Black Mamas Matter
“Even Serena Williams almost died in childbirth, so it’s clear that this is not a socioeconomic issue. There is something different about the DNA of black women that makes them less able to survive having a baby.”
This is an actual quote spoken by an actual credentialed (white) healthcare provider in our area. She said this during a Women’s Health Townhall meeting that we were a part of hosting last year. This thought is not only terribly ignorant and misinformed, it’s common.
According to the CDC, black women are 3 to 4 times more likely to die than white women during pregnancy. Researchers say the issue has no single cause, but persistent poverty, inadequate healthcare and higher risk factors such as high blood-pressure, obesity and diabetes impact black women at a higher rate. (Read: longstanding systemic racism)
In her book My Stroke of Insight, Neuroscientist Jill Bolte Taylor points out that, “As members of the same human species, you and I share all but 0.01% (1/100th of 1%) of identical genetic sequences.” (Read: there is nothing in the DNA of black women that makes them any less able than white women to birth their babies in a healthy way.)
White people, white doulas, white midwives, white doctors, and white nurses: this is our work. You cannot claim to be FOR women unless you are for ALL women. We must work on our ignorance, or we will hurt people of color. We are hurting them now, by not acknowledging our ignorance. It is not their job to convince us, the research is clear. The medical system is racist because WE are racist. And I’m not talking about the kind of racist we all can agree on. I don’t mean you use the “n” word. I don’t mean you don’t know and love a black person. I mean the kind of racism that simmers in our subconscious from the moment we are born into this society. The kind of racism that allows us white people to hold the following beliefs:
- A recent study showed that up to 50% of medical residents believe that black people feel less pain. -Robin DiAngelo, Author of White Fragility
- Studies have shown that black patients are often prescribed less pain medication than white patients who present the same complaints. And black patients with signs of heart problems get referrals for advanced cardiovascular procedures less often than white patients with the same symptoms.https://www.nbcnews.com/news/amp/ncna873036
- “…a 2016 study by University of Virginia researchers that found “White medical students and residents often believed biological myths about racial differences in patients, including that Black patients have less-sensitive nerve endings and thicker skin than their White counterparts.”” https://www.psqh.com/analysis/could-legally-mandated-racial-bias-training-reduce-maternal-mortality-rates-for-black-women-2/
Our first job is to push our ego aside. That ego that has allowed white people to cling to the idea that we aren’t part of the problem. We may not have created the racist society we were born into, but it is most certainly our responsibility to help fix it.
Step 1: Acknowledge that racism is real, and is hurting women, babies, and families of color.
Step 2: Admit that we need to learn how to help make the problem better (hint, this requires mostly listening to people of color, and believing them. I know it’s hard, I like to talk too, but this is our time to shut up and listen).
Step 3: Do something. If you don’t know what to do, explore how you got to be in your mid-twenties, mid-thirties, or mid-seventies and you still don’t know. Just do something. But white women, don’t lead, just follow. Join the efforts of an organization lead by people of color and for the love, put your money where your mouth is. There are so many places to donate. Go find one. Start here:
We would love to proclaim our allyship in this matter but that’s not our call to make; it’s not our title to bestow. Women of color, you will be the judge of that. We will do our best and we’ll move forward knowing that our best is not good enough but we’ll move anyway. We believe you, we want to help make things better, and we are humbled in our ignorance on the matter daily.
Visit this website for great information: