Breathe Easy, You've Found Me ((HUGS))

People will wonder why this blog is needed, why minority midwifery student? It's very simple actually; I was looking for this blog...but I couldn't find I created it. We all have unique experiences, and every experience, every story, can help someone else. I am a black girl from the hood at an ivy league professional school. That, alone, is reason enough to write. Somebody was looking for this blog. Someone wanted proof that what I'm doing can be done - even when you come from where we come from.

To that person especially, WELCOME.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Can You Teach Me About Racism?

(sorry to put your comment on blast, SageFemme, but it's a good one, and I've heard it before!)

To be honest, the first thing I said when I read that question in the comments of the previous post was "as if!" Why? Because that's like asking "can you teach me about science?" Ummmm, what exactly about science? Science is so broad, it's all around us. This is why this post was so cumbersome to answer...there's just to much...where to start? A better method is to ask specific questions, like "what are some possible reasons that the maternal mortality rate is so much higher in black women than it is in white women?" or "how does white privilege play out in predominately white classrooms and what effect does it have on black students?" But I realize that's a slow process - asking one question at a time, plus, how do you know what questions to ask?!

I would hesitate to ask the question the way you asked it because the answer might be "it's not my job to teach you everything there is to know about racism." When I want to know about something that has to do with racism/discrimination/cultural preferences etc. I say something like this: In my culture it is so annoying/inappropriate to walk up and touch people's you find that annoying? Do you think it's generally annoying in your culture, too?" or "I read/heard from Mr. X that Z is you find that offensive, too?...because I don't want to offend people" Notice how I lead with "you", because if you say "do black people find that offensive?" what you're going to get is "well, I can't speak for all black people/the entire race, but..." and the assumption that one black person can speak for all black people is irritating because it implies that whoever is asking thinks that we're all alike. Or you could simply insert the word "some" into the question..."do some black people generally find X offensive..."

But even after having said all of the above, I must tell you; it's not people like you - people who are asking questions because they really want to know - that I find offensive. It's people who don't even want to know...or only want to know so that they can put you into some box that they've created.

But, let's move forward. In my opinion, the first step to being open to learning about racism is understanding the concept of white privilege. And I know it seems so simple, but you wouldn't believe how many people don't even believe it exists. Since you already know about that and are conscious of how it plays out in your life, let's move on. LaborPayne mentioned something about the mental toll on minorities when they're in predominately white settings/populations. The term used to describe some of what she's talking about is double consciousness. Understanding double consciousness might help one understand the mental exhaustion that sometimes comes out as anger and frustration in black folks. I would say most black people experiences this, even if they don't have the terminology to explain it, so that's a good place to start.

What exactly does this have to do with racism? Racism is very insidious, and the relentlessness of it affects people's (all people's) psyches, whether they know it/admit it or not. So racism (no matter which definition you use) is kind of a physical manifestation of all the ugly/negative things we think about a group of people...those people then turn around and internalize what is being said about/taught to/done to them. The act of trying to reconcile all that bullshit that you hear about yourself, with what you know to be true, is one aspect of double consciousness.

A good book for you to start with (because it is about both racism and women's reproductive rights/feminism etc - which, in my mind, means that you will really enjoy it! ;o) is Killing the Black Body. It really is an excellent book. (Also, because I didn't include sources in my last post, please note that you will find some of the info about forced sterilization there. And next time I will be sure to put up some sources for what I'm saying!)


Sage Femme said...

yep, this is what I was looking for. thanks.

can I ask you what you felt when you read about the women who go to large birth centers here and abroad that serve a minority population to "get numbers" for midwifery school? what about the responses from two white women who said they never "practiced" on these women (yet gaining clinical experience has an element to practicing, or am I thinking too cynically?)?

What about the commentthat was made about the women they saw? I spent my time working at an IHS facility. I am in awe of the Native American women I worked with there - they taught me so much. I admire their grace and beauty, especially during labor. Would she talk about a these qualities if she was talking about white women only? Perhaps.

I just find that it's one thing that my many progressive/liberal friends when they meet children of color that some white people have adopted...What beautiful hair! (and yeah, they touch it); What gorgeous skin!...would they say and do these things about WHITE kids that these couples adopted?

Truth is, I think that the discomfort that many liberal white folk feel with race issues causes them to be outwardly weird and racist. We may not be flying the confederate flag, but it seems to me that it's just as out there in the open. Thoughts?

CNM said...

My thoughts are still formulating on all of this, but here's something that just popped into my head that I thought I'd share. In terms of learning the vocabulary needed to discuss these kind of issues, a book I would highly recommend is Toward a New Psychology of Women, by Jean Baker Miller. It's a fantastic book, although what it's tackling is gender stereotypes and gender issues. But the language she uses to describe these things is in terms of dominate and subordinate, and everything she's describing is immediately applicable to issues of race as well. It really gives you a new way to talk about things that you might otherwise had a hard time expressing, and a new language to describe these very prickly issues. I'd recommend it if you're looking for reading on this, Sage Femme.