In line with the theme of my upcoming book, I’ve built this website and blog around my service as a midwife among the Amish.
But today, with the life and dream of Martin Luther King, Jr on my heart, what I want to talk about with you today is a far cry from Amish Midwifery.
Or is it?
At the core of my passion for homebirth midwifery is the health and happiness of families.
One of the things I love most about the Amish is their devotion to family.
So maybe this post is about Amish Midwifery after all.
Because I want to write to you about family.
I want to write to you about the trouble we’re experiencing as a family. As a national family.
I believe, as it’s recorded in the Bible, “He (God) Himself gives everyone life and breath and all things, and has made of one blood all nations of men.” Acts 17:25-26
This makes every person alive my sister or my brother. This makes us family.
Family, no matter the color of our skin.
But our family is hurting.
With the hope that we may be able to come together, to hear one another, to right wrongs, and to enjoy healing, I’m writing this post.
To that end, to that hope for communion and healing, I’d like to share some of my thoughts.
In order to do so effectively, I’d like to share my thoughts in a simple form – stripped down from an issue among 300,000,000 people to an issue between, say, a set of sisters. For simplicity’s sake let’s say there’s a set of sisters having a problem with one another. Let’s imagine that one sister of the sisters represents the white segment of our nation and that the other sister represents the segment of our nation that isn’t white.
Let’s call them Amy and Zaira.
I have no desire to minimize the severity of the conflict we’re experiencing, and I also recognize that not all of our 300,000,000 people think the same way I do. I realize there are those among us who condone and engage in truly evil philosophies and practices – those who believe the white race is superior to all others and therefore has the right to treat all others however they please. I’m not attempting to address those people with this post.
My appeal is to those of my race, the white race, with good hearts and good intentions.
And, so, the pair of sisters.
Amy, the white sister, has offended Zaira, the black sister.
Amy didn’t mean to offend the Zaira, but she’s done it all the same.
Zaira objects to the offense, but because Amy didn’t mean to offend Zaira, Amy refuses to say she’s sorry. Instead, she defends what she did based on her good heart and good intentions.
Zaira is confounded. The bottom line is, the offense was committed and, regardless Amy’s intent, it hurt. Now she’s more offended than she was before and protests all the more vigorously.
Zaira’s increasingly vigorous protests hurt and offend Amy, again, because she meant no harm, so she vigorously protests Zaira’s protest.
And around and around they go.
I am Amy. If you’re reading this post, it’s likely you’re Amy, too.
Dear Amy – me included – let’s hop off that merry-go-round and think a minute.
Let’s be honest. We all tend to judge others according to their actions, while we insist on being excused in light of our intentions.
But what might happen if we flipped that scenario around?
Let’s return to the sisters and explore another way conflicts escalate.
Amy has offended her sister, Zaira.
Amy didn’t mean to offend Zaira, but she’s done it all the same.
Plus, because what Amy did to Zaira wouldn’t have offended Amy had it been done to her, she refuses to acknowledge that it was offensive.
Zaira insists it was offensive, but because Amy refuses to acknowledge her behavior could be offensive, Amy refuses to apologize. Instead Amy defends what she did based on how she would have interpreted it, had it been done to her.
Zaira is confounded. The bottom line is, what was done was offensive, regardless Amy’s opinion of it, and it hurt. Now she’s more offended than she was before and protests more vigorously.
Zaira’s increasingly vigorous protests hurt and offend Amy, again, because she doesn’t see how what she did was offensive. So she gets hurt and vigorously protests Zaira’s protest.
And around and around they go.
But, dear Amy – me included – let’s stop another moment to think.
Since when do I get to decide what does or doesn’t offend another? If somebody tells me I’ve offended them, the most reasonable response would be for me to be to believe I’ve offended them and to provide an apology.
Now let’s widen our view to include all 300,000,000 of us.
If you’re reading this, it isn’t too likely you’re one of those we mentioned earlier – those among us who believe the white race is superior to all others and therefore has the right to treat all others however they please.
But if you’re reading this and you’re white – white, but with really good intentions, then read on.
A segment of our population – the community of color – has raised its collective voice in protest against some of our – the white portion of our population’s – behaviors. Though we don’t intend to offend by our behavior, nor would we be offended by our behavior if we were treated by our behavior, these people, our own brothers and sisters, are in fact offended – and our refusal to hear their complaints, to believe their complaints, to allow their complaints to move us to apologize and, more importantly, to alter our behavior makes our behavior all the more egregious!
It’s easy to express our disapproval of the specific instances of racism we see flash across our television screens, then to excuse ourselves from the instance because we’re not specifically part of it.
But if these people are our brothers and our sisters!
Aren’t we supposed to speak for our brothers and sisters when they cannot?
And they cannot! They cannot because we will not hear them!
Now, I don’t like to be lumped into a group and blamed for things I haven’t actively or intentionally done any more than anyone else does. I rankle when I’m insulted and stand ready to rise to the challenge when I feel I’ve been unjustly accused, the same as most of us.
But what will my objections to my sister’s objections ever accomplish but the perpetuity of objections and objectionable behavior?
In relationship, in family, if one of us loses, both of us loses. If one of us wins, we both lose.
Before we go too far down the trail of dismissing the community of color’s complaints per the apparent vigor and vitriol that houses them, maybe we ought to consider the housing stems from our stuffed ears and closed eyes and hardened hearts. Let’s take the vigor and vitriol of their protests as evidence of how dramatically offended they are and, rather than get offended by it ourselves. Let it cue us in on its importance. Let it unplug our ears and open our eyes and soften our hearts.
Maybe we could say, “Oh, my! You’re that hurt? You’re that angry? I’m so sorry!”
Maybe we could say, “How can I change? How can I make it right? How can I help you heal?”
Let’s keep this in mind as we attempt to move forward:
The community of color within our nation has, without argument, spent their many generations of residence among us on unequal footing at best, grossly maltreated at worst and – and I’m sorry, but it’s just true – grossly maltreated by the white residents of this country, by us, as a general rule.
And the inequitable way, the outrageous way the people of color in our nation have been treated by white people has gone on long enough.
I may not have intentionally behaved badly toward the people of color in our nation, but I’m more than able to make allowance for the intensity of their outcry and just hear and be sorry for the way they’ve been treated – to hear and be sorry for they way I myself have mistreated them. I would like to be part of the resolution of this problem and the rejuvenation of these priceless souls – my sisters and my brothers.
Are you? Will you? Really, we must.
Kim Woodard Osterholzer, Colorado Springs Homebirth Midwife and Author
Books by Kim: