I saw something on Facebook that SCREAMED White Privilege to me, so I have to write this post. I will leave her name out of, because let’s be real–this problem is not about the person who said this. The problem is obviously that she’s not alone.
I’m sorry I can’t agree with the whole black breast feeding week. If we want to be strong about it then maybe we should all stick together instead of trying to segregate ourselves because of skin color. Yes it is hard for women that aren’t white. Guess what it is hard for white women too. The way this woman said this really bothers me because it makes it seem like being white is SOOO terrible. Stop dragging race into everything because if you hadn’t noticed we are all just one race….. The human race! Stick together as women not as black women, white women, blue women, or any other type of women. If you can’t tell at the end of every single one of those there is the word women…. It seems to me they are making it harder by dividing us into groups!
If we want to be strong, as a human race, we need to acknowledge difference. But that can often mean acknowledging privilege, so it can get uncomfy. We clearly DO need to “drag race into everything” if the fact that talking about race is upsetting. This was not a random page. This is a comment on the Project Breastfeeding page. This is a person who wants to advocate for breastfeeding getting all caught up in what she feels is an accusation (“it makes it seem like being white is SOOO terrible”) when, in fact, it is not about white women. Unless white people use Black Breastfeeding Week to become better allies who show support for the unique struggle a Black woman might face when she decides to breastfeed, then the week is not about White Breastfeeding, being white, or white people at all.
Yes, it’s true, there are things in the world that are not about me. I’m ok with that. Clearly, the people who say that Black Breastfeeding Week is unnecessary or divisive are not ok with examining how race plays a role in the feeding of babies.
How could race NOT play some role in the feeding of babies? Race and culture determine so much of the advice, criticism, attitude toward medicine, styles of parenting… I’m at a total loss to find something that has nothing to do with race. Just read this story over at Jessica Martin Weber’s The Leaky B@@b.
Go visit Every Child is a Blessing for statistics from the CDC about the increased health risks faced by Black babies as a result of much lower breastfeeding rates in Black families.
That information has been repeated by people who know a lot more than I do. So what do I know? I know how to check my privilege. Here’s a helpful flow chart for the next time you or someone you know or someone you see on the internet suggests that something is racist because it does not include everyone:
Why this is generally true: White privilege means that I’m included, unless I’m told otherwise. Think about magazines: there are women’s magazines (Elle, Vogue, Marie Claire) and Black women’s magazines (Essence… feel free to educate me on others). A picture of Olivia Wilde breastfeeding her baby while wearing designer clothing was in one of those. I didn’t see much debate about race. I do remember a lot of talk about Black breastfeeding rates and a racial divide in this issue when pictures appeared of Beyoncé breastfeeding her child while out and about.
If you’ve been here for awhile, you might know that my son has been fed with All The Things – my milk, my friend’s milk, formula. I just want the babies fed. But it is NOT RACIST to have a Black Breastfeeding Week, for the same reasons that it is not sexist to have a women’s college. Yeah, that was quite a leap, but follow me. I went to a women’s college. Why? Because there is less support for women in this world. We make less money in the workplace, and we do more of the work at home. Don’t even argue with me on this one; the statistics are everywhere. “Mommy Guilt” and “Mommy Wars” have become part of click-bait headlines, but I do not see the same for dads. I found and continue to find extra support for the unique challenges I face, as a woman, from my women’s college. For that reason, I do think that there is plenty of good to be done by identifying under-supported groups and making an effort to show some support.
If you find that you are white and not included in something, instead of asking yourself, “Is this racist?” then I suggest asking, “How can I use my privilege for good?”
So, hey–Black mamas. Breastfeeding, bottle feeding, formula feeding, baby feeding mamas. I support you. And I am happy to state, repeatedly, that Black ____ Week is not racist, because I think that you are probably sick of saying it. And maybe my White privilege can add some weight; maybe someone will listen, because a White woman is telling her to think of a way to be more helpful. I can’t do much to fix the fact that Black maternal and infant health is poor, compared to White health, in America. But I can remind people that until we are all included, all the time, it’s never wrong to call some attention to exclusion, and the harm it does.