As part of the ongoing conversation regarding the Midwives of Color and MANA we wanted to post this letter which represents what we consider to be the beginning work in dismantling colonialism in our hearts and in midwifery.
By Wendy Gordon Midwife
To the midwives of color who wrote a letter to MANA and all of the midwives who feel represented by that letter: the pain that you have expressed in your resignation is more uncomfortable for me to hear than to continue to hold my own silence for fear of being ostracized by my white sisters. I belong to organizations whose leadership may or may not apologize for the issues that you have put before us all. I will not let these things inhibit me from making my own apology.
I apologize that it took me 40+ years to start to get it, to open my eyes and ears, to start to question and examine my stereotypes and what I thought I knew about about my country’s history. I will teach my daughter how to think critically about what she is seeing and hearing.
I apologize for accepting the small amount that I have learned about the history of my profession and for not seeking more information. I will continue to educate myself and my students in this regard.
I apologize for taking so long to finally start to *see* my privilege and the racism & oppression all around me, and for prioritizing my own discomfort in calling out that racism over the pain of the persons experiencing it. I will build my skills in recognizing it when it happens, calling it out and breaking down my privilege and that of the professional and educational institutions to which I belong. I will continue to read and seek out workshops to learn more; I understand that this is a journey that has no end.
I attended the CPM Symposium. I heard the pain that was expressed through Paula Rojas’s speech that night and I stood as a white ally. I apologize for failing to stand and protest when the very next day midwives of color were forgotten again. Twice. I may bumble with my words until I get it right, but I will stand and protest when I see this in the many opportunities that will undoubtedly present themselves. It is not your responsibility to continue to point out, it is mine. I take it.
As a midwifery educator, I apologize to my students for making them do assignments that were insensitive at the very least, and traumatizing at worst; for not realizing that in order to build knowledge of other cultures that it is essential to first know ourselves and examine our own biases and values, and that only when that inner work has been done will we be able to turn our focus outward and start to become truly competent as clinicians. I will continue to do my own work in this regard and build support structures and accountability for students to do their own work as part of a responsible midwifery education curriculum.
I also apologize to the midwives and women of color who have come to my classes as guests and who have been activated by the experience. I was asking the wrong questions from the wrong seat in the stands because I had not yet begun my own personal work, and I apologize for role modeling that to the students in those classes. I can hardly believe that you keep coming back after that, and I thank you deeply for your willingness to keep trying.
I also apologize to the students who were traumatized by the example of yet another racially and culturally unaware white person trying to “teach” about cultural competency. I am now walking beside the students as we all learn together; I am getting out of their way. I commit to continuous, critical examination of all of my courses for bias, for voices that are not being heard, and for women who are not being served by my curriculum, and I will seek out feedback because I know that I have blind spots.
I apologize for failing to make the connection between racism and disparities in preterm birth, low birth weight, infant & maternal mortality, and for too long thinking that they were actually separate issues. I will work to make that connection clear for others who hear my voice. I am dismayed by what it means that homebirth rates are increasing but only for middle-class white women. Our mothers and babies of color are dying and midwifery care may be a solution, but only if those providing that care are racially and culturally aware and skilled. I commit to doing my part in helping the next generation of midwives to do their personal work so that they can be competent placeholders while more midwives of color can be trained. And I will do my work in ensuring that the midwifery education program in which I teach is a safe space for women of color. I am grateful to be working within a department and institution that is open to making these changes and willing to struggle to figure it out.
I have no doubt that I am currently making new mistakes as I continue to open my eyes, and I welcome the necessary feedback to become aware of my continually moving blind spots. I am deeply grateful to those who have already pointed them out. I am very sorry about the fracture that has occurred this week in the midwifery profession and the events that made the resignations necessary. In whatever form things move forward, it is my sincere desire to be in service to building a strong midwifery profession that is committed to *all* mothers and babies and to each other.