Re-enslaving African American Women

Loretta Ross

African American women who care about reproductive justice are not fooled into thinking that the Black anti-abortion movement cares about gender justice. If they had their way, we would be re-enslaved once again, based on our fertility.

I have spoken on many campuses in the wake of the “Genocide Awareness
Project,” which displays posters at colleges to create controversy
among young people about Black abortion. Students are understandably
confused when presented with seemingly fact-based information that
claims that Black women are the scourge of the African American
community. I provide accurate historical and contemporary information
about Black women’s views on abortion.

African American women who care about reproductive justice know that
the limited membership in the Black anti-abortion movement doesn’t
represent our views and we are not fooled into thinking that they care
about gender justice for women. In fact, if they had their way, we
would be re-enslaved once again, based on our fertility.

But the Black anti-abortion movement needs to be taken seriously. The
people involved in it carefully exploit religious values to make
inroads into our communities. They poison the soil in which we must
toil.

Carefully orchestrated campaigns by Black surrogates for the religious
and political right not only oppose abortion, but they also organize on
behalf of many other right wing causes, such as opposing stem cell
research, supporting charter schools and opposing affirmative action.

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Through clever positioning and photo-ops by the right wing, the Black
anti-abortion movement appears stronger and more numerous than it
actually is. Generously funded by a predominantly white anti-abortion
movement desperate for Black representatives, the Black anti-abortion
movement seeks to drive a wedge into the African American community.

They tell African American women that we are now responsible for the
genocide of our own people. Talk about a “blame the victim” strategy!
We are now accused of “lynching” our children in our wombs and
practicing white supremacy on ourselves. Black women are again blamed
for the social conditions in our communities and demonized by those who
claim they only want to save our souls (and the souls of our unborn
children). This is what lies on steroids look like.

Opposition Research Needed

Who are these people in the Black anti-abortion movement? This movement
needs to be carefully studied through opposition research. Information
on them, their connections to white anti-abortion groups and their
sources of funding is scant.

Of course, the most famous of the Black anti-abortionists is Alveda
King, niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She is a Pastoral Associate,
a member of the avid anti-abortion group Priests for Life, and Director
of African American Outreach for the Gospel of Life Ministries. Because
her father was Dr. King’s brother, Alveda is the leading voice for
linking the anti-abortionists to the Civil Rights movement. This is
despite the fact that both Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King
were strong supporters of family planning in general, and Planned
Parenthood in particular. Alveda King, who lives in Atlanta, has also
spoken out strongly against gay rights and in support of charter
schools.

A widely known Black anti-abortion minister is Rev. Clenard H.
Childress of New Jersey, founder of the BlackGenocide.org project and
website. He is the president of the Northeast Chapter of Life Education
and Resource Network (L.E.A.R.N.), established in 1993. He claims that
the “high rate of abortion has decimated the Black family and destroyed
Black neighborhoods to the detriment of society at large.” He led
protests at the 2008 NAACP convention in Cincinnati and has accused the
organization of practicing racism against Black children. He is also on
the board of the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform that circulates the
Genocide Awareness Project.

Alan Keyes, perennial presidential candidate, is also well known in
anti-abortion circles. Keyes first came to national attention when
President Reagan appointed him as adviser to Maureen Reagan (daughter
of the president), as she led the official U.S. delegation to the UN
World Conference for Women in Kenya in 1985. At this meeting, the U.S.
affirmed its support for the infamous 1984 “Mexico City” policy that
banned U.S. funds from supporting abortion worldwide. Keyes helped lead
the anti-abortion protests at the 2008 Democratic National Convention
in Denver, and is a favorite of the right for his fierce extreme views
on a number of issues.

There are a handful of other Black spokespeople for the anti-abortion
movement. The point is not how many there are, but the disproportionate
impact they have. They have created the false impression that if only
Black people were warned that abortion is genocide, women would stop
having them in order to preserve the Black race, either voluntarily or
pressured by the men in their lives.

The Sexism They Sell

The sexism in their viewpoints is mind-boggling. To them, Black women
are the poor dupes of the abortion rights movement, lacking agency and
decision-making of our own. In fact, this is a reassertion of Black
male supremacy over the self-determination of women. It doesn’t matter
whether it is from the lips of a man or a woman. It is about
re-enslaving Black women by making us breeders for someone else’s cause.

I am reminded of the comments of Shirley Chisholm, the first Black
woman in Congress, who dismissed the genocide argument when asked to
discuss her views on abortion and birth control:

To label family planning and legal abortion programs “genocide” is male
rhetoric, for male ears. It falls flat to female listeners and to
thoughtful male ones. Women know, and so do many men, that two or three
children who are wanted, prepared for, reared amid love and stability,
and educated to the limit of their ability will mean more for the
future of the Black and brown races from which they come than any
number of neglected, hungry, ill-housed and ill-clothed youngsters.

We need our leading African American women’s and Civil Rights
organizations to speak out more strongly in support of reproductive
justice. We need to organize young people to resist the misinformation
directed at them by these groups. Many of our campuses are unaware of
the activities of the Black anti-abortionists until they show up,
usually invited by a white anti-abortion group.

But mostly, we need to let the world know that they do not speak for
Black women. As my mother would say, “they might be our color, but they
are not our kind.”

This piece first appeared at On The Issues magazine.

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