Grappling with Racial Bias as a White Doula

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As a people (and especially those of us who are “white”), we need to evaluate our racial biases. As I am sitting here writing this blog, I’m scared. I am scared that I am going to write the wrong thing. I am nervous that I might have unknown biases that are going to come out in this post. But this also needs to happen. This blog needs to be written. Black lives matter.

( Shauntere and Shadae: Certified Birth Doulas through New Beginnings Doula Training)

Time to Speak Up

Black people have been speaking out against racial injustice for many, many years. Unfortunately, their voices have not been heard. It is time for white people to listen and speak up on their behalf, to take a stand against racial issues within our own community. Speak out against racism in our own communities, families and friends. When family or a friend says something racist, speak up. It’s our job to correct this problem within our society.

Albert Einstein offered this perspective at an commencement address at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, 1946:

There is a separation of colored people from white people in the United States. That separation is not a disease of colored people. It is a disease of white people. I do not intend to be quiet about it.

https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/einstein-at-lincoln/

It is our job, my job as a white person, to speak up against what is happening to our fellow human beings. We need to be listening to what black people are saying. The majority cannot judge inequality, when the minority speak about injustice we need to listen. I don’t feel racist, but it’s hard to find the right things to say. If you want to claim that you are not racist, then you need to be educated about the history and the issues of racism in our country. Doing nothing is choosing to be ignorant of the issues.

The Smithsonian Magazine has an article that can serve as a starting point:

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/158-resources-understanding-systemic-racism-america-180975029/

Working Towards a Company Response

As a company we have been struggling with what to say, but something needs to be said. We hear you, Black lives do matter. Black doulas matter. White doulas, it’s time to act, because ours is the next step: learning what we don’t know and then talking about race within our own white communities.

We have been noticeable silent so far on anything related to “black lives matter” movement. This is intentional because we are slowly listening and formulating a public response that is both informed and proactive. The first thing I did to further my education was speak with a black alumni and listen to her thoughts.

Brent Leavitt, Co-owner/Business Manager, New Beginnings Childbirth Services

Excerpts from Brent’s discussion with Shadae Jenkins, one of our African-American alumni, are here:

How Doulas Can Make a Difference

It’s our job as doulas to not only speak up in the hospital setting, but during everyday situations. Again to quote former student and alumni, Shadae Jenkins, she reminds us:

If you are being quiet right now, how can we [as people of color] trust you to go with us into the delivery room and care for us properly?

Shadae Jenkins, “A Discussion on Support of People of Color”, June 10, 2020

She’s right. As doulas, if we aren’t speaking up now during the current “black lives matter” movement, how can we be trusted to help a black woman in a hospital setting? How can she trust us to stand up for her when needed? That’s why speaking up now is important. Let’s show people of color that we are their allies, that we stand with them, and hear them. Black lives matter!

“African Americans are 4X more likely to die in childbirth. As a company, we have been on our own learning path, but are committed to listening to our African American community and educating ourselves as best we can and acting in ways to decrease racial inequality within our community and birth…”

Rachel Leavitt, Owner and Founder, New Beginnings Childbirth Services

Although writing this blog was terrifying, things needed to be said. We, as a doula training agency and as mostly white doulas, need to speak up. Racial injustice is not okay. I’m hoping I didn’t writing the wrong thing, but if I did, please call me out. I want to know how I can stand with my fellow human beings.

Bias Training

Everyone should take a true look at themselves and evaluate their own personal biases. We need to evaluate those biases and then work on them. A great resource for identifying these biases is Kirwanin Institue’s free implicit bias training. http://kirwaninstitute.osu.edu/implicit-bias-training/


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