I have been processing these past two weeks as an organization I volunteered for shut its doors. The changes I had seen were mainly surface and not of lasting significance. A pattern of repeated micro aggressions led to the departure of women of color. This pattern began over two years ago. I was part of the editorial team who wrote blog posts. We never discussed this first issue in depth. Those of us who remained discussed these issues with each other. When we attempted to discuss it as a group, we were dismissed. The women of color who were harmed at that time were asked to explain why certain comments were racist. The tone deafness to hurting moms was appalling. I stewed, and I ended up resigning from the editorial team.
I felt hope after seeing the differences made after the first conference. There was an advisory board of women of color to ensure that we were representing all moms. A women of color was hired to be the project manager for the Climb, and I was inspired to continue to lead a climb in my community. I was actively engaged with the community, and I was getting ideas for outreach in different places I hadn’t previously considered.
When I read this, my first reaction was of sadness and hurt for my friend. Then I got angry. The latest in a string of issues led to her departure and the departure of our previous Climb project manager who had been positioned to help us build partnerships with local organizations. As I kept hearing even more stories than the ones I was aware of, I became even more angry. Why hadn’t the organization learned? Why were the same mistakes being repeated? I promised to tell those stories so that the community would see how shaky the foundation had been. This latest incident was the final crack in an already fractured foundation. Say their names: A’Driane, Alexandra, Jenni, Divya, Jenna, Graeme and Jasmine. Honor their contributions. Honor their stories and listen to them.
I decided to resign from my volunteer duties. I notified the staff. I stayed on to help moderate a Facebook peer support group. That is the amazing part of the community of survivors. I liken it to the Marines. We do not leave a suffering mama behind. Postpartum Support International has stepped up to support our grieving community. Grief is a part of this process.
Anger being directed at those who came forward publicly to discuss the micro aggressions is NOT okay. I am calling out and calling in my white warrior moms. The statistics are 1 in 7 women will experience a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder. We repeat that statistic ad nauseaum. For women of color it is 1 in 4. How can we be for all moms if we don’t get uncomfortable and talk about race? How does race and culture affect how mental illness is perceived? If we aren’t actively learning cultural competency, how can we truly be for all moms?
I do not have all the answers. I am one voice who is using her white privilege to amplify the voices of so many women of color whose contributions went unappreciated. I am still learning about race and immigration. When a woman of color says that they have been wronged, believe them. Full stop. Prejudice and racism are built into the fabric of our society. This country was built on the genocide of Native Americans, and it was created by the unpaid labor of African slaves. That trauma and history is NOT something we can ignore. When we ignore it, we invalidate how another is feeling. As women who have struggled with mental illness, we know the power of validation and me too. I am my sister’s keeper. When she shares a painful experience, I need to listen and validate. How can we do this? We can use these phrases. I hear you. I see you. I see your pain. How you were treated was unacceptable.
See my last post for all the women who have helped that organization and in return had their concerns dismissed. This was due to a lack of accountability from the board and the CEO. The community is hurting, but it can heal by listening to our moms of color. We can fuel this hurt, disappointment, and anger into something positive. Mental health is a fundamental human right. We can appreciate Katherine for creating the blog and the nonprofit in the first place, and we can also be angry with her for perpetuating white supremacy. These two concepts seem to be diametrically opposed, but there is room for both and, not either or.
We need to be an inclusive community for all parents. It is not just moms who struggle with postpartum depression. It impacts fathers and their partners and trans women. Learning does not stop. We need to be life long learners to continue to help all those who struggle with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. I am still learning on how to be more inclusive of my trans sisters.
“Careful the things you do. Children will listen. Careful the things you say. Children will see and learn.” As Into the Woods teaches us, our children are watching us mamas. Let’s sit and process our grief. Then we rise. “When we know better, we do better” – Maya Angelou. Listen to me, my white warrior moms. We know better. WE MUST DO BETTER.