Let’s all just inhale deeply…hold it… now release. Man, 2020 has been interesting so far…okay it sucks. Sorry. Not sorry. It has really sucked so far, but because of the chaos, the pandemic, the politics, and racial tension coming to a head, we as a nation are able to become innovative in how we approach the future and that’s a big deal.
So let’s get to it. Let’s talk about the uncomfortable four-letter word, RACE. Let’s talk about police brutality, prejudice, racism, and George Floyd. I know there have been so many suggestions on how people can join the cause, but I’m going take it a step further and give you my opinion on how you can permanently become an ally to African Americans in this 401-year-old struggle and not drop off like the majority of people will. I believe that the following suggestions will be enduring.
Support Black Life From The Very Beginning
We know, and have always known that black men and women are dying at the hands of police (I mean Marvin Gaye said it in Inner City Blues in 1971 and it had been happening far before that). That needs to stop! We know that too. But did you know that Black women and babies are dying because of a racist healthcare system?
In the United States, between 2012 and 2015 black women suffered from severe maternal morbidity (SMM) at a 166% higher rate than white women (National Institutes of Health). Black women are 3 to 4 times more likely to die in childbirth (CDC). Why? One reason is African Americans are more susceptible to life-threatening conditions like high blood pressure, preeclampsia, and cardiovascular disease. Another reason is racism. Yes. There have been studies done showing that an alarming number nurses and doctors in their residency believe that black women don’t feel pain like white women do. So when we complain about something not feeling right or ask for more tests, many times we get ignored or dismissed. It happened to me this past November when I had my twins. I asked the doctor on call to do a scan to see if my twin A had his head down. If his head was down I could have tried to deliver him vaginally. The doctor refused. He said it was a liability and I was wheel away to have a C-section. I have friends with similar stories. But one positive is that we lived. So many black women don’t live through childbirth.
Black infant mortality rates are frightening as well. Black infants are twice as likely to die before their first birthday than white babies.
You may ask how you can help with this if you’re not in the medical field. You can help by supporting black lives at the very beginning. You can make sure there are more black doulas, midwives, and lactation consultants. You can help more black mamas have someone in the delivery room who advocates for them, who knows about healthy birth, who helps her trust her body and lean into their instincts, who serves as a liaison between her and medical professionals, and who will make sure she is indeed empowered in the birthing process. You can also help by making sure mama has support with her new baby when it comes to breastfeeding and newborn and infant care. You can do this by sponsoring scholarships for black birth and postpartum doulas, midwives, and black lactation consultants. You can also give to organizations like that bring awareness to disparities in black healthcare.
Funds to Consider Supporting
Check Your Prejudices
We all have biases. We all make assumptions about people subconsciously. I believe that the key to evolving and really living the Namaste philosophy, “my soul honors your soul,” is asking yourself questions like:
- Why did I clutch my purse a little tighter when he walked by but not when that other person walked by?
- What are my true beliefs about black men and black women? (You know the beliefs you want to stay buried. Beliefs that you may not know where they came from).
- Why did the previous shootings of unarmed human beings not bother me enough for me to say something?
- How can I speak up when I see injustices in the future?
Begin this honest dialogue and self-assessment with yourself. Not to shame yourself, not to punish yourself but to look at your microaggressions and prejudices. Awareness. Once you have awareness you can be intentional with your thoughts about others.
If you haven’t watched Little Fires Everywhere, you should check it out. The series does a wonderful job highlighting microaggressions, prejudices, privilege, and racism.
Hire and Buy Black
Support black artists, writers, movies, real estate agents, architects, doctors, chefs, designers, and others. As an entrepreneur, every time someone invests in my small business it directly benefits me and my children.
Influence The Next Generation
Talk openly with your children about race. Don’t teach them not to see color (which is impossible) but help them celebrate and not make fun of differences. Empower them to be upstanders and not bystanders to any injustices that they encounter. And show them how to be inclusive by example.
In graduate school, I read a book called Reforging the White Republic. It talked about how eager and passionate many northern white people were to help newly freed slaves during Reconstruction and to punish the white southerners for betraying the Union. Well, as time wore on, people got bored, life happened, their own racism resurfaced, fighting for civil rights got expensive, and ironically an epidemic (a deadly flu) swept the nation. Northern whites forgot about the Southern blacks and eventually, Reconstruction failed miserably.
I fear that is what will happen in the coming weeks and months until the next murder is caught on camera. Please, when all of the hashtags stop trending, the media coverage fades, and all the passion smolders… keep the same energy. Always remember all of the shocking things you’ve learned about racism, police brutality, and the dangers of simply having brown skin. Remember George Floyd and his beautiful little girl who will one day see that video of her father with a knee on his neck as he pleaded for his life, even calling for his dead mama. And please remember there are tons of lynching’s that we never will see. George Floyd was somebody’s baby, Travon Martin was somebody’s baby, Armaud Arbery was somebody’s baby… Remember why this black woman feels to prove the humanity of these men to evoke continued action.
Keep voting for those who will make a difference (public school funding, police and healthcare reform), keep having the tough conversations, call out the family member and friend who shares a little racist joke at dinner, diversify your life, and keep doing all of the above suggestions. When things die down, stay committed to change. Use your advantage to help change the world.
Zoe, thank you for allowing me to amplify my melanated voice on your platform. I’m only one black woman. I would love for you all to read and listen to more black perspectives as we are not a monolithic group.
Valarie is a Social Media Strategist and Blog Writer for OB-GYNs, Doulas, Midwives, and Lactation Consultants. She is a mother of 4, author, and a middle school teacher. You can find her at instagram.com/