Over a year ago when I was working with a group of Parish nurses for a Participatory Action Research (PAR) anthropology course, towards the end, the Reverend, a Chaplain, a white Chaplain, and director of the program and I began talking about the lack of People Of Color who joined the nursing program at the local community college. As we talked, he explained this lack inhibited other People Of Color from seeking help from the hospice nurses, who are community nurses involved with a local church who make home visits, host health and community events, pray with clients, and offer other services like making prayer shawls — all to ensure the well-being of patients, which reduces recidivism — a patients return to the hospital.
When the Reverend asked me if I would pose for a picture, he explained the idea was to display diversity (I was that diversity since I was the only Black women in the program in that town — even though I was just a student at the time), which in turn, would draw in more nursing students Of Color. He took a few snaps, but over the next couple of weeks, decided we needed a more ‘professional’ picture, so we posed later on.
Until recently I still questioned whether that was wrongdoing on my part or not. I felt a bit guilty and uneasy about it that I went home, but I did not ask the Reverend or the staff to pull the image.
Last night, I ran across an article about the necessity of lactation consultants from different racial backgrounds. It explained that cultural misunderstandings are vast and lead to complications, mistrust, lack of participation, all which lead to disparities. When I read that article, it almost eased those feelings of guilt I had over the past one year of thinking that I somehow duped my community, and instead I almost began to feel pride for allowing the pictures to appear in the pamphlets. While I was not a nurse, I was a participant in the program at the hospital that tried to find a way to bring the best outcome for the overall goal of the program, which was to find the most effective way the nurses supported the community. I am also very aware that there is a history among people of color, and especially Black people in this country with mistrust in health care, which, understanding this history, makes sense, and unfortunately with such barriers continues the disparities in our communities and everyone suffers.
When I think about this now and how I will relate this to my journey to becoming a lactation consultant, I am not so sure how others have related to a person hovering over them and offering a cultural interpretation that someone may just not get — yes, even when it comes to the politics behind how we People of Color breastfeed! I am at the least glad that I don’t have to pose and I actually am on my way to being a more diverse figure contributing to healthy baby, mama, family, community. When there is a more diverse group of health care professionals — this diversity includes various genders as well, there is a more diverse group of people receiving the proper care, attention, and cultural understandings they deserve.