I have always considered myself someone who was firmly against racism. I grew up in a white family and I heard many messages from family members with the common theme that white people are better than black people. When I became old enough to begin forming my own opinion around the subject I began questioning the messages I heard from my family and others. I stopped allowing family members make inappropriate comments around me and was quick to shut them down. I understood that racism was and is still very real in this country (and the world). Because I considered myself someone who was not racist and intolerant of racism, I thought that I was doing enough. I tried to be aware of my thoughts and my biases and how they affected my actions. When I became a doula I learned about the huge gap in maternal and infant mortality between white birthing people and black birthing people. Black women are 3x more likely to die during childbirth then white women. I took a class from a friend (and fellow doula) about why that gap exists and then I thought that that was enough.
After the murder of George Floyd and all of the outrage surrounding his death I began to really open my eyes. What I had been doing was not enough. As I white person I have the privilege to combat racism when it is convenient to me. When I get overwhelmed I can put it on the back burner and go about my life unaffected. I decided it was time to do more and to learn more. My first stop on my knowledge quest was to read the book White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. That book opened my eyes in so many ways and I would like to share a few things I learned.
In the book one of the main themes is the idea that it is impossible to be free of racism. Racism is " a system of racial inequality that benefits whites at the expense of people of color... racism is a social system embedded in the culture and its institutions." (DiAngelo, p. 83) Racism is a sliding scale. Although it is not possible to be free of racism, it is possible to try become aware of how it manifests itself in our thoughts and actions. We all have prejudices and it is not possible to get rid of them. Prejudices serve a biological function because they allow us to identify threats, which is why we can't be free of them, but as we become aware of what our prejudices and biases are we can work to make sure that they don't affect the way the we treat other people.
Another main theme is the idea of what she calls the good/bad binary. Essentially it means that after the civil rights movement it became taboo and to be racist. Now this doesn't mean that people stopped being racist, it just means that it became politically incorrect to be racist. People began to associate being racist with being a bad person. Over time this association became solidified. Because of this white people have become incapable of assessing their own racism. "I am a good person therefore I cant be racist." When we don't recognize that we are racist, we can't take steps to educate ourselves on how our racism affects those around us and take steps to remedy that.
Our country was built to oppress all people of color. It will take those of us who are white recognizing that and educating OURSELVES to begin to change the system. I am committed to listen and learn how to be anti-racist. I understand (as well as I can as a white person) that it has been unsafe for people of color to voice when a white person has said or done something problematic. I am committed to being open and willing to receiving feedback from people of color when I have said or done something hurtful. I understand that I will never know enough to stop learning. I have also joined the Inclusive Birth Collective and will continue to strive to learn how to best support pregnant people of color.
To learn more about your own implicit biases I invite you to take this test: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html and read White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. I also invite you to not stop there. There are so many resources available to us to learn more about racism and how to be anti-racist.
Audrey Logan-Owner and Doula of Elevated Birth