The White (Breastfeeding) Do-Gooder

Posted on Posted in whiteness

Kimberly Seals Allers re-blogged an article on white supremacy. If you read this article about food justice the people involved are not supposed to be expressing dominance; they’re supposed to be offering their services to communities in need, but the legacy of white supremacy is by all accounts, in full effect. This article showed how the willingness of white people to offer their services to communities of color — those that seem to be in need of intervention in order to make their way of living, their health and well-being better. I read another one along these same lines recently¬†from The Mahogany Way Birth Cafe, but on birthing — where these ‘educated’ and ‘informed’ white women employ their services to these women Of Color in an effort to fix what is wrong and direct us — show us the way.The upcoming breastfeeding summit was on the same track. The focus will be on breastfeeding disparities in communities Of Color and the role racism and white privilege play in strengthening these. We — the other summit advisory team and myself, received an email about the conference — on the intended audience, where Women Of Color and the issues within our community will be portrayed in front of health care professionals who are mostly white, in order to show how white privilege contributes to breastfeeding disparities. In other words the conference would enlighten these providers and suggest they find ways to rectify the wrong doing.¬†It sounds good enough — that we highlight the role of whiteness. Actually, in theory it sounds excellent. Whites get the finger pointed and from there should be convicted enough to evoke a radical transformation contributing to the demise of these disparities, right?! Well, not really. And in fact not at all.I know everyone has the best intentions, and I’m happily working with all of these advisory members of various races and backgrounds. We are willingly and rightfully listening to each other in an effort to work towards the common goal, which is why I won’t get too radical up in here. We all want to critique whiteness and highlight how it marginalizes and maligns (even the white members, who suggested this theme), and at the end of the day all of us want more women to breastfeed. But the reality is that just won’t work. And what would be at that foundation would highlight the incredible dynamic that continues to be portrayed as progress.

Having women Of Color pitch our ‘plight’ to a conference full of white healthcare workers will not work towards the goal of increasing breastfeeding rates and ending disparities. In fact, not only will it not work, but it would calculate itself exactly the way white supremacy is formulated. These predominantly white providers would serve to deliver that level of dominance and structure of superiority and would be the ones to elect if and when to challenge injustice and decide if and when it’s worth criticizing — this format would remain cyclical, without questioning why this dynamic even exists in the first place. To what extent would members of a group who benefit daily from a system designed with them in mind, work to critically assess and make changes at a foundational level? That just hands over the authority and enables the continuance of a governing cycle that has been systematic and strategically in place for too long. People Of Color must join the conversation and be involved in all aspects of the efforts, in order to find as many practical and creative ways to challenge this legacy of domination and the repercussions it is responsible for. Whiteness will never work against itself.

2 thoughts on “The White (Breastfeeding) Do-Gooder

  1. Hi Acquanda, it’s Rachel. Just doing some saturday morning reading. So this is the big disconnect for this conference, right? We’re assuming mostly white lactation, LLL and WIC folks will attend and inviting mostly women of color to talk to this group about this, which is what we always say we need to not do- have the burden be on people of color to tell white people what systemic racism looks and feels like, and how white women keep this going, though many don’t claim to know it yet. So that’s one thing we need to recheck. 2nd for me is exactly what you are noting here, the goal is not to get more white lactation professionals to ‘serve’ women of color rather for more women of color lactation professionals to support women of color. While I think this would get brought up at the conference and people would recognize this, a conference isn’t going to make that happen. So while I think it’s healthy dialogue for our group to keep struggling around what we are doing this conference for, we’re spinning our wheels, we don’t seem to be figuring out what our real, and collective, aim is and will end up settling and moving forward without continuing is conversation. I guess my point is to not hold your thoughts back in this group, as you’ve wondered aloud to me once or twice about doing. Hopefully we’re meeting in the next week in person and can continue this discussion.

    1. Hi Rachel! Thanks for your comment. And it’s interesting that you mention holding back, because one of my next posts is on doing just that — which battles do I fight (speak up) and which ones do I not (just let it slide) — even around, and especially regarding breastfeeding situations, and when I really feel some ‘kind of way’ about something. I don’t have all of the answers, of course, but continuously putting in my ‘two cents’ I sometimes worry I am silencing people and their opinions and not hearing what they have to say, and I struggle with that — even when it’s something I strongly believe in — like the name of the event, for example.

      Yes, (this post was written a few months back, btw — this is not anything about what we’ve been talking about lately). A while ago during all of the mailing back and forth about this, and some expressed a bit of tension these were and continue to be my thoughts about the dynamic — or how it would continue. It REALLY bothered me that initially the conference was going to be pitched to mostly white, LLL and other healthcare workers for the reasons I stated in several of the emails and in this post — it would only create a greater divide and there is nothing in me that could see how this would work on decreasing disparities, which is when I finally spoke up. Also, someone else mentioned it as well. This was a disconnect then but it has passed. But there IS more disconnect going on, as you can imagine that has not been discussed. But I know for me, at least it goes back to being inclusive and wondering when to say and when to stay — even in the planning, if that makes sense.

      The change that we’re looking for may not happen in one conference, but I’m convinced it will set people on a path. Or maybe just I’m circling the drain and rambling on about this.

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