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An End to White Supremacy Culture is an End to the Black Maternal Health Crisis

Updated: Apr 17

Just like we say that it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes a village to support Black mothers as they experience pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum. Advancing positive maternal health outcomes also includes creating the conditions for Black women to thrive and be supported across all phases of their mothering journey – and the workplace plays a crucial role here. 


A Black woman sits in a chair smiling holding a cupcake. Another woman is taking a picture, and one other woman is smiling and looking at what's happening

Anti-Black racism is the driving factor behind the Black maternal health crisis. So, as we head into Black Maternal Health Week, it’s essential to examine how those same biased and discriminatory beliefs show up in all systems that Black women will interact with during their journey into motherhood. Whether in the hospital, the boardroom, or the classroom, White supremacy culture follows the same script. Ending the maternal health crisis requires a complete disruption of anti-Black racism and White supremacy culture any and everywhere that it shows up. 


For workplaces invested in building an inclusive, productive, and thriving environment, remaining aware of characteristics of White supremacy culture that show up in organizations is crucial in disrupting and ultimately changing them. 


Worship of the Written Word

This characteristic's dominant sentiment and narrative is that there is only one correct way to get things done. But when it comes to the unpredictable nature of pregnancy, childbirth, and raising children, remaining stuck in this mindset is harmful to Black women. 


Consider what accommodations you can provide to the Black women on your team who may be expecting. What often prevents Black women from receiving the support that they need is a culture that values documentation at all costs, regardless of its human impact. Many workplace cultures that subscribe to this characteristic also believe that equity has a one-size-fits-all approach and that doing the right thing for one person isn’t right because ‘we’d have to do it for everyone.’ 


Shifting this thinking first liberates Black women and those who are pregnant from a culture that could ultimately be detrimental to their health and creates an overall workplace environment that is flexible and supportive of each worker’s unique needs. 


Fear of Open Conflict

I’ve heard numerous experiences from Black women who were accused of being ‘hostile’ or ‘angry’ during their pregnancy by healthcare providers simply because they advocated for themselves or raised an issue. These same assumptions are made in the workplace where Black women are labeled as ‘unapproachable’ and ‘difficult to work with’ because they dared to use their voices or point out their mistreatment. 


A pregnany Black woman is posing by a sign that says Pyramil Trail

Pregnancy comes with enough factors to stress over, from its physical and emotional impacts to other financial considerations – and an anti-Black workplace further adds to this stress for Black women. 


A workspace that is receptive to feedback and looks to change the issue addressed, and not the person who addressed it, is supportive of the maternal health of Black women. Addressing core beliefs and White supremacist ideologies, we have that harmfully perceive Black women as aggressive and threatening is key to shifting this dynamic in the workplace. 


Objectivity 

There is nothing to be neutral about in the face of oppression and anti-Black racism, yet many power structures are still committed to being seen as objective when it comes to the care shown to the Black folks who interact with that system. Whether it’s a hospital or an office, many people in positions of power attempt to make decisions void of emotion. 


There is no such thing as objectivity; each of our worlds are shaped by personal experiences we’ve had, and the value systems and limiting beliefs we hold.  


Decisions that are made in the workplace and in the healthcare system that attempt to be objective rob Black women of their humanity, and ultimately contribute to poor maternal health outcomes. By leading with care for Black women in both spaces, we create better conditions for their maternal and overall health. 


This Black Maternal Health Week, reflect on the ways that your workplace is equipped to shift the tide of the Black maternal health crisis. Schedule a consultation with ShiftEd Consulting today to begin your journey.

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