Guest Blogger: Sara Hutchinson, CD DONA
The last few months have been filled with devastating news. 2020 in Utah will be remembered with the COVID-19 pandemic, earthquakes, and protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd by police officers. Our country and earth is in a place of unrest.
At the core of the unrest is systemic racism and racial inequality. Those of us who work in the birth world are acutely aware of the disparities for Black mothers and babies. In the New York Times Magazine article, “Why America’s Black Mothers and Babies are in a Life and Death Crisis” author Linda Villarosa states that “Black women are three to four times as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes as their white counterparts, according to the C.D.C.” and “black infants in America are now more than twice as likely to die as white infants — 11.3 per 1,000 black babies, compared with 4.9 per 1,000 white babies, according to the most recent government data.”
The racial inequalities during COVID are even worse. The latest data show that African Americans have died from the disease at almost three times the rate of white people. New figures compiled by Color of Coronavirus provide further evidence that across the country African Americans have died at a rate of 50.3 per 100,000 people, compared with 20.7 for whites, 22.9 for Latinos and 22.7 for Asian Americans.
Understandably, people of color are angry. The members of UDA are angry. People across the globe are angry. Black lives matter.
Families and businesses have been affected. The Utah Doula Association (UDA) is no exception. Following in the footsteps of many other individuals and businesses, the weekend of June 5th, the UDA posted a message of solidarity on their social media. The UDA acknowledged the indignities and dangers our Black sisters and brothers have lived with for generations, and committed to rebuild injustices and be ally champions.
The June 5th statement was rejected by a member of our community. She felt it was insincere, and that the UDA has a lot of work to do to remedy years of members feeling undervalued or unheard.
She, and some other members of our community who identify as doulas of color, asked the UDA Board for a meeting. On June 10th, the doulas and the board connected over Zoom. The doulas of color shared their perspectives, including the painful truth that they did not always feel safe, heard, or valued through the UDA. The board of the UDA listened intently.
The work of uncovering and addressing the UDA unconscious bias has now begun. Without this conversation, the white doulas on the board or in the UDA at large did not fully understand what it was like for the doulas of color. Even though the conversation was difficult for all who participated, it was a key to learning and growing.
As the best-selling, anti-racist writer, Ibram X. Kendi recently said in an interview with Brené Brown (listen here):
“The heartbeat of anti-racism is confession, is admission, is acknowledgment, is the willingness to be vulnerable, is the willingness to identify the times in which we were being racist, is to be willing to diagnose ourselves and our country, and our ideas and our policies. And the reason why that’s the heartbeat is, like with anything else, the first step is acknowledging the problem. You know, we can’t even begin the process of changing ourselves, of acting in an anti-racist fashion if we’re not even willing to admit the times in which we’re being racist.”
Love, kindness, and compassion are an innate aspect of being a doula. It was extremely difficult to hear that some doulas of color have felt marginalized by UDA on that June 10th Zoom call. However, we know they spoke their truth. Everyone committed to listen and learn.
There is meaning and importance in diversity, equity, and inclusivity. The members of the UDA
Board have realized that they have a blind spot. Improvement will be made to strengthen the organization, but it will take work.
The UDA is committed to do the work.
A week later, the board met again and agreed on the following, which was posted on social media:
The UDA has been made aware that some members of our organization and our birthing
community do not feel safe or heard by the Utah Doula Association. We value ALL
doulas and seek to uplift the voices of ALL underrepresented individuals especially
Black, Indigenous, People of Color, and those who identify as LGBTQIA+. As a group of
compassionate advocates for birthing and postpartum individuals and families, we
commit to an intentional effort to remove barriers and create spaces of inclusivity. We
recognize that this work is ongoing. Over the next 12 months, the UDA will:
- Provide anti-racism education to individuals and the organization to understand both interpersonal and systemic racism, provide specific doula training to navigate racism in the labor room, and provide tools for full-spectrum doula work;
- Develop an Access and Inclusion committee, which we hope will include diverse and professional voices in equity and equality;
- Reevaluate UDA processes and bylaws to promote equity;
- Foster more community and collaboration within the organization through social and professional gatherings.
Through these actions, the UDA hopes to create a space of inclusion and trust for those who have previously felt unseen within our doula community. If you have feedback for the UDA, please take a moment and fill out this form. Your identity will remain anonymous, if you choose. We appreciate you and value your opinion; thank you for speaking up.
Though the road ahead is uncertain, there is no doubt that through the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement diversity, equity, and inclusion will be on the forefront of every decision made in the future. We are grateful to all the doulas in the Utah doula community for their perspective.
In the words of Maya Angelou, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
The UDA is on the road to better.