by Dominique Gallo, IBCLC, RLC
I live in southwest Virginia. I have a beautiful view of the Appalachian Mountains’ skyline from my back yard. It’s so beautiful here. The area is rural and has a small town feel to it. Lots of mom-and-pop shops and restaurants are here which are my favorite. It’s truly a beautiful area with two college campuses about 30-45 minute drive away. The schools are great with all of them ranking pretty well within our state.
The people are kind and my family is here however I do feel alone. The hospital unit where I work, there are only 3 black people and we all identify as female. I am pretty sure I am the only black IBCLC in the area as well. I am the defender of all the women of color that give birth on our unit and try to be a voice where they are voiceless. I do my best to help the people I work with “see it another way”. So many times, I have heard “well you know they don’t really breastfeed anyway” and so many times I have had to reply, “how do you know that?”. I have one or two allies that do interject when they around and notice that I am having to be the voice for “all people”, but it is hard out here when you are the only one.
Since quarantine I have been taking advantage of all of the virtual opportunities available. I have been posting information about them all around the unit encouraging people to participate in cultural competency courses, webinars on ethical care of BIPOC, trainings on more inclusive terminology, and webinars on why breastfeeding/ chestfeeding support is important for marginalized communities. I am not perfect either, but I am learning. I am not sure how many paid attention, however one nurse did tell me that she signed up for them and they were “eye opening” and “has helped understand and practice better” I guess one is better then none?
I have been trying to get more women of color or infants of color on the promotional hand outs and information pages that we give to people. Even though I am met with comments under breathes about how everything is so “politically correct these days” and “liberal”.
I am exhausted. I feel like throwing my hands up and just giving up. Why am I fighting so hard when I know things will not change? I struggle with staying motivated and finding balance. I am keeping up the fight however, as I know I am in a certain place of privilege where I can help those, even if it’s just a little.
This isn’t a “woe is me” post in hopes to garner some sympathy and “likes”. This is just a post to encourage you take a step back and observe your surroundings and see what kind of workspaces you are working in. If you find that they are not inclusive and supportive of the POC that work there and use the space to help change the culture to make it safe. If you notice that the only black or brown person on the floor is made to give an explanation for everything that is non-dominate culture, step-in, even if it’s to say “you should look that up there are several resources available to you”. We will do the work because we have to, however its easier with help because then we will not be the only one.
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