Last week, a bunch of people were bellyaching on the networks about Karlesha Thurman, the recent California State University Long Beach grad immortalized in a photo capturing Thurman breastfeeding her infant daughter during her graduation ceremony. When she posted the picture to the Facebook page “Black Women Do Breastfeed” (I know, here we are again, having to explain what we do and don’t do), some viewers went apoplectic. Thurman’s chiders were apparently offended that she dared to bare a breast while helping her daughter live. (You can read and see plenty of that vitriol at Buzzfeed.)
Thurman’s actions were not owed to a lack of home training or sluttiness, as some of her critics argued. The public breastfeeding was intentional. She was pregnant in her last year in college and delivered in her final academic semester. “She was my motivation to keep going,” Thurman wrote in an open letter about her daughter to her haters on Facebook, “so me receiving my BA was OUR moment.”
It wasn’t that long ago that Facebook was banning photos of breastfeeding, claiming they were vulgar. But Thurman is part of a movement to normalize public breastfeeding, resisting those who can only view breasts through a sexual lens. But breastfeeding is not only about resisting the policing of women’s bodies -- and in Thurman’s case, black women’s bodies, whose policing basically became codified during the slave trade. It’s also a health issue, an environmental issue, and a justice issue as well.