I encourage you to seek out the person-of-color perspective on Black Breastfeeding Week. The voice of lived experience is more important than mine. Here are a few articles to get you started:
The controversy surrounding Black Breastfeeding Week—controversy coming from breastfeeding advocates—is hard for me to swallow. One of the keystones of lactation counseling, to me, is that you’re supporting a mom how she needs to be supported—looking at her individual needs and situation, and helping her to find a way to make breastfeeding work for her.
This is a large-scale version of that. It is black mothers saying that they need to be supported on this level and with this particular focus. In order to meet the needs of these mothers as a group, as lactation counselors and supporters of all stripes, we need to figure out what these mothers want and provide it.
One thing we strive to do as breastfeeding advocates is to normalize breastfeeding. If it’s accepted as normal by our society at large, we would not have many of the issues we do. I’ve noticed, during this Black Breastfeeding Week, that I’ve seen more images of black women breastfeeding their babies than I have ever before. That alone helps women breastfeed, to see other women who look like them doing it. (Visit the Breastfeeding in Color Gallery to see some breastfeeding photos of women of color, along with information about why it is so important to share these images.)
Feeling left out because you’re not black? You’re not being excluded. This is your opportunity to learn, as well as an opportunity to advocate on a different level. Really, you are participating already with your disagreements, and maybe you’ll hear some new ideas that will make you take a look at things in a slightly different way.
I’ll be honest; it is hard to try to be an ally across racial lines. Even I—even living in my cosmopolitan, metropolitan area—have very little personal experience with any culture other than my own. I learn a lot from my friends who are oriented toward social justice; even if they can be a bit extreme for Midwestern American Me, ideas resonate and percolate and my worldview changes.
If you feel that it is intimidating, as a white person, to talk about these issues, you’re not alone. I certainly don’t want to step on toes and say the wrong things, and I am sure I have done both. But I also don’t want to sit back and say nothing. Being an ally takes some courage but it truly helps other women and families if you find it. Here’s one piece of writing that opened my eyes recently. I hope you’ll take the time to read it. For Whites (Like Me): The White Paradox.