Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Why Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.Would Support Nurse-Ins

Jessica at Imperfect Parent wrote a post giving a "nurse in eye-roll" to the Target Nurse-In, in which I participated. Besides getting the facts of the incident wrong, Jessica's basic premise seems to be that because many "real" injustices exist in the world, nursing moms who are treated illegally or unjustly should just get over themselves. As she says, "[t]hese chicks and their first world problems are as annoying as they are spoiled."

In a way, Jessica is right. There are many horrible injustices in this world. That's why I support projects like the International Justice Missiontake a stand against child trafficking and give to disaster relief such as the crisis in the Horn of Africa. These are real problems... life and death problems... injustices that are truly incomprehensible at times. We should do something about it. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said "Life's most persistent and urgent question is 'What are you doing for others?'" It is the duty of all of us who benefit from the great freedoms and prosperity that we have in the US to be mindful of our blessings and act to stop tragedies and injustices where we can.

Even if that injustice is minor and "first world" by comparison. 

Even if that injustice is right in your local Target.


I don't believe Dr. King would agree with Jessica, even though she has a point.

Dr. King said "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Harassment and forced relocation of nursing mothers is an infringement on the baby's basic human right to be breastfed (established as a right by Article 24 of the UN's Convention on the Rights of the Child) and the mother's legal rights to nurse where she is otherwise authorized to be. This is a human right's issue. This is injustice.

Admittedly, being asked to breastfeed in a bathroom is not nearly as severe an injustice as human trafficking.  But comparatively, being asked to use a different water fountain or a different elevator also wasn't really a "major" injustice. It's what that request represented... It's the fact that being asked or told to sit at the back of the bus expressed a mentality that the color of your skin determined the value of your person. 

Sure, asking me to nurse in a fitting room is not a major injustice compared to the travesties of justice that occur all around the world, but what does that represent? It expresses a mentality that nursing my child is dirty, shameful, disgusting, or that I am less of a person because of my feeding choice than a mother who uses a bottle to feed her child. Yes, it's "just" moving to a different area, but as Dr. King said "a right delayed is a right denied."

Our problems here in the US may not be as "big," but how we respond to them sets the tone for how we will respond to injustices around the globe. If we, as women, don't stand up for the rights that we have, what is the point of having them? If we are unwilling to protect our own rights and the rights of our defenseless children, where will we find the courage to defend the helpless... whether they are next door or around the world?

More importantly, according to the CRC, the right to be breastfed is considered just as important as the right to be treated without discrimination based on race, religion, or ethnicity (Article 2), the right to live (Article 6), and all other basic human rights of children. Even if you don't view the infringement on the mother's legal right as important, meaningful, or "real", the infringement on the right of the child is.

Nurse-ins are truly the most peaceful form of protest; surely there is little else that can be more peaceful than a suckling, content babe held by an adoring mother. And the right to protest is, literally, the first right granted to us in the Constitution! Since these peaceful protests focus on ensuring the rights of defenseless children (and their mothers), I feel certain that Dr. King would support them. In fact, I cannot imagine a modern protest that could be more in line with Dr. King's vision of how to change the world than a nurse-in!

Dr. King said "our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." So while Jessica and all those who share her opinion are entitled to roll their eyes at us, rant about how "spoiled" breastfeeding moms are, and tell us that our struggles to meet our children's basic human rights and defend our legal rights is not a "real problem," know that we won't become silent

Because these are our children, and more than anything in the world, they matter.

But please, won't you reconsider? As Dr. King says, "the time is always right to do the right thing."


ashley said...

Beautifully written! And I completely agree with you!! Bravo!

Jamie said...

This makes me so happy I want to cry. Great job

Faith said...

How in the world did you find her blog in the first place? It's nasty!

Green Christian Mama said...

Great article. :)
I always think of injustices being on a 1-10 scale. The Holocaust would be (at least) a 10. Pol Pot would be a 10. Stalin and Civil Rights in the USA would be an 8. NIP would be about a 1. However, Dr. King says to fight even the "1"s. Because you can never be complacent... or you are backsliding out of control before you know it.
I just wish that those who think that it must be a 5+ before protesting would stop being so nasty and judgmental!

theadoptedones said...

You know that only the US and Somalia haven't signed on to the treaty. Great post.

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