The War on (Black) Women

All war is based on deception

-Sun Tzu, The Art of War

 

When you see the face of the little Black girl above, what do you think? When you read the words above her beautiful curly hair, how do you feel? When you think of Black women and their role in birthing the next generation, what do you invision; danger or an opportunity to build?

The billboard above was placed in SoHo, a neighborhood in New York City not heavily populated by Black people. After seeing it my first question was “why not Harlem or Brooklyn?” Basically why not somewhere where they KNOW Black people who live in New York City will actually see the ad? Well, I can take an educated guess; the ad wasn’t meant for Black women. It was meant to provoke reactions. It was also meant to galvanize people outside of the Black community, basically gain more troops. Fortunately the ad has been taken down. When I first read the ads caption, I thought about my body and why they felt it was the most dangerous place in the world. African women were the first to give birth into this world. How dare they shame us into believing we are less than because we have a right to choose? If the ad meant to empower and educate Black women, it wouldn’t have to attempt to shame us at the same time.

As Sun Tzu said in The Art of War, “All war is based on deception.”The war on (Black) women is no different. The use of deceptive and offensive images such as the one below from Atlanta, should be considered an act of war. Propaganda is an act of war. We have to see the bigger picture.

BUT these images are only one piece in an intricate web being tightly woven by the politically and socially conservative factions in America. The most recent attacks are hitting women through legislation and media campaigns.

The recent Republican to do list is heavy on reducing women’s rights and light on addressing the toughest economical issues we face today. Attempting to redefine rape is a higher priority than reducing the 16%+ unemployment rates in Black communities. Preventing a doctor from performing a life saving procedure when a woman’s life is at stake is more important than figuring out how not to close half of Detroit’s public schools.  As a Black woman deeply invested in my own freedom and the freedom of my people, I am simply appalled.

The all hands on deck assault of women can be found across the nation, on the state level and in the United States Congress. Click here to read a blog post by Executive Director of the Black Women’s Health Imperative giving a breakdown of the legislative battle ahead of us. House Republicans have already passed an amendment to defund family planning and reproductive services from providers such as Planned Parenthood. I personally remember going to Planned Parenthood as a college student to receive low-cost and quality healthcare services. The loss of their services and others would severly impact women.

Unfortunately, Planned Parenthood is not the only provider lined up against the wall with weapons aimed squarely at their mission and services. The Republicans are also trying to cut Headstart, a federally funded preschool program for low-income kids, by 1 billion dollars. If you are a low-income mother depending on childcare through this program and POW it’s gone, what choices would you be faced with? Work to feed your kids and pay your bills or stay at home and depend on state services?

Definition of rape + Choice + Childcare = all things on the list of enemies for the politically and socially conservative faction aiming it’s weapons at women.

But we are not walking like sheep to the slaughter. We can, are and must act.

Since I’m not a 501 (c) 3 organization, I can say “Call your Representative and find out where they stand on these issues.” If they don’t stand on the side of women, tell them they need to reconsider and why. Click here to find out who represents you!

Like I said this is a war on women, and a war on women is a war on the future of this country.

Wanna know and do more? Check out organizations like Sister SongChoice USA, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and Advocates for Youth.

Don’t forget to drop a comment below!

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Hyde Matters: Reproductive Justice and Women of Color

(Photo by Angela Hayden)

The Hyde Amendment was “designed to deprive poor and minority women of the constitutional right to choose abortion” – Justice Thurgood Marshall.

Yesterday I attended the “Separate and Unequal: The Hyde Amendment and Women of Color” panel at the Center for American Progress (CAP). I walked away feeling more knowledgeable and equipped to discuss the issue of reproductive service access with other women.  Whenever I walk into a space set-up to discuss issues impacting people of color in DC, I look for people of color. In this case I was looking for women of color. As soon as I walked in I saw a good friend and fellow woman of color who organizes for reproductive rights in the faith community. I also saw two Black women around my age (both actually work at CAP). I looked around some more and saw two or three more seasoned Black women in the room. After that I counted the number of rows and chairs in each row. Out of a room of 80 or so people, 9 were African American women and 2 Asian women. I know of at least 2 Latina’s in the room. The rest of the room was composed of primarily White women and men involved in the reproductive rights/justice movement.

So what is the Hyde Amendment?
Passed by Congress in 1976, the Hyde Amendment bans abortion care funding for Medicaid recipients in most circumstances.

What is Medicaid?
Medicaid is the federally and state funded health-care program for low-income individuals and families.

Women of color, particularly Black and Latina women, are more likely to rely on federal-state supported programs (e.g. Medicaid) for reproductive services. The most recent census data shows that 25.8 percent of African Americans, 25.3 percent of Hispanics are poor compared 12.3 percent of Whites and 12.5 percent of Asians.  The Hyde Amendment is a direct attack on the choices of low-income women, particularly women of color. Congressman Hyde attacked a basic civil right. Rep. Hyde admitted:

I’ll certainly would like to prevent, if I could legally anybody having an abortion, a rich woman, a middle class woman, or a poor woman. Unfortunately, the only vehicle available is the …Medicaid bill –U.S Representative Henry Hyde (R-IL)

By intentionally targeting the most vulnerable group of women, those who often have to choose between paying bills and paying for an abortion, Congressman Hyde attacked a basic civil right. We could argue the morality of abortion until we turn blue in the face, however it is a constitutional right. The erosion of this constitutional right is a slippery slope starting in Black and Brown wombs. Women choose (or are forced to choose) to terminate a pregnancy for different reasons.  While the Hyde Amendment allows for Medicaid to fund abortion care in the event of rape and/incest; in practice this does not always happen. The panelists cited lower and slower reimbursement rates as reasons many providers simply refused to accept Medicaid payments for abortion care.

This isn’t an issue of citizens paying for abortion when they actually oppose it. This amendment was simply about diminishing the choices women can make. We fund wars, banks and prisons over education; all of to which I am fervently opposed.

So why hasn’t this policy been aggressively attacked by the larger reproductive justice movement? Well as Toni Bond Leonard, President and CEO of Black Women for Reproductive Justice, pointed out; we have been told to wait. Low-income and women of color have been told to wait. The issue of the Hyde Amendment has been pushed back in the larger reproductive rights movement. The reality faced by women of color presented with a difficult choice simply hasn’t mattered enuf. Advocacy organizations are slowly shifting to a reproductive justice framework. Once we begin to integrate systems of oppression such as racism and classism into any policy fight, things begin to get real and require power shifts. Any movement aimed at achieving reproductive justice, not just laws on the books, for the most marginalized women must have those same women in the forefront. We would be forced to undergo a real power analysis. The panelists and audience readily conceded to and asserted that position. Unfortunately the faces in the room and the movement don’t reflect those sentiments.  To concede and/or share power and leadership in the fight for reproductive choice threatens traditional groups. We also saw much of this dynamic in the broader women’s rights movement.

Toni Bond Leonard painted a quick picture of the moment African women landed in this country last night. From the introduction of the African women to the Americas as slaves, our wombs have been subject to the control and influence of others. Slave women were expected and forced to breed, yes breed. Once it was decided that they no longer had to reproduce (post-slavery) new tactics aimed to reduce pregnancy were introduced. The arch of reproductive control bends strongly away from women. The repeal of the Hyde Amendment would serve as a first step in pealing away the layers of control women of color are unwillingly cloaked under.

So why does Hyde matter? As a young woman any policy dealing with what I can and cannot do with my body is important to me. We have a duty to be engaged in this movement. We also have the right to demand a voice whenever anyone attempts to quiet our stories or devalue our experiences. Hyde matters for me, you and the daughters we may choose have in the future.

A free woman has the ability and power to choose.

 

Click here to read the Center for American Progress report “Separate and Unequal: The Hyde Amendment and Women of Color”

My Body, My Mind, My Womb


(Photo: Gwendolyn Magee, Lift Every Voice and Sing)

I want control over my body, the freedom to decide what happens in there, who I share it with and when I share it.

The right to choose what to do with my body has never really been totally up to me. As a child, my parents made health-based decisions for me. They decided what I would eat, when and where I would receive medical care and even what information would go into my head. That level of control was ok with me, my parents were my primary caregivers and did what they believed was best.

As a woman of color in the United States; my body, mind, hair and womb is constantly under the threat of being auctioned to the highest bidder. Regardless of where you live in this country, women’s rights are hotly debated. Whether the auctioneer is the federal government or the local Planned Parenthood; someone else is making decisions and influencing what we can do with our bodies. For many women, the culprit isn’t necessarily some outside player; oftentimes our partners and friends influence the decisions we make with our bodies.

Everyone has an agenda. The government, faith based institutions and non-profit organizations all have agendas. Those who are champions of women’s rights oftentimes pose the largest  issues for me. I recently viewed a documentary called Maafa 21. The documentary outlined what the researchers believed to be a concerted effort, by Planned Parenthood, to extinguish the Black community in the United States. While this documentary is highly controversial, it did make me think about my stance on the “choice” issue. I’ve always described myself as a pro-choice woman. I believe that women should have the choice TO HAVE and/or NOT TO HAVE a child. Unfortunately, I find the messaging around this issue deeply flawed on both sides. On the “pro-choice” side, the messaging is around our legal right to choose not to have a child. On the “pro-life” side, the messaging is around the moral dilemma and physical act of abortion.

It’s not just about our partners it’s about deciding not to consent through INACTION.

Both ends often miss what I think is the most important factor; the woman’s right to choose even before she has sex. I personally know women who refuse to purchase condoms because they believe the man should buy them. I know women who refuse to explore their own bodies because they believe only another man/woman should do so. I also know women who are waiting for marriage and know nothing about their anatomy or how to protect themselves during marriage (yes DURING marriage). Many of our girls are lost. I worked with teenage girls on the South side of St. Louis. OH the stories I heard and oh…the things they had no clue about.

Educating ourselves and our girls about sex shouldn’t JUST be about the act of sex. It should be about having healthy relationships and engaging in healthy behavior. Sexual health starts BEFORE sex. What we eat, our mental health and what life we want for ourselves affect our sexual health.  Americans focus too much on the act and not enough on the circumstances. Once women collectively deal with the circumstances and have ownership over them, our bodies and our minds we will belong to us. We will have more power and of course…more freedom.