The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Department on Womens Health, is having a contest to choose the cover photo for an update of its Easy Guide to Breastfeeding. I popped over there when I saw the notice on Twitter and thought the choices weren’t very interesting. They are generic photos, none of which clearly show a latched baby. I decided not to vote because I didn’t like any of the three choices. There was something just plain vanilla about all three.
Elita over at Blacktating has a great post on why I saw vanilla. Mother and child in all three photos are white. Not only do I agree with her on the impropriety of having only white babies to choose from but I find some of the comments to her blogs disturbing. Go over and have a look.
Even if one thinks it is legitimate to chose a representative baby by the skin color of the majority of babies born in the U.S (a questionable criteria, in my opinion), take a look at the U.S. Census Bureau data on the “race” of women who have given birth in the previous twelve months for 2006-08. Add up all the people who identify as non-white in some way and compare that number to the number of those who identify as white. “Average U.S. mom” is not “white.”
In the three photo choices, both mother and child are white. I don’t have the statistics (I don’t find either the U.S. Census or the website for the Census Bureau particularly user-friendly), but I suspect the number of non-white babies born in the U.S. is even higher than the number of non-white mothers. So making both mom and baby white is even more inaccurate if we are using the “average dyad” criteria for choosing the appropriate government document cover photo.
I am not arguing that there is any particular physical characteristic that makes one photo a better choice than another. I don’t think the mother or child have to be part of the majority race (if indeed the U.S. still has one). I would vote for the photo I think is more beautiful or most what I associate with breastfeeding. I would chose the photo that seems most realistic or perhaps even most interesting or most compelling. But if the U.S. government is truly asking people to make a choice, we have to be given choices. “White, white or white”? No contest.