Category Archives: Racial justice

Pro Every Life, Pro Woman, Pro Reproductive Justice for All

Marysia has the manifesto online and ready for signing!

Pro Every Life, Pro Woman, Pro Reproductive Justice for All: A Manifesto

Sponsored by: Turn the Clock Forward & the Nonviolent Choice Directory

We, the undersigned, affirm that:

We are pro every life, before, during, and ever after birth.

Therefore we vigorously, straightforwardly advocate women’s right to nonviolent sexual and reproductive choice.

What is nonviolent choice? Continue reading

Cleaning out bookmarks

* Discrimination against blacks linked to dehumanization, study finds. This study looked at the racist association of blacks with apes, and its consequences for people’s willingness to accept violence against them. Any anti-violence advocate could tell you that one way to get people to accept violence is to dehumanize its victim.

* It’s pretty easy to find the candidates’ stands on abortion, but glassbooth has also collected their stands on birth control and sex education.

* A New Zealand Idol contestant was kicked off the show for being pregnant. “Public life is set up with the assumption that people participating won’t have primary responsibility for childcare. This is incredibly anti-woman and extremely restrictive for women who do have children. A huge part of what I’m fighting for, as a feminist, is ending the notion of a ‘private sphere’ the idea that child-rearing is an individuals (usually a woman’s) primary responsibility, and that you have to choose between that role and any other role that you want to take.” Maia isn’t pro-life, but this is one area where feminists should be able to find common ground. (No, I haven’t actually had that bookmarked since August 2006. I’m not that far behind.)

* From another of Maia’s posts come two links to brownfemipower on the struggles of women, especially women in marginalized communities, to have their right to give birth respected.

* In that vein, Marysia (with a bit of help from me) has been working up a manifesto for an inclusive reproductive justice organization. This organization will encompass the rights of the unborn and already-born, and will advocate for all women’s rights to the full spectrum of nonviolent reproductive choices.

Pregnant in college

The local campus newspaper carried an article about a student who, with the help of her partner and family, is on track to graduate with her class in 2010 despite taking time off to give birth to her daughter.

Maria Moreno, Deanna’s mother, talks about her daughter’s initiative and determination.

“One thing that I have noticed, now that she has a child, is that she is very independent and has been able to carry the accomplishment of raising (Sofia) and being able to balance school,” Maria Moreno said.

Between having a baby, going to school and planning to go back to work, Maria Moreno added, Deanna is making it all work, with the support of her family and her boyfriend, Dennis Hernandez.

“I was really concerned at the very beginning, but right now I am so proud of her. She has been able to adapt and take care of her child very well,” Maria Moreno said.

The article itself is uplifting and encouraging. The comments section — not so much. The first comment (using the handle “Pro Choice”!) simply says:

Having a child while in college is statistically highly correlated with college dropout rates. She would have been well advised to abort the fetus.

“Tyrone the Rapist” takes Moreno to task for decreasing the prestige of the University and says, “This is what the University gets for accepting people who have no business being in college.” “Don H” gets in his own racist jab with, “*puke* Story about ghetto love.”

Another commenter, “Cassidy C Browning”, has no problem with Moreno, but questions why the paper featured her story:

Getting pregnant while in college is not a unique situation – nor is choosing to carry the fetus to term and raise the child.

As I replied to Ms. Browning, choosing to carry to term and raise the child while in college may not be a unique decision, but it’s a rare one compared to abortion or dropping out. Looking at the hatred and scorn that supposedly enlightened people are heaping upon this young woman for daring to bear a child, it’s not hard to understand why so many women in Ms. Moreno’s place end up where she was when this story started — on the way to an appointment for an abortion.

Dr. King, the consistent life ethic, and Barack Obama

Last month, Marysia speculated about what Martin Luther King, Jr. would have thought of the feminist consistent life ethic. (part one, part two) Whatever the answer to that question may be, one thing is clear: if Dr. King’s message of equality, dignity, nonviolence, and empathy were to truly take root in our society, we would become consistently pro-life.

If we believed in equality for all human beings, we would not single out the youngest members of our species as killable non-persons. We would value women’s full humanity, not just their sex appeal or ability to bear children. We would honor women’s sexuality and motherhood. We would not accept a racially biased criminal justice system. We would not see the loss of lives in other countries as an acceptable price to pay for our national goals.

If we believed in dignity for all human beings, we would not allow people to die of treatable diseases because they’re poor or uninsured. We would not allow the neighborhoods of the poor to be poisoned with pollution. We would not refer to human beings as “products of conception” or “fetal tissue”. We would help the sick and disabled live their lives as well and fully as possible — no matter how short or how different from ours those lives may be — rather than trying to eliminate them before birth.

If we believed in nonviolence, our candidates would not compete with each other to prove who would kill more people in other countries, who would kill more prisoners, who would restrict the killing of unborn human beings the least. Our electorate would find such contests repugnant instead of galvanizing. We would have to be more creative in finding ways to solve problems instead of reflexively reaching for the violent solution. We would be brave enough to sacrifice a bit of safety and security in the short term for a better future.

If we had empathy for all human beings, we would accord all people of the world the right to self-determination that we claim for ourselves. We would not let pregnant women feel that they have no choice but abortion. We would recognize ourselves in every human being, even those most unlike us. We could not torture.

In a speech marking the 79th anniversary of Dr. King’s birth, Barack Obama invoked the words of “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”: we are all tied together in “a single garment of destiny.”

Does that sound familiar? It should. It’s the same imagery that consistent life ethic proponents have used for 25 years to argue that it’s not enough for fight for the rights of some people while ignoring others. All our lives are intertwined.

Unfortunately, Senator Obama’s garment is full of holes. Although I believe he would personally prefer a lower abortion rate, he would allow for essentially unrestricted destruction of human beings before their birth. Although I believe that he would be less aggressive than his opponents, he favors a buildup of a military which is already larger than the militaries of the rest of the world combined. Although I don’t believe he’d be a great proponent of it, he does not repudiate the death penalty. He isn’t the one who’s going to tear down the anti-life society in all its forms; he’s going to uphold much of it.

I voted for him today anyway. Because the society Obama describes, the one King fought for, is pro-life. And he alone among the candidates appears able to inspire hope and courage and confidence among the people in the grassroots who have been so beaten down for the past seven (or twenty-seven) years. The grassroots leaders he inspires and gives breathing room and may possibly even listen to a little bit are the people who can strengthen that single garment. Yes, even to include the unborn. Once people believe in the equality and interconnectedness of all human beings, they’re 90% of the way there. Our job then is to convince them to expand their vision of humanity.

As Patrick says:

He’s not an insurgent; he’s the standardbearer for a faction of the country’s political elite. I believe that, on balance, this particular faction happens to comprise many of the the smartest and most conscientious individuals from within that elite. So I’m supporting Obama and his train, people like Samantha Power and Robert Malley and Lawrence Lessig, just as a peasant might cheer for an aristocratic faction made up of reasonably decent individuals against other factions made up of out-and-out thugs. Not because the peasant doesn’t know the game is rigged, or doesn’t have the wit to imagine a better world. But because incremental change matters, and because the right incremental changes can lead, like water flowing downhill, to bigger and more profound ones.

And frankly, in the end, nobody better is in a position to win. Perhaps someday, if we peasants work hard enough and change enough minds, the leaders will have no choice but to follow.

Aborting for less violence is like bombing for peace…

… and we all know what that’s like.

Sergio Cabral has been reading too much Freakonomics:

The governor of Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday said that making abortion legal could be a way to help contain violence in the crime and drugs-plagued city, one of the most dangerous places in Brazil. [...]

Contain it within women’s bodies, you mean.

“If we take the number of children per mother in the well-off areas such as Copacabana or Lagoa, we see a birth rate similar to that in Sweden,” he said.

“But the slums, like in Rocinha, have a birth rate similar to Zambia or Gabon. These are the makings of misfits,” said Cabral, a 44-year-old Catholic.

(I don’t know how they do things in Brazil, but here I would regard that as a not-so-subtle attempt to whip up people’s fears about black people reproducing. Points for guessing the racial makeup of the slums Cabral’s talking about.)

Brazil has some of the worst income inequality in the world. Almost a third of its people live in poverty. Drug trafficking — very little of it done by newborn babies, it turns out — is rampant.

But none of that is the problem. That’s just how the world works. Fertile women and their children — that’s the real cause of violence. Or at least, maybe you can get enough people to believe that. Label those kids “misfits” and kill them. In a generation, your society will still be sick and millions of children will be dead, but by then it’ll be someone else’s problem. They’ll probably find some other powerless people to blame anyway.

News from the last week (or so)

Good news:

Bad news:

  • The breast cancer mortality rate isn’t dropping for black women.
  • The maternal death rate is rising among American women. It is especially high among black women, and may be even higher than official figures indicate.

Where I get the news:

  • The above items all came to my attention via the Kaiser Daily Women’s Health Policy report. It’s a roundup of news from mainstream media sources, so the usual disclaimers apply, but it’s a good place to get an overview.

Commentary on the news:

  • Day Gardner of the National Black Pro-Life Union comments on the Jena Six
  • liberaljournal at Booman Tribune reminds us, Don’t Forget the Other Jena’s.
  • District Attorney Reed Walters said of a protest by several thousand supporters of the Jena Six on September 20: “I firmly believe and am confident of the fact that had it not been for the direct intervention of the Lord Jesus Christ last Thursday, a disaster would have happened. You can quote me on that.” Thanks, I think I will. Apparently a large gathering of mostly African-American protestors is a sufficient threat as to require divine intervention. I bet poor Jesus never even had time for a smoke break during the 50s and 60s.

News that makes me worry that I was unintentionally prescient:

Jena 6

Dave posted a great video about the Jena 6 situation over at the mindful mission.

For those of you who haven’t heard about the case: you can get an overview by watching the video or reading about it (Word document) at Friends of Justice. In a nutshell:

On the morning of September 1, 2006, three nooses dangled from a tree in the High School square in Jena, Louisiana. The day before, at a school assembly, black students had asked the vice principal if they could sit under that tree.

Characterizing the noose incident as an innocent prank, a discipline committee meted out a few days of in-school suspension and declared the matter settled.

At the end of November, the central academic wing of Jena High School was destroyed by fire. Over the weekend, a stream of white-initiated racial violence swept over the tiny community, adding to the trauma and tension. The following Monday, a white student was punched and kicked following a lunch-hour taunting match. Six black athletes were arrested and charged with conspiracy to attempt second-degree murder. If convicted, some defendants are facing sentences of between twenty-five and 100 years in prison without parole.

(Charges for three of the six have since been reduced to aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy, with a possible sentence of 22 years. Keep in mind that the victim was briefly treated in the hospital and released, and he attended a social function later that evening.)

It shouldn’t need to be said, but looking around, I can see that it does: nobody is condoning the violence against the white student. It was wrong. It would make everything so much more clear-cut if all of the Jena 6 were innocent of any wrongdoing, but that’s apparently not the case.

But the fact remains that six young black men could have their lives ruined by a wildly out-of-proportion prosecution. The fact remains that several threatening and criminal acts by whites against blacks were dealt with lightly or not at all. The fact remains that black kids who dared to sit under the “white tree” got a reminder that people like them used to get lynched not so long ago. That some or all of the Jena 6 were also in the wrong doesn’t make any of that racism disappear.