People who choose to do work around birth are passionate. They are compassionate. They have strong values and strongly held beliefs, and as much as we ("The Birth World") get portrayed as a cohesive unit, we don't all believe, subscribe to, or aspire to the same things or the same values. People in the birth world, just like every other profession, bring to their work the privileges, biases, and prejudices they hold. Birth work is not a vacuum away from society. Rather, it is deeply embedded within the fabric of our society. How we give birth matters, who we dismiss or include in "the birth world" matters, and who we uphold as leaders matters.
Recently, something Ina May Gaskin said in Texas (starting around 46:00 in the video) brings to light some long-standing issues of racism within birth work. Rather than rephrasing what has already been said perfectly, I will direct you to listen to voices that matter the most on this topic. Please listen. Trust Black Women.
On Ina May Gaskin and Getting Called Out -- Sam Olivia
Petition to ICAN and Texas Birth Network
Erricka Sharmayne's words: "Tasha Portley's question is between the 46:00-47:00 mark for anyone who doesn't want see the entire video. Her [Ina May Gaskin's] response was very covert. Essentially she said poor people that eat well and work hard have better outcomes, then she goes on to talk about the black midwife in Alabama who was religious and her client base was religious so they had less stress.
Issues with this are that a black Woman who is a college graduate, with health insurance, active, and eats well has worse outcomes than a white woman with a hs diploma. Also, the black midwife from Alabama was a black woman. When black people get Care from a caring black person they will experience more connectedness calm through their experience, reducing their stress.
Lastly, the current research shows that health disparities between races are increasing, and that racism in the health care system is plays a part in the outcomes."
*Update*: Ina May Gaskin has issued a statement of apology for her response to Tasha Portley's question.
"It has come to my attention that my answer to a Texas Conference Q & A question has caused a great deal of hurt, and was insulting and demeaning to many, especially Women, and People, of Color. While the intent behind my answer was anything but racist or demeaning, I understand that impact is more important than intent, and I personally offer my genuine and deepest apologies. I have spent a great many years of my career shining the spotlight on the massive racial disparities in maternity care, and my comment at the conference is not a true reflection of my belief, and what I know to be true - that racism, and its denial, are the true root of the egregious inequalities in maternal and infant healthcare for people of color. I'm still learning, and still growing as a person and as a professional, and I am grateful to the many Women of Color who have offered their support, and continued education. It will not fall on deaf ears. - Ina May"
The best way to listen and grow now is to heed the demands set forth by women who have been harmed by the continued racism within the birth community, which they most recently have outlined in the petition (link above).