Rochelle Humes presented Dispatches: The Black Maternity Scandal (Picture: Channel 4)
Much anticipation had built around Dispatches: The Black Maternity Scandal.
Rochelle Humes, who presented the Channel 4 documentary, announced her involvement in February and it was immediately met with criticism.
Sceptics questioned her knowledge of the subject as well as the fact that she is a light-skinned mixed race woman covering the issue of higher maternal mortality rates among Black women, which appears to overwhelmingly affect those with darker complexions.
The backlash only heightened when it was suggested that Rochelle replaced Candice Brathwaite as host.
Brathwaite is a prominent voice in the movement to raise awareness for higher death rates among Black women in childbirth. She has written the pioneering book, I Am Not Your Baby Mother, about being a Black British mother, and is founder of Make Motherhood Diverse – an online initiative that aims to ensure many more people see themselves reflected online.
More importantly, Brathwaite suffered a near-death experience herself days after giving birth to her daughter and therefore seemed like the natural fit to present the documentary. It was later clarified that Brathwaite had been approached by another production company to make a similar film to The Black Maternity Scandal.
Still, the controversy exposed the ugly issue of colourism within the TV presenting industry. After all, why wasn’t a darker-skinned or Black woman chosen to front a documentary which affects them in greater numbers?
Was Rochelle chosen because of her existing celebrity status and lighter complexion?
On Twitter feeds and in Clubhouse rooms, many said they would be boycotting The Black Maternity Scandal as they didn’t feel it would do justice to the harrowing subject.
While I certainly shared their anger, I now realise that was – in my opinion – the wrong approach.
Many of us were guilty in calling it ‘the Rochelle Humes documentary’ for ease – and for lack of knowing the official title – but what that actually did was detract from the core message of why this film was being made in the first place.
The bottom line is Black women are dying during childbirth in extremely concerning and disproportionate numbers – at least four times more than white mothers to be exact. This wasn’t news to many of us but some only learned the extent of the problem through this documentary.
While it may not have had the right presenter, every woman who featured in the documentary and shared her horrifying story deserved to be seen and heard.
Statistics are just numbers but every time we put a face to the ordeal, it becomes increasingly real. Ultimately, that’s what is needed for change right? Visibility and awareness.
People questioned whether Rochelle was knowledgeable enough to present the film (Picture: Channel 4)
Jade, a mum-of-three, revealed how she had six litres of blood in her stomach (Picture: Channel 4)
Jade, a mum-of-three who appeared in the documentary, revealed how she almost died after carrying six litres of blood in her stomach following a C-section. She told viewers how doctors initially belittled her pain to ‘hangover symptoms’. These are the very real experiences Black women go through everyday but we don’t hear about everyday.
So no, I don’t think boycotting The Black Maternity Scandal was the right answer because the only thing that does is silence those very Black women who have fought to be heard by the NHS, by the Government and by society.
I’ve unfortunately witnessed the stillbirth of a close family member so have second-hand knowledge of how childbirth can go horribly wrong for mother and baby. It is truly like a living nightmare.
As a dark-skin Black woman who also plans on having children one day, it terrifies me that I could become a statistic like so many other women of a similar shade.
I’m also Black-African and the documentary revealed that we are 83% more likely than white women to suffer a maternal near-miss.
I know that I’m not the only Black woman who watched the documentary and felt compassion for those mothers who told their stories but also overwhelming fear that it could one day be us.
Candice Brathwaite is undoubtedly more qualified to speak on the subject due to her personal experience and years of campaigning (Picture: ITV, Rex)
Whether Rochelle was knowledgeable enough for this topic is another issue entirely and colourism and racism within the TV industry of course needs to be addressed and tackled in its own right.
The Black Maternity Scandal was more of an introduction to viewers who had no idea of the scale of the issue. In those respects maybe Rochelle, who even admitted to her Black cousin that she was unaware this problem existed, was the right person for this basic analysis of Black maternal mortality.
However, the documentary only scratched the surface and it would have been valuable to have featured more in-depth work of foundations such as FivexMore and Brathwaite’s Make Motherhood Diverse, those which have long campaigned to raise awareness for Black mothers.
The travesty of The Black Maternity Scandal was that it attempted to cover such a complex subject in just 30 minutes.
Even more of a travesty is that the Government, in a report released in November 2020, said that the NHS had ‘no target’ to crackdown on the higher rates in which Black women die during childbirth.
These are the issues we should be focusing on and it’s important to separate other controversies from the main problem at hand.
Dispatches: The Black Maternity Scandal is available to watch on All 4.
Credit: Original article published here.