Black Erasure

Mars Lord

13th November 2017

I’m trying so hard not to be or not to feel continually angry with the birth world. I’m so over #birthsowhite. In some Facebook groups we’ve been encouraged to share and publicise the ‘Birth Time’ trailer and crowd fund to fully make the documentary. So, I dutifully watched it, but I won’t be sharing it in its current state and I certainly won’t be spending any of my money on it. Where are the black women? The black babies? The black midwives? The black doctors? The black researchers? Are people seriously suggesting that black people aren’t involved in any of these roles? Do we not have babies? Are we not worthy of being part of this much needed birth initiative?

So many questions are surging through my head. And so much frustrated anger is circling. But you see, now that I’ve told you that I’m angry, some will begin to go to the automatic ‘angry black woman’ trope. All that I feel will be deemed worthless because I have a justifiable anger. We talk about the ROAR when women wake up. People, I’m ROARING! I haven’t been asleep.

I know that it is a BIG job to remove the narcissistic white gaze from birth, but it’s got to be started and it’s got to be done. Somehow black and asian women need to be seen, and it’s shocking in 2017 that that has to be said. Frankly it’s exhausting and frustrating that it has to be said. And said. And said again.

I read 489 comments on a FB group, extolling the virtues and the need for this documentary. I counted TWO people who made comment to the lack of representation for marginalised women. To date there has been no response, but it is a Facebook group, so the response may take some time. Where are our allies? Those that claim they hate this kind of discrimination. When they don’t see us, they don’t miss us. We are not there.

‘Do you see me?’
‘Do you care that I’m here?’
‘Am I good enough for you, or do you need me to be better in some way’
‘Can I tell that I’m special to you by the way you look at me?’
– Maya Angelou

Dignity in birth and birth choice is something that should be experienced by all women, not a favoured few. We know about the disparity in the maternal and neonatal morbidity rates within the black community. So why aren’t we including these women in the documentaries, the ground breaking studies and information that we’re putting out? Is it because we don’t see them or deem them important? I told you. Lots of questions going around my mind.

No matter what happens, we are not and will not be part of ‘the club’. Is it any wonder that we move away and form the safe spaces for ourselves. When we do that, the cries ring out. ‘But you’re being exclusive. We believe in inclusion. You are making the problem worse’. Your belief in inclusion only seems to rear itself when we walk away and don’t invite you into our ‘club’. Then you tell us ‘Imagine reading it this way… this club is for whites only. You need to reframe your parameters and let us in too’. We walked away. We didn’t run. We simply walked, because you don’t miss us when you don’t see us, and we only become important when you realise you’ve lost your sense of importance to us.

So it would seem that it is time for us in the BAME community to turn away from these videos and documentaries and create our own. To talk about the true history of the advent of modern obstetrics. How it came off of our backs. Through experiments on our grandmothers. The same experiments that reinforced the lie that we don’t feel pain in the way that the gentle white folk do. Our history is more than the enslavement history that everyone talks about. Our present day lives are more than invisible.

So where do we start? First, we start the call for the black midwives, doctors, researchers and families. And we start to create our own resources and pools to draw from. Second, those that call themselves allies, and who wish to see and be part of the colouring in of the birth landscape, need to call these things out. The onus and responsibility cannot remain with the unseen and voiceless. Surely someone else can see it. It doesn’t ALWAYS have to be pointed out? Right?

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