Apparently, I have been under a rock. I didn't realize I have not posted since April 19th! Yikes. But I have good excuses...I am launching a new Happiest Baby class at the local Gymboree, we are applying to a private school for the princess in the fall, I am working on my CLE workshops, I am running a breastfeeding support group on my own, teaching breastfeeding class, attending meetings and oh yes, I cook and clean for and keep tabs on three children and a husband. It is also dance competition season for the princess. However, that does not absolve me of my duties as the mistress of this little spot on the web you have come to know and love as Mocha Milk. I hope you have been kept "abreast" of current happenings in the lactation world by my fellow bloggers. Jennifer at the Black Breastfeeding Blog has been faithfully writing and had several interesting entries about wet nursing. She said everything I would have said and more (It's so nice to agree :)) so please check out what she had to say.
Apparently while I was gone, there was a big stir over an article posted by Jen at The Lactivist but written by Morgan Gallagher, a self-described Lactaneer. If you read some of the comments posted (strangely mostly by "anonymous" posters) they call the article "racist", say they are comparing the breastfeeding rights struggle to "slavery and its repercussions" and say it compares "racism to breastfeeding" and then some go so far as to call both Gallagher and Jennifer racist themselves and "using blacks for their dumb-a$$ causes".
Jennifer added a post on May 1, essentially stating that she understands why the analogy of being black to a baby's essential need to eat/breastfeed would be offensive, belittling and poorly placed. Jennifer, please don't feel the pressure to apologize, soften your words or even call the article poorly written. It was beautifully and properly stated. This is a case of the Jessie Jackson/Al Sharpton bullying so common in American culture today. Just because a White person said it, doesn't make it racist or wrong. I could have easily said the same thing, and in fact have made similar statements myself. I will address this more later.
Call me an Uncle Tom if you will (However I won't post your comment, because first off that's a dumb insult if you've even read Uncle Tom's Cabin and like on The Lactivist says, name calling will get you nowhere.), but I think race is a PERFECT analogy when discussing a baby's right to eat and a mother's right to breastfeed.
Gallagher wasn't talking about our struggle, slavery, the civil rights or lynchings. The point was biology. I am pretty sure the point was not to insinuate that women breastfeeding their children are under the same persecution as Blacks during the Civil Rights movement. The point is this: I can not stop being black any more than my baby can stop being hungry or wanting to breastfeed right at the moment he is hungry/scared/uncomfortable/thirsty, etc and needs to nurse. Breastfeeding is what baby human mammals do. A baby shouldn't have to eat in a toilet or under a blanket because they are a baby and get nourishment from a woman's breast. A mother shouldn't have to hide what she is doing because it is how a human baby eats. That was the point. Nothing more, nothing less.
One anonymous poster said that the struggle to protect breastfeeding and the baby's right to be breastfed is not a civil rights issue/can't be compared to the civil rights struggle. It is fundamentally a civil rights issue. Her argument is flawed because she says breastfeeding mothers aren't lynched, or crosses burned on their lawns. If that's the criteria for a civil rights issue than what about the rights of disabled people, Native Americans, religious minorities, etc. Most of those groups didn't suffer lynchings or cross burnings either (some actually did if they lived in KKK areas during certain periods of history). Regardless, this is not the struggle TODAY. Maybe the anonymous poster works for Jessie Jackson. He is always riding on the glory days of "the struggle". We have to realize that we are fighting a different struggle now. I live in the South. Are there still scary pockets with crazy racists loons? Yes. But we have a strong, educated, (biracial) Black man running for president, Black CEOs, entrepreneurs and some of the most powerful people in television and government are Black. If you are a Black child and want to go to college and make up your mind to do so, YOU CAN. We now struggle against self-perpetuated stereotypes (in entertainment), poor education, poor neighborhoods and our inability to work together (Bill Cosby says it much better than I). But I digress...we were talking about breastfeeding.
Maybe I have a deeper understanding of what she was trying to say because I live with the reality that the very life I live is offensive to some people - Black and White. My husband is White.(Which to some of you will disqualify everything I have to say.) I am Black. (Race in itself is actually a cultural construct not a biological one which actually makes the whole argument silly but I am making a point.) There was a time, about 40-50 years ago that the thought of the two of us holding hands or eating together in a restaurant would have made people sick. We would have been told to leave restaurants, not sit together on buses, told we can't "do that" here. Now, for the most part, we are free to do as we please, go where we want, be together and be who we are, without fear of harassment or danger.
No one is implying that a baby or mother is lynched for breastfeeding. However, being kicked out of a restaurant, having security called, having to bring in lawyers, being treated like a security threat on a plane, having your milk poured out as you weep, are all forms of intimidation, abuse and harassment. These are actions that may cause women to choose not to breastfeed, to wean early or supplement with formula when in public. These actions lead to health problems (whether you can see them or not - they may take years to manifest), infections, and increased morbidity and mortality rates (or at least no improvement).
And the problem is, having a culture that encourages the breastfeeding mom/baby pair to hide, stay home and not "offend" everyone else is hurting OUR PEOPLE the most. Our babies are dying in greater numbers, our babies have more disease, more infection, more obesity, less connection and bond to the family and die more often. So here we bitch and moan about how white women are exploiting us to promote breastfeeding when we are not doing enough to further the cause in our own community. When we are still looking at the lowest breastfeeding rates among all races in America. I hope those that were applying the racist label and recounting all the bad things ever done to Black people by White people are actually spending half as much time promoting breastfeeding - the single most beneficial, the cheapest and easiest health intervention among our people - as they were spending trying to shame someone for actually pointing out that it is wrong beyond all reason to tell a person to eat in a bathroom because of the color of their skin just as it is wrong to tell a breastfed baby (via the mom) to eat in a bathroom. The reason it is a powerful argument, is because today, virtually no one would dare suggest that Black people shouldn't eat in public (as was the sentiment 50 years ago), but we do that to babies when we say their mothers should not feed them in public.
That was the point, and it is a point well taken.
For further thoughts on this subject see my former post on Rosa Parks and Lactivism.
I would be happy to hear your thoughts as well.