Today I took a dear friend out to lunch and had the misfortune of sitting behind two white female OBs. I couldn't help but hear them loudly exclaim that they knew exactly what THOSE women needed to do to improve their birth outcomes. If I hear one more arrogant white person state what we need....I swear I'll explode. Truth be told what we need is a whole lot fewer arrogant white obstetricians thinking they know what ails us. What ails us is them. They are our problem, along with the entire healthcare system they rode in on. This also happened last month when I attended a monthly meeting on infant mortality and listened to blatant indictment of Black women as the cause of Black infant death. It simply is not so. All across the country I hear this, Black women, Black families, the Black community blamed for Black infant deaths. Deaths that are entirely preventable. Deaths that aren't prevented because Black lives don't matter in this country. Deaths that are caused by systemically racist healthcare and economic systems that fail Black women and Black families. I want to scream at the top of my lungs and I shall. Our hands are not the hands bloody with these deaths. Listening to those women smugly and arrogantly parcel out advice from high atop their mountain of privilege made me want to come up with my own list of demands that point out the true villains when it come to Black infant mortality.
BLACK WOMEN'S MATERNITY CARE MANIFESTO
Number One: (to Black women)
Whenever you can, wherever you can, opt out of the system. This system is not intended for you, means you no good, and is largely responsible for your poor outcomes, while blaming you for them. Get out, however and whenever you can. Look for alternative ways to get your healthcare. Look for alternative providers. Pay for your own care, after all you really do get what you pay for. The 'free' government run system will keep us and our babies sick and dying. Get out of it if you can.
Number Two: (to Black people)
We are not who they say we are. They pathologize us, but we are not pathology. It is not our bodies or our culture that is flawed it their system. Their flawed system pathologizes us. Our bodies are strong. Our minds are strong. Our collective will is strong. We have survived everything they have brought against us. We are still here. We still survive. Now it is time to thrive.
Number Three: (to white careproviders)
Take your white hands off my Black body. Until you can see me, hear me, respect me, love me you have no business touching me. Every touch will be an act of violence upon my person. You do not have permission to touch me until you can see me. Until you can look at me as a real person and not a caricature or a stereotype, you may not touch me. Until you can actually listen to the sound of my voice and hear and respect what I have to say and not dismiss me, you may not touch me. You haven't earned the right.
Number Four: (to white people)
Allieship on our terms. You are allies when we say so and how. Otherwise your allieship is not to be trusted. You are not to be trusted. You do not even know when you are being untrustworthy. You must depend on our guidance and our say so. If you are not willing to do this, we have no use of you.
Number Five: (to the Black community)
Cultivate our own maternity care system. We must restore our community midwives. We must invest in midwifery schools and the midwifery arts. We must train our own to serve our own. We are the solution to the healthcare crisis that plagues our communities. Outsiders can only play a limited role, if any in relieving us of this burden of health outcome disparities. We must do it for ourselves.