scholarships to attend the 8th Annual conference in Florida. 

Please join with AROMidwifery in its fight for justice by clicking the button below and donating. Even $10 can help give one more midwife the space needed to feel safe and connected to her own birth community and empowered in her calling to become a midwife. Think of all the times you have wanted to do something but didn’t. Let this be the time that you do something.

Best,

Neva Gerke, Student Midwife

Bastyr University

p.s. By donating today, you can take action by helping a birth worker of color gain valuable skills and support at the Black Midwives and Healers Conference. Now is the time to take action.

p.p.s. If you are yourself a student or birth worker of color who would like to apply for funds, here is the application page on the ICTC’s conference site.

Five lessons for antiracism work and healing

Reflections on racism and oppression in midwifery

By Janelle Allyn Lucido-Conate

I’ve been doing a lot of marinating in this work and I’d like to respond to the up-swell of awareness that is happening right now.

First, I want to disclose that this work is intimate to my life. I live in a bi-racial, bi-cultural, bi-national, bi-religious family with my husband and daughter. I’ve come to understand a couple of things along this path.

One is that, the work we are taking on is deeply personal. It lies in the thoughts we don’t even admit to ourselves. As we deepen our own awareness and those ripples move outward I believe that the most potent way to share our new found understanding is by revealing our innermost thoughts and assumptions that we are slowly becoming aware of.

Second, is that we are extremely ashamed of those thoughts. So they are difficult to share. But this is where the power lies, I promise you. When we release ourselves of shame and acknowledge our part in racism and oppression we are released from their grasp. We gain power over our thoughts rather than being subject to them.Third, is that racism and oppression cross all lines. It is something we hold collectively as a society. Each person, regardless of the color of their skin, country of origin, sexual orientation, or culture carry oppression inside of them. Each of us must face and heal these intimate thoughts–those secret ones we don’t want to face or even acknowledge much less admit to others. As we continue in this process of awareness and healing our collective consciousness begins to heal and we can move away from the ‘shoulds’ into true integrity which is love of ourselves and each other.Fourth, is that the work of awareness and healing comes in waves and each wave brings more nuance. Total awareness would knock us all over for good. So we integrate slowly and steadily. As we grow our awareness of the nuance grows. And so we must each hold a healing space in our hearts for everyone on this path whether they are totally unaware or completely healed and transformed by the journey. This is not unique to one race or class or orientation. It is true for all of humanity.

Fifth, we each play a role. Each of us, as we follow our soul’s longing for love and healing, finds ourselves in unique situations making choices as best we can with the awareness that we have at the time. There is no shame in this. This is important to remember as we engage with others in this arena. We each have a role. And there is abundant love for all.

Many blessings and peace dear ones on this path.
Love, Janelle

A student’s transformation: What a difference one anti-racist student midwife can make

Reflections on racism and oppression in midwifery

This response to K. Heron’s graduation speech by one of her fellow students (previous post) testifies to how powerfully transformative the presence of anti-racist peers can be.

*****

There are a lot of growing pains happening in the midwifery world right now.  The MOC chair and inner council resignation from MANA is really the sort of outward symptom of a larger sickness that has been plaguing midwifery in the U.S. for quite a while now.  But these are clearly actions that need to be taken, because they raise important questions that need to be asked.  We need to ask ourselves why are African American women 4 times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications than Caucasian women?  Why is it that 9/1,000 Native American babies are dying, versus 5/1,000 white babies?  Why is it that so many more white women seem to have access to midwifery care?  Why is it so hard for people of color to get the education needed to become a midwife?  And the deeper, more meaningful question—why is it that these types of disparities have persisted, and even increased, over time while our health care system has made so many advances in maternal care?

These questions point to an insidious kind of racism that persists in the U.S.  It’s not just something that affects midwifery and maternal/infant health care, but it can be easily identified there.  This is the sort of thing that is much harder to get at and combat because it isn’t one thing that you can point at and say “that, that’s what needs to be fixed”.  Combating racism is kind of like pealing the layers of an onion—when you take off one layer, another one is there underneath to make the sting that much deeper.

So what do we do?  How do we, as midwives and midwifery students, change something so intangible and huge?  How do we shift an entire culture?  The answer is we start with ourselves.

My friend K. Heron of the blog Bloody Show pointed this out in her wonderful graduation speech that she gave in June.  Luckily, she posted the speech on her blog, so that we all have the privilege of reading it.

I know that I have had to do a lot of work over the last couple of years to really look at my own ideas and how I have unconsciously perpetuated a system that oppresses many while giving advantages to only a few.  Before I got into midwifery school, I had only vaguely thought about these issues.  Being a white woman from a fairly upper-middle class background, I had only limited experience with poverty and racism.  I, like many, thought that simply not being outwardly racist or demeaning was enough.  I didn’t think about the privilege and responsibility that comes with the color of my skin in our culture.  It never occurred to me that I didn’t live a world where skin color didn’t matter.  That there were millions of people out there struggling while I had (and still have) so much.

But that changed dramatically when I met K at midwifery school.  She started talking about things I had never thought about, and really opening my eyes to the world as it is.  A world in which my friends that are a different race than me have a much harder time becoming midwives, receive worse care in the hospital, and actually know babies and mothers that have died from pregnancy-related complications.  And what was worse—the realization that I was unwittingly participating in this cultural racism, idly standing by.

As with any large, culture wide problem, the impossibility of it seemed like almost too much.  What can I, one lowly midwifery student, do?  How much impact can I actually have?  And how do I start making changes, when I don’t even know where to begin?

Luckily, K has some great ideas about that, too.  I love folks that are solution oriented!  She makes some great suggestions in her bullet pointed list—things like “Take a good anti-racism or anti-oppression training in your area” and “Seek out allies to start having conversations about race with” and “Advertise and do outreach to women of color in your community” and just generally “Get involved”.  These are practical things that I can do, right now, to help change the face of midwifery and midwifery care in my own community.  That feels pretty effing good.

And I like this attitude of solution.  So often I see people throw up their hands and say that they can’t think of anything.  I have come to understand that this is tantamount to perpetuating racism—that doing nothing has an impact.  But there are so many ways to do something.  This list is by no means exhaustive of all the options or possibilities.  Get creative!  Who can you talk to that may have new ideas?  After I shared K. Heron’s post on Facebook, a woman whose birth I attended contacted me to have a conversation about this very topic of racism/discrimination in midwifery care.  What a great idea!  I had been having all these conversations with midwives and midwifery students about institutionalized racism, now it’s time to hear from midwifery consumers!

The upshot of all of this is really to get us to look deeper at ourselves.  To ask the internal questions that are hard to ask, but must be revealed.  It is in this way that we can begin to truly offer the kind of care that every pregnant person deserves—because K. Heron said it best “Maternal Health is a Human Right”.

Sky Connelly is a midwifery student currently enrolled at Birthwise Midwifery School, and apprenticing with North Star Midwifery in St.Paul, MN.  She writes the blog Mana Midwifery.  She spends most of her free time riding her bike, walking her dog, swimming in the lake, and reading Harry Potter.  You can follow her on Twitter @ManaMidwifery.

Repost: Maternal Health as a Human Right

Reflections on racism and oppression in midwifery

K. Heron, of the student midwife blog Bloody Show, recently posted her marvelous graduation speech. It is a perfect example of the expanded vision of the new generation of midwives that are currently training and starting to practice. I apprenticed and went to midwifery school in from 1999-2002, and while I considered myself politically radical (though looking back I am sorry to say that this “radicalism” was heavily amalgamated with self-righteousness, white ignorance and entitlement, and brash naivete) I wasn’t able to bring midwifery together with what I was learning about the histories and actualities of racism and American imperialism. The curriculum at my school, Maternidad La Luz, didn’t emphasize this crucial articulation either, even though most of our clients stood in line (sometimes for hours) to cross the highly militarized geopolitical border between Juarez and El Paso, and there was a power differential of race and/or language as well as citizenship between the clients and the students, in most cases. Some of us talked about it, some of our more politicized teachers talked about it, but it wasn’t official. I haven’t been back to MLL since 2003, and I hope and am guessing that the conversation has shifted in a similar direction. It warms my heart to know that it definitely has at Birthwise. Kudos to Birthwise and to K for this lovely articulation.

Maternal Health is a Human Right

As we leave Birthwise today and head into the world as new midwives, we are tasked with the sweet privilege and honor of attending and facilitating the birth of families. We are also inheriting some incredible challenges and responsibilities. According to new data from the United Nations, women are more likely to die from pregnancy and birth-related complications in the US than in 50 other countries and its getting worse.

I have a hard time getting beyond those numbers. 50th place for maternal mortality. I cannot wrap my brain around the fact that we are in country where we spend more money (by a long shot) on medicine than any other country in the world and yet our maternal mortality numbers look like that. But then it just gets worse. In the US, black and Native American women and their babies die at rates disproportionate to their white counterparts. Black infants are 2.4 times more likely to die in the first year of life than white babies. Black women are 4 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. Frankly, these statistics are unconscionable. They are horrendous and abhorrent. And we HAVE to do something about it.

Fortunately, I think we have a piece of the answer. That answer is midwifery care.

As midwives, I think we’re doing a lot of things right. We provide competent, compassionate care to our clients throughout their entire pregnancies. We spend hours and hours in prenatal appointments getting to know women and their families, providing support when they have challenges, and giving excellent and often life-changing education. We facilitate their births start to finish cognizant of the many varied expressions of normal, holding space for our clients to navigate this journey however they need and want to as long as it is safe. Postpartum, we go above and beyond the care women get in obstetrical practices, doing home visits and multiple postpartum visits, catching things that are often missed by standard hospital care and lead to morbidity and mortality such as HELLP, infection, late post partum hemorrhages, and the list goes on and on.

And even still, we have a long long way to come. When you envision your future practice, are you serving the clients who need you the most? When you think about your preceptorships to date, are the women walking through your door an accurate reflection of the demographics in your area? Or do you serve a disproportionate number of white women?

In the 2011 update to Amnesty International’s seminal paper, Deadly Delivery, we learn that in addition to higher rates of maternal and infant mortality, “[w]omen of color are also less likely to have access to adequate maternal health care services. Native American and Alaska Native women are 3.6 times, African-American women 2.6 times and Latina women 2.5 times as likely as white women to receive late or no prenatal care.” We cannot provide the excellent midwifery care I know we all provide to women who are not even walking through our doors.

These galling numbers and statistics are beginning to come to the forefront of our thinking as midwives. I hear midwives talking about race disparities in obstetric care all over the country, both in person and online. I am so pleased that we are starting to have these conversations in earnest. Unfortunately, we have to do more than say we want to change outcomes for moms and babes. We need to get down to work to create real and lasting change. Maternal health is a human right and we need to work towards that truth. In doing so, we might have to stretch our comfort zones further than we thought we could and then keep pushing. But do it we must, because reducing infant and maternal mortality is more important than just about anything else we will do in our careers. Our very lives depend on it.

The challenge as I see it is combating racism and building a praxis of reproductive and birth justice. Racism is a central reason why these maternal mortality statistics are so skewed by race. When you rule out other confounding factors such as socioeconomic status, education level, geographic location, the race-based disparities remain. Personally, I believe unexamined institutionalized racism is the main factor why so many of our practices have a white-majority client base even if it doesn’t mirror the people who actually live in our communities. It’s why women of color are not accessing and utilizing the services of midwives at the same rates their white counterparts are. As midwives, we are failing families and their babies through our own inaction.

We need to examine our practices as we build or join them. We need to begin to have the difficult and uncomfortable conversations with our peers, mentors, teachers, and students. We need to talk about racism as a facet of midwifery and put our brains together about ways to eliminate it. Ask yourselves: When you have women of color in your practice, are you providing truly culturally competent care? Are you providing a welcoming environment where women are free from racism and racist practices, whether intentionally committed or not? If not, let’s fix it.

Here’s the real crux of the situation – we choose to make these changes out of love. I have decided to be an active participant in the work to fix these problems as long as I’m a practicing midwife BECAUSE I so love the work I do and I so love the clients I serve. I love my birth community, I love my peers, and I love each and every one of you and that’s precisely why I am willing to do this hard work. It is that love that pushes me on and gives me the strength to continue and it is that same love that inspires me every time I see change being made.

There are so many places to start:

  • Take a good anti-racism or anti-oppression training in your area. Attend relevant workshops at MANA conferences. Read books, websites, blogs, anything you can get your hands on. Do not ever stop learning.
  • Know your history as midwives and share it with your peers and clients. Make sure people know that what you do was built on the backs of immigrant women, black Grand midwives in the deep south, and Latina parteras in the southwest. Don’t let anyone believe the myth that Ina May Gaskin single-handedly resurrected a dead profession from the ashes. Not even she believes that.
  • Begin to get involved with reproductive justice groups.
  • Tap your local birth community for people you respect who are already engaged in this work. Find our how you can be involved.
  • Seek out allies to start having conversations about race with.
  • Find out ways to serve women of color and the organizations that support them in your community.
  • Advertise and do outreach to women of color in your community, make sure they are knowledgeable about midwifery care as an option. Make sure they feel welcome and included in your client activities. Begin to change your demographics and you will begin to change birth outcomes.
  • Seek out other birth professionals of color to collaborate with. Are the doulas, lactation consultants, ultrasonographers, massage therapists, chiropractors, and acupuncturists, that you refer to all white? Change that if you can. Add new referrals to your list. Be on the look-out for qualified and competent professionals of color to refer to.
  •  Join the national conversation. What changes can be made to MANA, NACPM, MEAC, the MAMA Campaign and your local and state organizations? Can you help them come to an awareness of the seriousness of this issue and begin actively working towards combating it?
  • Train women of color as midwives, because they are our future.
  • End the institutionalized racism women of color experience in the medical system and commit to making sure that women never experience those kinds of indignities and injustices in your practice. Ever.

I personally challenge each and every one of you to utilize your incredible skill, tools, and love as midwives to make significant change regarding race-based maternal and infant mortality rates in North America. I urge you to make solving this problem a significant focus of your lives and practices. My deepest hope is that you find the challenge and reward, and the joy that is there in this transformative work. My dream is that your soul will catch on fire with the need and drive to do this work out in the world and that it will sustain you in all the years to come. You are the next generation of midwives and through your actions, we can transform midwifery care into a profession that truly is for ALL women.

The invisible birth bag of white privilege

Reflections on racism and oppression in midwifery

“White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” is a classic article discussing white privilege and the process of understanding and unlearning racism for white people in the United States.  We highly recommend reading the article in it’s entirety before taking a look at some midwifery specific points below. It is a wonderful and very readable article.

Here is the article:  http://www.nymbp.org/reference/WhitePrivilege.pdf

We’ve added some ways that white people are privileged in the United States in the context of midwifery.

As a white midwife or aspiring midwife:

1. I  can easily see images of people of my skin color in natural childbirth and midwifery books and videos.

2. If there are other midwives in my region, I can reasonably expect to find other midwives of my skin color to interact with for support, education, and peer review.

3. If there are midwifery preceptors in my region, I can reasonably expect to find a midwifery preceptor of my skin color.

4. I don’t have to wonder if I was not accepted to an apprenticeship because of my skin color.

5. I don’t have to wonder if clients question my competence because of my skin color.

6. I can be reasonably well assured that the leaders of midwifery organizations I join are of my same skin color.

7. I am not expected to speak for all midwives of my skin color when I speak on a topic.

8. Midwives who look like me and live outside this country are not considered exotic, primitive, backwards or essential midwives.

9. I can reasonably expect that a history of midwifery will include  representations of midwives who look like me, and that those representations will include individual specific midwives, not generalizations.