10 Ways To Support Anti-Racism

If you’re aware of healthcare disparities in general, then you may be aware that pregnancy-related death as well as infant mortality are disproportionately higher for Non-Hispanic Black (Black) persons and American Indian/Alaska Native persons. (source: CDC). If you’re a doula who hasn’t studied these issues, it might be because your training organization didn’t ask you to. Studying racial disparities through the lens of maternity care is an eye-opening experience. When you recognize these realities and begin understanding more about why they exist, then you begin to realize how these issues permeate every aspect of our society. The following is a starter kit for learning, growing and doing.

  1. Listen. Seek out and hear the voices and experiences of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color). Keep the main thing the main thing. All you need to do is listen with compassion. The experiences may or may not include any details which are relatable to you. This is not automatic permission to comment. Train yourself to observe and reserve judgement. Sit with your feelings. What do you feel? Resistance? Confusion? Discomfort? Guilt? Anger? Ask yourself why. But do not respond. Not yet.
  2. Study. Seek out a variety of sources to learn more about what you’re hearing. Suggested resources:
  3. Be Vulnerable. Be willing to engage when silence is more comfortable. “But wait, I thought I was supposed to listen?” Yes, listening and digesting what you heard is important. But we also must be willing to learn which responses are helpful and not harmful. To do that, we have to know we’re just not always going to get it right. (More on this below.)
  4. Adjust Your Approach.
    1. “I don’t see color.”
    2. “All lives matter.”
    3. “What does an African American want?”
    4. “A few bad apples.”
  5. Humble Thyself. Understand that we’re not in some kind of a competition to say all the right things and show up in all the right ways. (See: performative allyship.) We can choose day by day to take anti-racist actions, but we’re probably going to mess up and learn more and do better as we go. Examine the intent of your words and actions and whether they had a negative or a positive impact upon a BIPOC, as defined by the person or people, not as you understand it.
  6. Educate. Once you begin to understand something on a deeper level than you did before, be ready to share it with others who aren’t there yet, even if it’s uncomfortable to do so. Share it in a way that is unequivocally on the side of justice and equality; don’t sugar coat it. But hone and use your communication skills to open doorways to conversations and a deeper sense of compassion, instead of admonishing people who don’t get it yet. You will fail. You will get frustrated. But keep trying.
  7. Support. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Support the efforts of BIPOC for BIPOC.
  8. Adjust Your Approach (Again). Let go of the need to feel accomplished, receive recognition or be thanked for your efforts. That’s not owed; for the first time ever, we’re doing the bare minimum and that in itself is something to consider.
  9. Give. Give as much as you can to causes which exist to move the needle towards equality. One-time gifts are great but if you can give regularly, do that.
  10. Push. Keep Pushing. So we all get “one to grow on” here. As we begin to awaken to just how many ways there are to choose anti-racist behavior (See: How to Be An Anti-Racist), you might begin having a variety of emotional reactions. You may feel like quitting. But we need to keep going. The only way to it is through it.

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