Monday, September 20, 2010

Helloooooo elephant!

posted by Tatiana

Yes! Just the excuse I've been needing. A few weeks ago we had a rather hairy and alarming discussion going on the MANA students and new midwives yahoo group about race. Our student representative made a post listing the many student issues she's be discussing and advocating for at the upcoming MANA conference, and on the list was the mention of midwifery education scholarships for women of color. This precipitated a roar of response, much of it in opposition to the notion of limiting scholarships to women of color. The usual arguments to the tune of "I'm white and it's hard for me too, why shouldn't I have access to those scholarships?" and "How will we ever move on from racism if we keep creating divisive things like these anti-white scholarships?" Okay, so I might be ungraciously paraphrasing, the original points might have been made more tactfully, but those are the messages I walked away hearing.

It's no secret where I stand on this issue, (absolutely disgusted at the above arguments and very aware of the GLARING under-representation of minority women in the ranks of midwives and midwifery students, just in case it is a secret,) so my responses to what I was reading from fellow students have been festering in me for weeks.  I've just not found the words yet. But now, I have incentive:

Join the Midwifery & Racism blog carnival on September 30th to talk about this too. Talking about race is really uncomfortable, but most things worthwhile are. I'll be making a post on that day.

While we're at it:

minority midwife recently uploaded all her old posts about her journey as a black midwifery student.

And, if you want an invigorating read addressing racism in a different context check this out, and follow the links.


  1. I don't think the arguments are ridiculous. And I think it is racist to imply that women of color are too poor to pay for their own education. I know many people disagree with me but if you look at the link you posted to is sort of implies that women of color are less able to afford midwifery education. I don't remember any different rules for financial aid based on race.

  2. I think it would make more sense to try to increase awareness of midwifery. Most midwifery consumers who are Caucasian. How are people going to apply for the scholarships if they don't even know about midwifery?

  3. To: "And I think it is racist to imply that women of color are too poor to pay for their own education."

    There's a certain logic there, so I do my best to pause and question myself; is there a part of me that takes this stance because I consider myself the representative of the white benefactress culture that needs to rescue the "poor little" Guatemalans, African Americans, Philippinos, and so forth? Well, taking a little inventory of my internal landscape I'll say that I can't find that as a conscious part of where I stand on this. Do I think I harbor racism? Heck yeah, even though it sucks to have it pointed out, I welcome that.

    But I've been looking at these issues long enough to have aired out at least a few of those demons. So this isn't about handouts to those incapable "other" people, this is about the fact that simply being white gives folks an innumberable slew of advantages over the next fellow with a little or a lot of tint to their skin or a foreign look about them.

    That's what I'll elaborate on next week, what I would call the "scholarship" white folks receive simply for being white. I think that trying to combat this insidious racism business with money in the form of scholarships is a bit of an artificial solution, yes. It doesn't remove the ingrained racism that is in the very brick and mortar of our society. But it goes at least a very small distance towards counter balancing the staggering disproportion of perceptions and disadvantages that people contend with in direct relation to their skin color.

    It may be hard for white folks to make ends meet, but at least when you walk into a professional environment, you get to walk in there as a full and capable human. (Less so if you're a woman, but that's another beast.) That simple act of walking into a professional environment is a completely different experience for non-whites.

    A lot of people a whole lot more articulate than I have written about these things already. We're not talking about anything new here, we're just applying it to midwifery. But at its roots, this is a disagreement that is basic to life in the US and has been for a long, long time.

    I worry about this becoming a comment-skirmish but I think it was worth replying. I'm going to elaborate more about how I see this next week and look forward to other posts in the "blog carnival." I hope some of my fellow bloggers here will chime in.

  4. Thanks for the link love.
    I'm looking into the blog carnival...

  5. To add some of my own thoughts, I think the most basic problem here is that we're not training enough midwives of color. Period. Many many many things need to be done to rectify this (like addressing the racism inherent in our midwifery institutions and educational programs), but providing scholarships to women of color is one very minor way to help even up that score. And who doesn't need monetary help for midwifery school? I've met precious few midwifery students who don't need help financially. It's a tiny baby step, if you will. What we need is a multi-pronged strategy to dramatically change midwifery education in this country.

    Unfortunately, scholarships for women of color have not proven to be an incredibly effective step. I know the former Seattle Midwifery School, Maternidad La Luz, and Birthwise all offer scholarships for women of color to attend school, but I haven't seen it change their student demographics for the most part (if at all). Money doesn't erase institutional racism. However, they could be a good strategy when coupled with other good and effective things that are happening, like the ICTC's Sistah Care Health Career Program to educate young black women in high school about birth work, which I see as being a much more targeted and effective strategy.