I remember when I first read about paying Black women $1.00 per ounce of breastmilk (that the company would turn around and sell for who only knows how much), in an article by Kimberly Seals Allers, who severely critiqued this. I thought it was absurd. Not that Black women didn’t need each and every ounce of their own milk for their babies, or anything, with rewards that are much higher than what this company, Medolac Laboratories, Inc., was offering.
Of course Medolac tried hard as they could to divert the real issues associated with preterm babies and why Black women in Detroit have some of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the country, which causes significant health implications, with the line they gave that with such a shortage of this so-called ‘donor’ milk — as it stood — some babies receive human milk and others not. But this didn’t happen before taking stabs at Seals Allers first, attempting to question her credibility and discount her critique. They stated that the breastmilk they’re collecting is necessary to ensure the health of preterm infants, and there has been a shortage of donated milk and others hadn’t been properly pasteurized, hence the reasons for the ‘incentives,’ for more milk, which has now ‘tripled in the last year since its launch.’ Fancy that. Read it for yourself here. But as Seals Allers put it (much nicer than I would have, btw):
Targeting low-income Detroit women with the lure of climbing out of poverty by selling their surplus milk raises many ethical questions. It’s one thing to commodify mother’s milk, but to try to commodify a group of women — specifically black women, who already have a difficult history with breast-feeding — seems, a bit, well, sour.
And when she says ‘sour,’ I’m sure means ‘bullshit’.
I’m infuriated that this corporation is trying to profit off of Black women under the guise of being concerned with our lives. Wasn’t there a similar storyline imperialist white supremacist capitalists pitched when they forced us into slavery ‘saving’ us from ourselves? It is also interesting that Medolac calls this milk ‘donor,’ when it is clearly obtained by the exploitation of Black people — Black women, our bodies, our labor, our time, our livelihoods, our families, our overall biology and everything connected to it — which is everything. But this, they say, is their ‘commitment to justice.’
I ask that you stand with the people of Detroit, and with others to speak out against this blatant act of disregard for Black life, and castigate the many layers of injustice embroiled in this tactic. Read the following, which is an open letter from Afrykan Moon, founder of Breastfeeding Mothers Unite in Detroit, that just showed up in my inbox, and then sign the open letter.
Greetings my beautiful family and friends,
I am sure by now you have heard about Medolac Laboratories plan to come into the Detroit area and offer low income African American women $1 per oz for their breast milk. This cannot, should not and will not be allowed to happen in Detroit. Breast Milk is the most precious, valuable, and priceless natural resource any parent has to offer their children. The mere idea of someone trying to entice Mothers with a $1 for an ounce of Milk is appalling.This cannot, should not and will not be allowed to happen in Detroit.
Detroit has made national news for being #1 in the USA for our low breastfeeding rates and high infant mortality rates. This has placed us on the open market for Corporate America and other organizations to find a way to profit off our failures. This is not a free for all. We cannot allow companies like Medolac to profit off the death of our children and the backs of our poor African American women. Will we allow the Mothers of Detroit to become the new Henrietta Lacks? How can selling your breast milk to Medolac benefit the children of Detroit, if the process of making the milk shelf stable will destroy or alter the enzymes and antibodies that makes breast milk the perfect start for children?
We are asking you to stand with us. Tell Medolac, they are not allowed in our city.
Please read our open letter to Medolac and sign it. Medolac most know that NO ONE WANTS THEM HERE, this is not new age slavery.