Tag Archives: black

Neither White Nor Black

I would like to extend a great big WELCOME to the newest subscribers to “Caffeinated Catholic Mama!” I hope I can continue to enlighten and entertain and welcome to the family!
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They met at a jazz bar in Los Angeles, California. The year was 1941. Billy was a ranch hand who dabbled as a singer. Lisa was a secretary.

It wasn’t long before young Billy and Lisa crossed a line which, for most Americans, was unthinkable at the time.

Lisa was white. She had roots linking her to William Clark, the explorer who traveled to the Pacific Coast of the United States with Meriwether Lewis. Billy was black, the grandson of a former slave who had moved to California from Texas in the 19th century. They wanted to get married.

Curious to read how this love story ends? Read the rest here. Thanks for the link, Shannon!
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Read My Letter to my Daughters, as featured on The Feminist Breeder, for my personal story about living Neither White nor Black.

Pax Christi!

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Filed under family, life, race, Tuesday

Getting off the fence

I used to be a fence sitter in the realm of the polarizing topic of abortion. I have close, dear friends who are champions of women’s reproductive rights and are staunchly pro-choice; I have other close, dear friends who are champions of women’s reproductive rights and are staunchly pro-life. For the longest time, I would hem and haw and try to tactfully avoid the question or topic for fear of angering or alienating a friend or worse, losing a friend.

I am not very good at memorizing scripture, but there is one chapter of the bible that has really “spoken” to me at varying times in my life: Matthew 10. Quite a few passages from this chapter has lead me to writing this today:

16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

26 “So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.

27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.

34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

Yesterday, the US House of Representatives voted to strip Planned Parenthood of federal monies that are used for preventative health screenings, which include contraception and cancer screenings. Currently, Planned Parenthood is prohibited from using federal dollars for abortion services, and the removal of this money cuts off it’s “family planning” side. As an aside, the monies were being provided under the Title X Family Planning Program enacted in 1970. According to the US Health and Human Services Website:

Over the past 40 years, Title X family planning clinics have played a critical role in ensuring access to a broad range of family planning and related preventive health services for millions of low-income or uninsured individuals and others. In addition to contraceptive services and related counseling, Title X-supported clinics provide a number of related preventive health services such as: patient education and counseling; breast and pelvic examinations; breast and cervical cancer screening according to nationally recognized standards of care; sexually transmitted disease (STD) and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) prevention education, counseling, testing and referral; and pregnancy diagnosis and counseling. By law, Title X funds may not be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning. (emphasis mine)

Opponents of the funding cut, use the argument that by cutting the money to Planned Parenthood, we are putting the lives and health of women at stake. But not all Title X recipients are being cut, only Planned Parenthood, which may be the most accessible if not the most well known “family planning” center in the US.

Not every Planned Parenthood office provides abortions, but every office will council and refer to an abortion provider as needed. One question to have, is Planned Parenthood providing abortion as a family planning method? I don’t know. I guess that would depend on why the abortion is performed. According to their 2010 fact-sheet, in 2008, Planned Parenthood performed 324,008 abortions and referred 2,405 pregnancies for adoption. Planned Parenthood is not without other controversies, either. Last March, Planned Parenthood and The Girl Scouts of America caused some issues when they partnered to do some “No-Adults Allowed” Sex Education. A few weeks ago, the pro-life group, “Live Action” released a series of videos showing Planned Parenthood employees skirting the laws and essentially helping a man posing as a pimp for an underage girl. Planned Parenthood has come out and said that the videos are all hoaxes among other things. For me, though, Planned Parenthood and abortion are intrinsically linked and culturally very personal.

According to the Gutmacher Institute, black women account for 30% of induced abortions in the US. However, according to the 2000 Census, black (or black with something else) women in the US made up 6.8% of the total population. Another percentage from the Gutmacher Institute is that 69% of pregnancies among black women were unintended, but Planned Parenthood is providing Family Planning services? Bottom line is that family planning services do not make money, but abortions do. Abortions are not covered by federal dollars, so the women are paying out of pocket for the procedure. According to the PPFA Annual Report for 2008-2009, the non-profit ended with a profit of $63.4 million. To clarify, non-profit is a tax status, so that means they don’t have to play Government Taxes. (The 2009-2010 report has not been released.)In New York City, 71% of black teenagers aborted their children in 2009. According to LEARN, the largest black pro-life group in the US, between 1973-2001, abortion has claimed more lives than AIDS, Violent Acts, Accidents, Cancer and Heart Disease combined (their stats come from the CDC.) So, what’s going on here? Why are we, as a community, allowing this black genocide to continue?

Women deserve better than abortion. Of those 324,008 abortions in 2008, we can say at least half of those would have been little girls. I am never a fan of those who criticize without bringing another option. In my opinion, we need to:
– redefine our definitions of “love,” “sex,” and “intimacy.” Intimacy can lead to sex and sex can lead to the creation of life. Sex very rarely, if ever, leads to intimacy or love.
– support pregnant women more, whether it is in their jobs or just personally. A woman should not have to feel compelled to choose between her child and her job. Maybe some of those federal monies should go to Pregnancy Resource Centers/ Emergency Shelters to help pregnant women with no place to go. Let’s give adoption some better PR.
-Stop Glamorizing Teen Pregnancy. Yup, MTV, I’m talking to you. Now, I have to admit, I have NEVER seen “Teen Mom” but what I have heard about it makes me vomit in my mouth a little. Some say it’s a great window to the realities of teen motherhood, others say that it makes girls think that they are one pregnancy away from landing a reality show and FAME!
-Celebrate the involvement of the father. Too often pro-choice voices talk about how it’s the choice of the woman, but there are at least 4 people involved in that choice: The Mother, The Father, The Child and God. In having the abortion, the mother takes away the choice of the father and the choice of the child.

A baby is not just an extension of the mother’s body, like an appendix or gall-bladder. It has it’s own genetic code and is a separate being. Just because it is dependent on the mother for a period of time does not make it more or less valuable or give it less of a right to live. My children are still very dependent on me. Just because they do not rely on me for their oxygen exchange or nutrition, doesn’t mean they are not still dependent. Do I have the right to deny them life because they count on me?

I’ll close with two quotes:

“The Negro cannot win as long as he is willing to sacrifice the lives of his children for comfort and safety.” (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

“We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population,” she said, “if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.” (Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood)

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What are your thoughts? I fully believe in civil discourse, but I do expect a certain level of decorum when engaging in debate. We all have differing opinions and no one person is more right than another and we all have the right to speak our minds. Can’t wait to read your thoughts.

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Filed under Catholic, family, feminism, history, life, mothering, political, race

World Breastfeeding Week: Day 1

Happy World Breastfeeding Week (WBW)! Every year, runs from August 1-7 and every year, my family finds itself in beautiful Door County Wisconsin for our annual vacation. We are blessed in that my In-laws live up here year-round and therefore, it’s a fairly cheap vacation. Long car ride, but surely worth it.

This year, our travels were a little bit easier in that The Bear was already up North with Grandma and Grandpa and leaving only three of us traveling the 10+ hours from St. Louis to the Door Peninsula. For those of you wondering how you make long car rides and frequent nursings work, without stretching your car ride by hours and hours, I present a step-by-step guide to breastfeeding in motion:

1. Sit next to your rear-facing little one. If you have motion sickness, like I do, make sure you have a proper emesis catching receptacle handy. I personally like Target bags.

2. Stretch your seat belt as far as it can go, all the while reminding your husband not to crash the car. I find you have to repeat that phrase over and over… kind of like a mantra. If you are a praying type, as I am, you usually start praying for safety at this point. A few “Hail Marys” and “Jesus, please don’t let my husband crash” are favorites of mine. If you can’t stretch your seat belt, you may have to unlatch the belt and increase the frequency of said prayers.

3. Channel your inner contortionist and latch baby on. If you are larger breasted, you will have the advantage of not having to lean so far over baby, if you are smaller breasted, you’ll get a great oblique workout. Remain in this position until the feeding is done or baby drifts off.

4. If you are traveling during the day and don’t have tinted windows, be sure to wave to the curious on-lookers and truckers. You might have just made their day.

5. Repeat as needed. And for me… that’s most of the trip. In fact, other than driving from St. Louis to Lexington, IL, I spent the duration of the trip acting as human pacifier #1.

I am sure you are thinking, wouldn’t having a bottle just be easier? Sure… but where would the truckers get their entertainment from?

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As this is WBW, my posts this week will reflect this. In addition, use my blogroll visit other blogs that celebrate breastfeeding and the joy that comes from it. Make sure you check them out! Also, the 8th Edition of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding is out. This edition has been revised since 2004 and it. is. awesome. Seriously.

Pax Christi!

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Breastfeeding… Normalized

This past weekend, my family traveled to my hometown for a family reunion. We haven’t had a reunion… well as long as I can remember to be honest. It was great seeing cousins who I haven’t spent time with since I was little and it was really hard not to see them as little kids, but as adults and parents. My daughter had a blast playing with her 3nd cousins, most of whom, she just referred to as her “friends.” Hey, you try explaining the levels of cousins to a 3 year old! (Thank you, Wikipedia for the cousins equations!)

I come from a pretty stereotypical African-American family… we’re loud, pretty funny and love to eat! There was so much food there this weekend, that we are still recovering: Ribs, Chicken, Turkey, Baked Beans, Collard Greens, Cornbread, Salads, Fruit Pies and Cobblers… not to mention Aunt Rosie’s Famous Carrot Cake! However, my favorite part of the day was not the copious food or laughing with the family. My favorite part was when my three year old showed the whole family what normal is for her.

My daughter (The Bear) received a stuffed cat as a “Yay! You are a big sister!” present from one of my college friends. This stuffed cat has become her constant companion and she named him “Kitty Boy.” Early in the day of the reunion, The Bear carried Kitty Boy over to a folding chair in the midst of the older relatives of the family (and when I say older, I mean older; These are the matriarchs of my family, all in their 80s and 90s), climbed up on the chair, lifted her shirt and “latched” Kitty Boy on. When she was asked what she was doing, she looked up and said “I’m nursing kitty boy.” The matriarchs looked at each other, shrugged, kind of smiled and said “She’s nursing her kitty.”

My daughter has no idea how important and special her simple declaration was. Breastfeeding was not really encouraged in my family and for her to show everyone without fear or shame what it means to be a mother in her world, means I am doing something right.

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Let’s prevent this with education

I grew up outside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and I am sad to say that there’s been a rash of sad deaths of infants in Milwaukee. As of yesterday, 8 infants have died as a result of unsafe co-sleeping. Just to be clear, we are a bedsharing/ co-sleeping family. We have a queen size bed (and I’d love a King, especially when the Bear decides to join us) and we typically have the babies in bed with us until they show signs of wanting to leave. For the Bear… it was around 12 months, the Dragonfly is still cozy at 9 months.

We have rules for co-sleeping; if either parent is under the influence of alcohol or medication (NyQuil and the like) they are on the couch. Because the parents need to be 100% in control, especially when sleeping with an infant; I am the cold one in the house, so I sleep in long sleeves, pants and socks so that we are not worried about blankets on the bed; we never allow the children to sleep next to another because the Bear (35 months) is not aware of her sister’s positioning in the night/ while sleeping and would be a danger of overlaying.

But by far, the biggest key to bedsharing is whether the mother is breastfeeding or bottlefeeding. (This is not a rant of which is better as we all know where I stand on that issue.)

from breastfeed.com

Studies have shown that breast-fed babies wake more frequently than formula-fed babies. The reason: Breastmilk is the natural food for infants. There is no harsh ingredient that requires extra digestion time. Breastmilk is “processed” quickly and efficiently by Baby, prompting the need for closer feeding intervals.”Babies are nocturnal animals,” says Jolenne Short-Porter, R.N., IBCLC from Exeter, N.H. “In the early months, they need to nurse frequently for their growing needs, as well as mom’s milk supply. Nighttime nursing is necessary. Unfortunately, in our culture, we want our babies to sleep at night.”

This is a huge reason why there was back lash against Enfamil’s Nighttime formula. Babies are supposed to wake up at night, they wake up a lot at night and there are theories that the excessive nightwaking is a survival mechanism

“Human children are designed to be sleeping with their parents,” says Katherine A. Dettwyler, Ph.D., an associate professor of anthropology and nutrition at Texas A & M University. “The sense of touch is the most important sense to primates. The expected pattern is for mother and child to sleep together and for the child to be able to nurse whenever they want during the night.”

Dettwyler reminds parents that normal, healthy breast-fed and co-sleeping children do not sleep through the night. She is a firm believer that parents need to dispel the myth of needing eight hours of uninterrupted sleep when children are infants. Parents should instead view these nighttime interactions as precious and fleeting.

Before the 19th century, most infants slept in close contact with their mothers – usually in the same bed – and had frequent nighttime feedings. In many cultures, this is still the norm for babies and parents.

from enabling-breastfeeding.blogspot.com

It didn’t become “normal” for a baby to sleep through the night until the 1950s, according to Dr. James McKenna, an anthropologist and director of the University of Notre Dame Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Lab, when bottle-feeding with formula exceeded breast-feeding in popularity. Bottle-feeding and baby’s sleep McKenna said he found differences between bottle- and breast-feeding families when it came to the sensitivity and positioning of mothers with their infants. Therefore, for bottle-feeding families, “sleeping is best alongside the bed, not in the bed,” said McKenna. Co-sleeping furniture may be a viable alternative to bed sharing, but none has been tested by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Anti-bed sharing The AAP discourages bed sharing, noting that it “is more hazardous than the infant sleeping on a separate sleep surface.” Some physicians think the AAP (and several SIDS prevention groups) have gone too far in discouraging bed sharing. Japan has a very low incidence of SIDS, and they sleep with their babies, said Thomas. “So, the problem is not just bed sharing.” When deaths occur in a bed the whole practice is condemned, Thomas said. “We never say that about a crib.”

(emphasis mine)

I tried to find information advocating bottlefeeding and co-sleeping and I couldn’t.

Going back to the issue in Milwaukee, I don’t have the stats but how much do you want to bet that all of the mothers involved were low-income and black? We know that the breastfeeding rates among low-income, minority women are low and this is the exact demographic that should be nursing their kids. After all, breastmilk is free and easy to come by. So, maybe instead of attacking the bed sharing custom, we should be attacking the fact that our children are not getting the best chance they can to survive.

(OK, so I lied. It did become a breastfeeding rant.)

Prayers for the souls of the eight infants in Milwaukee and all infants who are now in the Father’s arms.

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As always, I welcome your thoughts, but keep it clean!

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Identity Crisis

I am a black woman. At least, according to the State of Missouri. This either came as a surprise to you or it was a “yeah, so?” moment. But I am also a white woman. Over the years, I have had sort of an identity crisis and that crisis usually comes about when someone first meets me and eventually the converstation turns to “So, what are you?” I’ve had my number of snarky answers: Human, Female, American, etc but eventually I settled on the old standby: Multi-ethnic. Besides, that sounds much better than “Other.” But the problem with being multi-ethnic is that you really don’t belong to one group or another, you just kind of hang out there, looking for someone, anyone to accept you for who you are and that is hard to come by.

Growing up, my elementary school was more of a melting pot… there were Blacks, Whites, and Others but, you know, as a kid you don’t really notice that sort of thing. You more or less base your friends on those you like and those you don’t. And the person you like one day you may not like another. Middle School was pretty similar but a common thread through both of those existances and still remains was that while I had some ethnic friends, my best friends were… white.

My family moved to the suburbs for my high school years and I attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison and you would have thought that college would have been the best time for me to “re-invent” myself and really embrace my Black heritage… Nope. By the time that I got to this point, I was so ingrained in White culture, that I was afraid that I would not have been accepted by other black students. During the 2008 Presidential Campaign, there was the thought that President Obama wasn’t “black enough.” I get that. So, instead of joining the Black Student Union or taking advantage of the services offered though the Powers-Knapp Scholarship, I shied away and further repressed the ethnic side of me.

So now where am I? Living in the suburbs of St. Louis, I can count on one had the number of black girlfriends I have. As I explore my varying sub-sets of community (La Leche League, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, YMCA, MOPS) I find it over-flowing with white girlfriends but a drought for black. There are times that I really feel as if there is part of me that is lost and yearning to be found and this struggle is compounded by my raising two daughters who are categorized as Black as well. What kind of issues will my blonde haired, blue eyed, fair skinned elder daughter and my dark haired, dark eyed, olive skinned younger daughter have? Will they be the same? Will they differ?

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