How being a colorblind birth professional hurts your clients
Recently, I had a great extended conversation on racism in birth work at a VBAC Facts training for professionals in Covington, LA. And I wanted to share it with you. One doula shared that we simply needed to treat all clients the same regardless of race. What she was saying is that we should be colorblind. Now, I felt the good intentions in her heart. I knew what she was trying to say. Because there was a time that I believed the same thing. I was so glad she spoke up because it kicked off a tough conversation that needed to be had.
I explained how treating all clients the same regardless of race was a disservice to parents of color (POC). Just like treating a first time parent and a VBAC parent the same is a disservice to the VBAC parent. In order to fully support POC, we have to be aware of, and honest about, the inherent and real challenges that they face because they are POC. Just like we can’t whitewash the extra challenges that come with planning a VBAC.
To act “colorblind” is problematic because the whole premise is to act like race doesn’t exist. It’s to act as if race itself is the problem. When in reality, RACISM is the problem. Further, being colorblind denies the reality that Native and Black moms and babies die at a higher rate than white moms and babies. And no matter how much education a Black woman attains or how much money she makes, those statistics hold firm for her as well. To act “colorblind” denies the realty of Black parents living in American society.
So being colorblind and treating everyone the same is not the answer.
Standing in the discomfort of the truth of how people of color are treated in this country is the first step toward the answer. And believe me, as I shared at the training, it’s uncomfortable for me, as a white woman, to talk about racism because who am I to lead this conversation?
That fear cannot keep those of us who want to eliminate racial disparities in America silent. Because silence permits major social problems like racism to thrive. Further, people of color have been talking for years often falling on deaf ears. It’s time for white people to start listening and if I can help that process, I want to. Which is why I welcomed this initial comment and took extra time at the training to address how problematic being colorblind really is.
Yet when I talk about racism and racial disparities, especially on Facebook, I inevitably get white people who are really angry. They don’t see how it has anything to do with VBAC and they question, “Why do we have to bring race into this?” As if race has nothing to do with health care.
I talk about race because it matters. The mission of VBAC Facts is to improve access to VBAC through legislation, consulting, training (including about racism in health care), and amplifying the consumer voice including the voices of people of color.
Especially if you are a birth professional and/or talking about racism makes you feel mad or awkward, know you are not alone. I hear you. It is uncomfortable.
So right now you have a choice. You can either sit in the place of feeling weird or you can do something about it.
One simple thing is to learn more about how being “colorblind” really doesn’t help. This article is a great start. I especially like this quote:
For white folks to claim that race should not matter is to reveal that race has never negatively impacted us… When we invent blindness, we are only blind to our own racial power and privilege. Refusing to see systems of oppression and inequality is just another way to prevent their destruction.
If you want tools for moving beyond the “uncomfortableness” so you can be truly effective as you interact with those around you, I highly recommend reading the book Filter Shift: How Effective People See the World.
It’s true. As a white woman, the world interacts with me differently than it does with people of color. I do not experience racism directed towards me.
But I see it.
And because I can’t unsee it, because it is literally killing Black and Native peoples, and because it’s the right thing to do, white people cannot remain silent on the realities of racism and how it impacts health outcomes for Black and Native families across America. I stand in solidarity with people of color.
Until next time,
What do you think?
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What do you think? Leave a comment.
As a nationally recognized consumer advocate and Founder of VBAC Facts®, Jen Kamel helps birth professionals, and cesarean parents, achieve clarity on vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) through her educational courses, training programs, and consulting services. She speaks at conferences across the country, presents Grand Rounds at hospitals, advises advocates seeking legislative change in their state, and serves as a expert witness in legal proceedings. She envisions a time when every pregnant person seeking VBAC has access to unbiased information, respectful providers, and community support, so they can plan the birth of their choosing in the setting they desire.