Sunday, November 2, 2014

But I Meant Well...

Listen people.  It is not racist to talk about race.  It is not racist to mount efforts that are culturally targeted and that focus and race-based disparities.  It is however destructive and exploitative to take and utilize resources that could be used at the community level to impact individual lives and outcomes, and use those resources in trivial and useless pursuits that do nothing but enrich 'the helping class' and then say it was for the community's good.  That's a working definition of disparities pimping. Just because you have a great idea, doesn't mean its appropriate for you to act on it.  I got calls from all over the country from folks who wanted advice from ME on how to write a grant that I was also competing for.  These folks often had no connections to the Black community but wanted to appropriate funds intended to benefit the Black community because... well just because.  This is not appropriate.  I don't care how well you mean.

It hasn't been all bad.  I had wonderful midwife mentors who welcomed me to their birth center and treated me like one of their own (ditto with my midwife hostess who let me crash at her house for two days, and the Kansas City supporter who handed over the keys to her car so I could get to St. Louis and back after my car died.)  I so valued my time at a local conference to connect with midwife powerhouses, Jennie Joseph and Shafia Monroe.  I was nurtured and enriched by my time with Jeanette McCullough and Sister Morningstar.  I had a productive trip to Nebraska and loved my time Liz Brooks, an insightful person and a gifted speaker at the podium. I returned home to welcome new members to our Council of Elders at Uzazi Village- all women I love, admire and look forward to working alongside. I can't wait to get to Atlanta, to bask in the radiant glory of women like Kimarie Bugg and Ameena Ali.  I'm headed to training provided by an ally who 'gets it'.  When I return home, it will be to other allies like Diana Casser Uhl who support the work that I and others like me are doing.  However, the following scenes from my life, tell me there is much work to be done.

scenario a) I've been speaking to several communities with no connection to their African-American counterparts. Two local organizations in a city with a 50% African-American population banded together to write a grant that supports African-American women breastfeeding- even though there is no representation within either of these organizations that represents the community where the work is to be done!  We cannot continue to do business as usual like this.  This is disparities pimping at its finest.  Why do these organizations think they have the right to apply for grants aimed at our communities when they have no ties to our community?  To continue to do this is pure and simple colonialist thinking.  They can take money on our behalf under the guise of serving us (while they really serve themselves), but can't make any reasonable overtures into the community to connect with members of the community?  What hope is there for the success of their programs?  Shouldn't the infrastructure come first? then programs they support? We do not need more well meaning people to come into our communities with yet another brilliant idea to save us. But of course, they mean well... (Sent out mass email to those involved at leadership level.)

scenario b) One of my Chocolate Milk Cafe's (TM) was forced to change its name (therefore disqualifying it from being a Chocolate Milk CafĂ© (TM) ) when administrators up the ranks found the name to be 'offensive" and issued a gag order to prevent them from sharing their success with the greater organization.  They were given a choice to change the name or keep silent (there's that silence thing again) about it during an annual gathering to share their success with other counterparts in other parts of the state.  So let me get this straight, its okay for culturally incompetent others to come into our community and start their idea of what they think a breastfeeding support group should look like (see a.) but we cannot start our own support groups that are culturally specific and proven effective?  But those who oppose this 'racist' approach, mean well.   (Made some calls to state leadership- and a private vow not to work with these organizations in the future)

scenario c) Sat in Uzazi Village while I endured the visit of two researchers from the local university who had been paid thousands of dollars to do a survey on why our local hospitals are not yet Baby-Friendly and what breastfeeding barriers were posed to first time mothers.  Lord help me.  I patiently explained that with the thousands that were being spent to compile yet another useless report, I could have served hundreds, literally hundreds of childbearing families in my community.  Of course, as the researchers explained it, they meant well... (Just scratched my head in frustration).

From now on folks, lets DO WELL not just mean well.