One of the tenets of practicing as a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) is active listening. It’s the first step to humbly entering a relationship between ourselves and the parents we serve. Listening is one of the most effective, if not the most effective, skills a CLC can use to help families address their concerns and celebrate their triumphs.
Active listening serves us well outside of the client-counselor relationship too. When we truly listen, we can learn to respect and celebrate humanity in the spaces where our differences collide.
For centuries, Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) have had their experiences ignored and dismissed by those who don’t care to listen. Stories have been silenced altogether in fear of reprisal.
Active listening cues when it’s time to speak up. The current, global energy surrounding systemic racism calls upon us with privileged identities to seek individual awakening and to actively participate in the dismantling of unjust, inequitable systems.
When the protests disperse and Race fades from the limelight, the work will continue.
At this crucial time, we are all called to the work of dismantling injustice. (I would like to note here that my original sentence read: “Maybe– hopefully– you have already started this work.” until my editor pointed out that this assumes the reader is white. It is amazing how deeply woven and how subtle white supremacy can be, how easily overlooked it can be when you’re of privileged identity. I wrote those original words with pure intentions, but centered myself and my racial identity dismissing the entire population we’re rallying for.)
In the words of ASDS Founder and CEO Chanel L Porchia-Albert:
“Now we are at a juncture of great awakening for some. A call to action to understand one’s own moral compass within the human dynamic. A defining moment of choice. A choice between doing good, a choice to promote justice and equity, a choice to reckon with understanding the power and privilege afforded to some at the expense of others.
A choice to actively work towards dismantling intergenerational racism and the trauma it has caused over generations of Black people…
Now more than ever we need our collective community to drive equity, accountability, and sustainability to families. Because the privilege of some to sit and wait is not afforded to others and what we can do must be done now!… Onward Ever, Backward Never!!”
Porchia-Albert suggests ways to engage:
- Share our Listen to Me Now Campaign centering the voices of Black pregnant people, providers, and community members in sharing their stories that will inform health policy, accountability, and collective change.
- Share and Donate to our Equity, Continuity & Hope GoFundMe created to support the community during this pandemic. Help us to reach our goal! and let’s go beyondbirthwork!!
- Become a monthly donor your contribution will allow us to create sustainable change for our immediate community and beyond.
One ally posted in a private lactation professional Facebook group wondering what her white CLC colleagues are doing to fight against injustice in healthcare.
Several care providers offered suggestions on how they’re working toward justice and equity including:
- Donate to organizations like Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association, Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere (ROSE), Birth Detroit, Southeast Michigan IBCLCs of Color and fund scholarships
- Donate text book and test fees to future CLCs
- Watch Michigan Breastfeeding Network webinars
- Invite Black experts to speak at conferences
- Network with Black owned businesses
- Ask yourself uncomfortable questions. (ex. “Would I be giving the same feedback if she looked just like me?”)
Healthy Children Project Faculty Felisha Floyd, BS, CLC, IBCLC, RLC created a post calling for the investment in Black communities and Black businesses. There is a thread of Black birth workers’ Cash Apps for those compelled to contribute to their work. Find it here.
NICHQ CEO Scott D. Berns reminds us in a message that “Everything we do should be viewed through a racial lens.”
Berns goes on to write, “Mr. Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, along with concerned and outraged onlookers, called for help – but their voices were ignored, and a man died. Systemic racism is unacceptable. Let’s not continue to allow the voices for change fall on deaf ears.”
Change is not easy, and this work is not easy.
Melissa DePino, the white woman who shared the Starbucks video and co-founded the @privtoprog movement with Michelle Saahene acknowledges that in her piece A Love Letter to All the Overwhelmed White People Who Are Trying.
Change takes time. DePino writes that it also takes a sincere desire to push through guilt and shame. It takes humility and an effort to get to know the parts of ourselves that we may not like.
She concludes, “So my advice to you, having been where you are, is to sit back and listen. Don’t talk unless in white spaces to interrupt racism and to tell others you are on the path to antiracism…”