Why is Anti-racism work important for doulas and educators?

Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy and postpartum-related causes than white women. Many factors contribute to these disparities, such as the quality of health care, underlying chronic conditions, structural racism, and implicit bias. As CAPPA educators and doulas, we are committed to improving birth and postpartum for all people. Therefore, it is critical that we learn about racism and commit to being an ally. It can literally save someone’s life.

I speak from the experience of a white man. I will share my experience with white and we will take direction from Black and Indigenous people of color (BIPOC) about how to be an ally. As an ally, we are responsible for taking important conversations about race into our families, classes, workplaces, and communities (many of those spaces may be overwhelmingly white).

When I was a new parent, I am very curious to learn all the things I need to know to raise children who are confident, capable, and physically and emotionally healthy. I read books, I talked to other parents, I talked to experts, I watched videos. I was hungry for the knowledge that I needed to do the right thing and understand the world of children’s growth and development so that I could be the best parent I could be.

Perhaps you can relate, as a parent, or perhaps in your studies on the CAPPA course, you went along with equal enthusiasm because you were motivated and committed to learning something new.

We learn about something we enjoy with curiosity, humility, and openness. We have a “beginner’s mind”.

Today, I invite you to learn and teach about racism with the same urgency as a new parent who wants to know what is best for their newborn baby. Stay in your “beginner’s mind” and listen with curiosity, humility, and openness.

A few things to remember about the beginner’s mindset:

  • Notice yourself. Self-awareness is key. Notice if you feel defensive, focused, or confused. Discomfort is part of the process.
  • Don’t get mad at others, just pay attention to what’s happening to you. Being dismissive or defensive makes you an unreliable ally with BIPOC.
  • Take risks. Don’t be paralyzed by perfection.

Getting rid of racism isn’t just about learning the right and wrong things to do or say, it’s a process of examining ourselves, our beliefs, and our blindness to fully reflect on our black and brown friends and family, who are ready to LISTEN.

Please don’t say, “I’m not racist.” Because a true understanding of anti-racism work is a commitment to a continuous process of relearning, examining, and investigating your learned beliefs about others and the world around you. Being an ally is not a destination. It is a process. Remember that you are always learning and evaluating. Being anti-racist creates your own lens of racial justice where you can comment:

  • Yourself and your personal relationships (family and friends)
  • The history of our country that is widely taught
  • The news, headlines, and highlights
  • Education: what is taught and who has access
  • Your workplace
  • Where you spend your money

First Step to being anti-racist (as a white person): Examine your experience, including white privilege.

Use your racial justice lens and see how your experiences and white history set you up to have access and privilege that was not earned and passed down through the generations.

White privilege doesn’t mean your life is easy. It just means that it’s not made difficult because of the color of your skin.

Here is an excerpt from Dear White People, This Is What We Want You To Do by Kandise Le Blanc:

“I want you to know that you are the byproduct of a successful racist regime that has capitalized on Black oppression and suppression for centuries. I want you to realize that being racist is more American than apple pie.

I don’t want you to feel comfortable.

I want you to look at yourself. I want you to shed light on the corners of your subconscious that you have glossed over for years. I want you to know that you are racist because you have been trained to be, and it is within your power to be anti-racist.”

When did you first remember knowing you were white? Knowing your race is specific to your experience and may be different for others. Think about it.

The truth is that white people have a limited understanding of the complexities of race. Most BIPOC know from the day they are born that the color of their skin directly affects every space they occupy. White is the “default setting” and everything else is “the rest”.

BIPOC navigate their lives as “the other” several times a day:

  • Sometimes they are the only ones of their own race in a white group.
  • Sometimes they feel the fear of danger because of their race.
  • They are treated unfairly because of the color of their skin.
  • Sometimes they have to laugh along with racist jokes to keep the peace.
  • Assumptions will be made about them because of their race.
  • They will have to work hard to get equal opportunities.
  • They will learn early how to interact with the police, even if they have not broken the law, because their lives are in danger.

The fact that white people don’t understand the complexity of navigating these situations in the world means that we have white privilege.

Step Two: Understand that racism exists in all systems of power.

Racism is embedded in every power structure in America. Do your Homework. It doesn’t take long to find blatant examples of racism in all of the following systems:

  • Taking care of your health
  • Education
  • Law enforcement
  • The justice system
  • Euro centric history we were taught in schools
  • Politics

White privilege is real. Read about it. Read what BIPOC has to say about it. We have been given an unearned advantage in systems that have deliberately created barriers for BIPOC access and success.

When we argue about white privilege by saying things like “I’m white but not privileged” or “It can’t be that bad” or “That happened during slavery but it doesn’t happen now” we are showing our whiteness weakness

White weakness is when white people become uncomfortable with the complexity of race and the BIPOC account of racism, we become:

  • Defensive
  • Argumentative
  • Dismissive
  • Disturbed
  • Anger

The third step in being anti-racist is knowing that it is a process, a commitment to self-examination, using your racial justice lens, reading and educating yourself from BIPOC, making yourself vulnerable. (See A place to start: Resources at the end of the article)

Step Four: Become an ally.

Next I compiled a list of what BIPOC requested from white allies:

  • LISTEN. Listen to the BIPOC in your life, read about their experience, read about racism, learn from the important contributions they’ve made to highlight what it’s like to live in America as a black and brown person. Don’t ask for justification or question their experience or emotions. Be uncomfortable. Find mentors. Take classes, follow on social media.
  • Understand that you are the product of centuries of racism in our country. You sometimes chose to ignore the fact that racism exists because it didn’t affect you.
  • Respect the wide range of emotions from BIPOC, especially related to racism. Can you imagine the anger you will feel after all the injustice and cruelty? Or maybe it’s sadness or indifference. Don’t tell BIPOC what they should feel.
  • Talk about racism in white spaces! Take this information to your workplaces, churches, synagogues, temples, organizations, sports teams, social circles, and families. Make a commitment to discuss race and your anti-racism work.
  • Relearn history. Read about the injustice, about the BIPOC uprisings, the blatant racism that keeps BIPOC from voting, owning property, starting businesses, sending them to jail, and to death row .

As doulas and educators, we communicate our values ​​to our clients when we are taught about racism. Even if your clients are not BIPOC, your willingness to address and understand racism makes you a safe place for others. This is an invitation to BIPOC communities to engage and collaborate with you. We need safe people in communities everywhere. You can be an ally. You can have a difficult conversation. And you’ll learn to use your racial justice lens to see what’s right in front of you.

One place to start: RESOURCES

Me and White Supremacy: Fight Racism, Change the World, and Be a Good Ancestor, 2020 by Layla Saad

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, 2018 by Robin DiAngelo

An open letter: Seeking justice and systemic change for Indigenous Families affected by structural racism

Follow on social media (and find more):

Note from Abby Bordner: I have been a teacher, facilitator, consultant, and trainer for many years. I am also a lifelong learner. Throughout my life, I have focused on learning more to become better. I am writing today to share with you some basic understandings of racism that help us advance the conversation and make changes in the relationships and systems that need it most.

About the Author

Abby Border CLD, CPD, CLE®, ICCE, Faculty, began her career in Women’s Health. She started at Planned Parenthood in Portland, OR where she trained as a health counselor for contraception and HIV/AIDS. She had her first child in 1999, when she began her interest in obstetrics. She pursued her doula certification, shortly after becoming a childbirth educator and later a lactation educator, as well. She teaches many educational workshops related to birth and parenting. She started an online parent education and personal support coaching business called Relationship Based on Parenting. Her passion is working with families as a health and wellness educator to develop skills that support compassionate families and all the important dynamics within them. She has two children and lives in Santa Fe, NM.

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