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Six Supreme Court Cases to Watch This Term

12:08 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Jessica Mason Pieklo for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

The US Supreme Court

These Supreme Court cases could affect women’s rights in the near future.

The United States Supreme Court term begins in October, and while the entire docket has not yet been set, already it’s shaping up to be a historic term, with decisions on abortion protests, legislative prayer, and affirmative action, just to name a few. Here are the key cases we’re keeping an eye on as the term starts up.

1. Cline v. Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice

The Supreme Court looks poised to re-enter the abortion debate, and it could do so as early as this year if it takes up Cline, the first of the recent wave of state-level restrictions to reach the high court.

Cline involves a challenge to an Oklahoma statute that requires abortion-inducing drugs, including RU-486, to be administered strictly according to the specific Food and Drug Administration labeling despite the fact that new research and best practices make that labeling out of date. Such “off-label” use of drugs is both legal and widespread in the United States as science, standards of care, and clinical practice often supercede the original FDA label on a given drug. In the case of cancer drugs, for example, the American Cancer Society notes that “New uses for [many] drugs may have been found and there’s often medical evidence from research studies to support the new use [even though] the makers of the drugs have not put them through the formal, lengthy, and often costly process required by the FDA to officially approve the drug for new uses.” Off-label use of RU-486 is based on the most recent scientific findings that suggest lower dosages of the drug and higher rates of effectiveness when administered in conjunction with a follow-up drug (Misoprostol). According to trial court findings, the alternative protocols are safer for women and more effective. But, according to the state and defenders of the law, there is great uncertainty about these off-label uses and their safety.

When the issue reached the supreme court of Oklahoma, the court held in a very brief opinion that the Oklahoma statute was facially invalid under Planned Parenthood v. Casey. In Casey, a plurality of justices held that a state may legitimately regulate abortions from the moment of gestation as long as that regulation does not impose an undue burden on a woman’s right to choose an abortion. Later, in Gonzales v. Carhart, a majority of the Supreme Court, led by Justice Anthony Kennedy, interpreted Casey to allow state restrictions on specific abortion procedures when the government “reasonably concludes” that there is medical uncertainty about the safety of the procedure and an alternative procedure is available.

Cline, then, could present an important test on the limits of Casey and whether, under Gonzales, the Court will permit states to ban medical abortions. But it’s not entirely clear the Court will actually take up Cline. At the lower court proceedings, the challengers argued that the Oklahoma statute bars the use of RU-486’s follow-up drug (Misoprostol) as well as the use of Methotrexate to terminate an ectopic pregnancy. If so, the statute then bars both any drug-induced abortion and eliminates the preferred method for ending an ectopic pregnancy. Attorneys defending the restriction deny the law has those effects, and do not argue that if it did such restrictions would be constitutional. With this open question of state law—whether the statute prohibits the preferred treatment for ectopic pregnancies—the Supreme Court told the Oklahoma Supreme Court those disputed questions of state law.

So a lot depends on how the Oklahoma Supreme Court proceeds. Should the Oklahoma Supreme Court hold that the Oklahoma statute is unconstitutional because it prohibits the use of Misoprostol and Methotrexate, this case could be over without the Supreme Court weighing in. But if the Oklahoma Supreme Court invalidates the law insofar as it prohibits alternative methods for administering RU-486, the Supreme Court will almost certainly take a look.

2. Town of Greece v. Galloway

The Roberts Court is set to weigh in on the issue of when, and how, government prayer practices can exist without violating the Establishment Clause’s ban on the intermingling of church and state. In Marsh v. Chambers, the Supreme Court upheld Nebraska’s practice of opening each legislative session with a prayer, based largely on an unbroken tradition of that practice dating back to the framing of the Constitution. In Marsh, the Court adopted two apparent limits to a legislative prayer practice: The government may not select prayer-givers based on a discriminatory motive, and prayer opportunities may not be exploited to proselytize in favor of one religion or disparage another.

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At ‘Realize the Dream’ March, Women Speak at Last

12:36 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

 

Written by Adele M. Stan for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

At a rally marking the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom at the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday, Myrlie Evers-Williams finally completed a mission assigned to her by tragedy a half-century ago. Then, little more than a month after her husband, Medgar Evers, president of the NAACP’s Mississippi chapter, was slain in his driveway as his children watched, the young widow was the only woman scheduled to speak at the podium from which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would deliver his best-remembered line: “I have a dream.”

But Myrlie Evers, as she was known then, missed her turn at the microphone, stuck in traffic on her way from the airport. (Daisy Bates, who strategized the integration of Little Rock High School, was drafted to Evers’ slot, and spoke all of 142 words.)

At Saturday’s commemoration, Evers-Williams not only had her turn, but also had some female company. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi addressed the crowd, which numbered in the tens of thousands, as did Sybrina Fulton, who gave a tribute to her slain son, Trayvon Martin; National Organization for Women President Terry O’Neill; and Barbara Arnwine, president and executive director of Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Rev. Bernice King, president of the King Center and daughter of the late civil rights leader, offered a closing prayer. Other women, too, were given turns at the mic at the event, titled ”Realize the Dream,” and keynoted by the Rev. Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King III.

“Stand your ground,” Evers-Williams said, invoking the name of the notorious laws on the books in 16 states that allow the use of a lethal weapon against anyone the weapon-holder feels threatened by. “We can think of standing your ground in the negative,” she continued, “but I ask you today to flip that coin and give ‘stand your ground’ a positive ring for all who stand for justice and equality, and stand firm on the ground that we have already made, and be sure that nothing is going to be taken away from us.”

Among the gains won through protests and pressure of civil rights activists was the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the heart of which was struck down in June by the Supreme Court.

Marching Toward Inclusion

When, after the rally, the time came to march from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument, men and women marched together, unlike the original march 50 years ago, in which men and women marched along separate routes.

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50 Years After the March on Washington, Still Fighting for Jobs and Freedom

12:16 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Kenyon Farrow for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

March on Washington

Where are jobs or freedom 50 years later?

On Saturday, August 24, tens of thousands of people will descend on the nation’s capital to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the actual anniversary of which is August 28.

There have been some grumblings that the anniversary events will not duly encompass contemporary racial justice issues, and need to do more than re-live the famous images of the past. I am often frustrated with the way racial justice issues for Black people can only be characterized as racist if they somehow reference past symbols of racial violence: legal “lynchings,” the “new Jim Crow,” and Paula Deen’s antebellum-themed summer soiree. The threats to cutting food stamps, the rollback on abortion access (which disproportionately affects poor women), the battles for low-wage workers and teachers, and the various fights over racial profiling in New York City, New Orleans, and Sanford, Florida, are all contemporary issues facing Black people in the United States, and each need their own mass mobilizations here and now.

But what’s past is prologue. Many of the gains made as a result of the Civil Rights Movement are being rolled back, and some of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions are great examples of this, demonstrating just how much a constant presence the nation’s racist past remains.

In Shelby County v. Holder, the Court ruled section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 unconstitutional. Arguing in its decision that “things have changed in the South,” the Court nullified the formula initially created by the act to determine what jurisdictions needed federal “preclearance” before amending “any voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure with respect to voting.”

Critical race legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw told Washington, D.C.’s Afro-American newspaper that the decision was akin to “building a dam to keep the lowlands from flooding and for 40 years the lowlands don’t flood and then deciding that you don’t need the dam anymore.”

But the Court didn’t stop at gutting voting rights. The Supreme Court also ruled in two cases making it more difficult for employees to sue on the grounds of racial discrimination. In Vance v. Ball State University, the Court ruling narrowed the definition of “supervisor” held by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Essentially, the Court decided that supervisors can only be held liable in a discrimination case if they have power over the hiring, firing, changing of work responsibilities, promoting, or demoting of an employee.

In a second case, University of Texas Southern Medical Center v. Vassar, the Court decided employees must prove that they’ve been denied a promotion or raise only because of discrimination—which gives employers more room to claim a host of other reasons why someone didn’t get a promotion or raise. Read the rest of this entry →

#IntersectionalityIsForTwitter: How to Be a True Ally

12:31 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Briana Dixon for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Cross-posted with permission from Amplify Your Voice, a project of Advocates for Youth.

Mean Twitter Bird

Feminist conflicts on Twitter highlight ways to be (or not be) an ally.

By now much of the advocacy community has heard of #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen, #BlackPowerIsForBlackMen, and #FuckCisPeople, started by @karnythia, @JamilahLemieux, and @Stuxnetsource, respectively. Intersectionality (the study of intersections between different disenfranchised groups or groups of minorities) has run rampant on Twitter, and I’ve been having a blast voicing my grievances, listening to other’s grievances, and fighting trolls with every bit of strength embedded in my keyboard. But not everyone has been having a great time with these hashtags, and I am here to help with a few tips:

One: Check your privilege at the door.

I don’t know what kind of privilege you’re packing, but it’s weighing you down. Set it down for a minute and consider the fact that you are not the only person out there being oppressed. In fact, you may indeed be unconsciously benefiting from an unjust system. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad person—it just means that you live in a society that prizes certain groups over others and you were unlucky enough to be born into one. If you think you have it bad, just think of the people who weren’t born into the privileged group.

Two: Keep in mind that your movement can be flawed…

…without you being an evil master-overlord. Calling out the flaws in our movements is the only way we are going to get better. Movements are constantly demanding that society stop silencing the voices of their oppressed people. It is fair to say, then, that silencing people who are oppressed within those movements is the worst kind of hypocritical.

Three: Remember that unity does not equal silence.

The hashtags are only divisive if you don’t plan on addressing the grievances stated within them. If the movement intends to continue as it is and ignore the pleas stated for all of the Twitterverse to see, then yes it is divisive. But the only way we are ever going to be truly unified is if we listen to each other’s complaints and work to fix them.

Four: Be aware that anger is an emotion…

…and that oppressed peoples, as human beings, are entitled to emotions. You have no way and no right to monitor and/or control these emotions. These emotions are not irrational. These emotions are not silly. The best way to deal with these emotions is not to pretend they don’t exist and/or brush them off as unwarranted whining.

Five: Know that there is one condition to being an ally…

…and it isn’t that the oppressed groups appease you at every turn. It isn’t that they be wary of your feelings. It isn’t that they don’t air the movements’ dirty laundry. It isn’t that they do what is best for the movement even if the movement isn’t doing what’s best for them. The only true condition for someone to become an ally is for the ally to support the oppressed group because it is the right thing to do. You help them the best you can, not the way you think is best.

And if you are really having a problem with the hashtags, I present you this hypothetical situation:

Every day my friend and I walk down the street together. We are very close, but every once in a while my friend falls to the ground and scrapes her knee.

This friend and I have braved bullies together. We have faced down mean girls and jocks alike. We are more than friends, we are best friends. We love each other.

And every day she falls. Sometimes she trips. Most times someone pushes her to the ground as I watch. And sometimes I even push her myself.

Read the rest of this entry →

Women of Color and Feminism: A History Lesson and Way Forward

1:48 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Anthea Butler for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

A Black woman

On privilege, feminism and women of color

I was not surprised when I viewed Amanda Marcotte’s presentation on online feminism at this year’s Netroots Nation conference, in which she pointed mostly to young, hip, white female bloggers writing today. While there are many women of color blogging at sites like the Crunk Feminist Collective, women of color were represented in Marcotte’s PowerPoint presentation by one stock photo of a Black woman holding car keys, with a statement about how online feminists are “driving the movement forward.” The PowerPoint slide is indicative of a larger problem in feminism: the inability to see or identify with women of color who are feminists. It’s not a good look, but then again, this slight is not unexpected given the history between white women and feminists of color.

My purpose in this piece is not to bash Amanda Marcotte—a contributor here at RH Reality Check—but to illuminate some of the long history of tension between the feminist movement and women of color. Writing this piece in the wake of the George Zimmerman trial has not been easy. Is it always going to be this way? Will it always be this difficult to come together with white feminists, as women of color, to work on the many pressing issues in this country, including the rollback of women’s rights, specifically reproductive rights?

The tension between white feminists and feminists of color has existed for a long time, in part because of race, class, and positionality. It is fair to ask, “Why is it so hard for white feminists to embrace, celebrate, and partner with their sisters of color?” Is intersectionality just a dream, or can we work past this conundrum?

It is time for white feminists to become more aware of their internalized compliance to the “isms” that threaten to divide us all, from historical and contemporary perspectives. How can we come together without being torn apart by the other “ism” that threatens feminism: racism? A brief look at the history of the feminist movement and women of color, and a prescription for our future together, is long overdue.

A History of Privileged Positions

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Adoption Imperialism: A Q&A With ‘The Child Catchers’ Author Kathryn Joyce

11:55 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Sarah Seltzer for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Cover: The Child Catchers

The Child Catchers chronicles the hypocrisy of anti-abortion & right-wing Christian activists.

Kathryn Joyce’s new look at the adoption industry, The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption, contains within its pages true horror stories. Perhaps most shockingly, the book details what appears to be the long-term abuse of a group of Liberian orphans “adopted” into a life of virtual slavery in Tennessee — starved, hit, manipulated, and isolated by “parents” practicing an extreme brand of back-to-the-land Christianity.

But Joyce, through intensive reporting around the world, also tells the stories of “orphans” who have actual families, even mothers, back home and who were adopted under false auspices, as well women in the United States who are manipulated into relinquishing children for adoption by crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs).

Throughout the book, these dynamics of exploitation are recreated on a macro scale as the increasing drive for Westerners, often people of faith, to adopt orphans keeps feeding into, and off of, a global system of poverty, corruption, and mistreatment of women and children. Joyce’s work touches on bigger social issues, like the intersection of capitalism with reproduction, the role of religion in shaping policy, and the way conventional — and even inspirational — narratives of care and charity intersect with old paradigms of oppression and power.

Joyce recently spoke to RH Reality Check about how the movement she chronicles relates to abortion politics and the treatment of biological families of adoptees at home and abroad.

RH Reality Check: Ideologically speaking, how did the concept of adoption as a positive alternative to abortion end up morphing from “Don’t have an abortion, adopt!” rhetoric into this massive movement to actually facilitate adoption on a broad scale?

Kathryn Joyce: Adoption and abortion have long been linked. For years, it’s been presented as a neat, common-ground solution to the abortion debate — something that politicians on the right and left can agree on. For liberal politicians, it offered a way to moderate support for abortion. For conservatives, it was presented as a solution for women who didn’t want to parent, or who couldn’t. It was also framed as an answer to the pro-choice challenge: Who is going to care for all these babies you want women to have?

RHRC: You also address how the post-Roe landscape demographically affected the practice of adoption.

KJ: The real push to increase adoptions came in the last few decades, after the rate of domestic infant relinquishment for adoption dropped, going from around 20 percent of never-married white women in 1972 to closer to 1 percent today. The rates were historically lower for women of color, who were less likely to be pressured to relinquish in pre-Roe days because there was more adoption “demand” for white infants. Today, I think domestic relinquishment rates for Black women are statistically zero. So as demand outstripped “supply,” a lot of organizations became invested in increasing the number of women relinquishing.

RHRC: The capitalist angle strikes me, almost like the “market” for adoption mimics 19th century European imperialism, going to new territories to find “supply” through exploitation.

KJ: Yes, I think you see that overseas as well as here in the United States — the sort of “country-hopping” that happens in inter-country adoption, as adoption booms and busts move from nation to nation, but also in the experiences of U.S. mothers, about whom some organizations wrote multiple reports, trying to figure out how they could encourage more adoptions.

RHRC: Given your contact with people on both sides of the equation, do you think the choice to carry to term and then relinquish is never going to be as common as adoptive parents want it to be, which tips the power relationship?

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A New Direction for Restaurant Workers? Zingerman’s and the “Thriveable Wage”

1:39 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Sheila Bapat for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Waiter

An update on the ongoing wage crisis for restaurant workers in the United States.

The wage crisis among restaurant workers has gained attention in recent weeks, reminding the public that federal minimum wage for restaurant workers is currently $2.13 per hour even while the federal minimum wage for most other sectors is $7.25 per hour. According to Saru Jayaraman, Director of the Food and Labor Research Center, low wages for restaurant workers is the biggest legacy of former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, who served as head of the National Restaurant Association (NRA). The NRA, one of the most powerful lobbies in the United States, worked hard during Cain’s tenure to keep the cost of labor low in its sector. Jayaraman also points out that women constitute at least half of people in the restaurant sector.

In light of the industry’s powerful lobbying to keep wages low, it is rare to find restaurants — or corporations generally — driven by a desire to improve their employees’ overall living wage and wellness, rather than how the market can make them richer. Enter Zingerman’s Community of Businesses (Zingerman’s), made up of 18 partners and several different enterprises including a restaurant called Zingerman’s Roadhouse. Based in Michigan, Zingerman’s partners are known for having built their enterprises based on how they can “enhance the lives of as many people as [they] possibly can.”

In practice this means offering all their employees — part time and full time — health and dental benefits, and paid time off. After they work at Zingerman’s for a year, employees are eligible for 401(k)s.

Tabitha Mason, who built her career in the restaurant industry, is the manager of Zingerman’s Roadhouse. “Early in my career at a different restaurant, I probably made $20,000 per year. That was a more traditional restaurant, where servers were viewed as disposable,” Mason told RH Reality Check. “And previous restaurants I worked at would try hard to restrict who could receive benefits — like it was an exclusive club.”

While Zingerman’s Roadhouse pays its staff just a smidge over the federal restaurant workers’ minimum wage, their staff earn $21 per hour. Management monitors tips to ensure this, according to Mason.

And last year, Zingerman’s partners began cultivating a new dimension of their focus on employee-centered business:  the concept of a “thriveable wage.” We’ve heard of the minimum wage, described above, which offers a floor for what a worker can legally earn in a given sector. And we’ve heard of a “living wage,” which ensures a worker can earn what is necessary to survive.

Moving to a “thriveable wage” is part of Zingerman’s deeper commitment to their worker and an understanding that, as an employer, they’re part of a larger ecosystem of workers, their families, and their communities, not just partners and shareholders. At a retreat last year, Zingerman’s partners began toying with the concept of a thriveable wage, drafting a vision statement that includes the following:

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Despite a Failed Nomination, Robert Bork’s Legacy Lives On at the Supreme Court

6:56 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Jessica Mason Pieklo for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Robert Bork

Robert Bork (Photo: US Government / Wikimedia Commons)

There are few personalities in the legal profession that are divisive as Robert Bork. And, while his name has not often come up this election cycle, his legacy with the Supreme Court and possibility that his vision will shape its future deserves to be discussed.

Bork, who currently serves as the chairman of Mitt Romney’s Justice Advisory Committee, built a career on divisive partisan politics, beginning in 1973 when, as solicitor general, he fired Archibald Cox as special prosecutor to facilitate Richard Nixon’s attempted coverup of the Watergate scandal. In 1987, then – president Ronald Reagan nominated Bork to the Supreme Court. Bork’s nomination went down in flames as the Senate rejected him by a vote of 58 to 42, the largest margin in American history.

Bork’s candidacy was largely rejected because of his strong opposition to civil rights and women’s reproductive freedoms. Bork flat – out rejects the idea of a constitutional right to privacy, believes both Griswold v. Connecticut and Roe v. Wade were wrongly decided and thinks there is no such thing as gender discrimination under the law. While those views are what tanked his nomination, they’ve managed to find a place in the jurisprudence of the high court still, proving the tenacity of the Bork legacy.

Bork’s failed Supreme Court nomination paved the way for Anthony Kennedy’s confirmation. At the time Kennedy was considered a moderate to Bork’s extreme-right positions, but civil rights advocates have come to understand that was not the case. Perhaps no single Supreme Court justice has had the effect of effectively undoing the protections granted women through the Griswold and Roe decisions as Kennedy. In many ways, it didn’t matter that Bork’s nomination failed to be confirmed by the Senate because the very act of airing his extremist views managed to move the pendulum far enough to the right to pave the way for Anthony Kennedy’s ascendance to the high court and later Clarence Thomas.

In fact, without Bork’s nomination justices like Thomas and Samuel Alito would hardly be possible. After all it was as an appellate court judge that Alito embraced the idea of spousal consent as failing to create an undue burden on a woman’s right to chose in a decision the Supreme Court would later largely affirm in Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

To that end, Bork’s legacy on the Court is very much alive today, and should Romney succeed in his quest for the presidency, that legacy will be cemented in future Supreme Court nominations. As it stands the Court is at best a mere one vote away from a majority that would overturn Roe together, if it is not there already. If Robert Bork has his way, the gains made by women and racial and political minorities will be undone within this decade.

The Brutal Lust of the “Jigaboo” Fantasy “Mammyfied” Through Fashion

7:03 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Photobucket

Written by Jasmine Burnett for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Cross-posted with permission from jasmineburnett.com.

It is my hope that at least, every Black woman who sees these “Mammy” earrings is going to say they are racist without a second thought or question in their mind. I say that because, the fact that there have been “polls” to prove how racist it is, further indicates that “Post Racial” is only real in the definition of the word, not in the lives and conditions of Black women and girls. I have no patience to tell you why this among many other structural and institutional things that society profits from is racist, nor, will I ever become immune to society’s constant disrespect of Black women and girls. What should have happened as those designs were being sketched was a simple consideration, who is harmed by this luxury product created for profit? Of course, its Black women and girls and our dignity but again, no one asked us what we thought or how we felt.

I imagine what bores black people about the racism of well-meaning white people is watching them struggle with this shroud and entangle themselves in it and blow at it and touch it and ignore it and disown it, all the while remaining rapt in the drama, the spectacle of our own anxiety, at the expense of the encounter itself.

Naomi Wolf, “The Racism of Well-Meaning White People”

Yet, I’m clear that society still only sees us in one way, those fantasies that percolates in its DNA: Hottentot, Jigaboo, Mammy, Sapphire and I could name more. How do I know this? Because I and millions of other Black women walk in the legacy of that experience every day. Due to the lessons taught by my ancestors and our collective lived experience, I am hyper-aware of what that means and represents in every setting and interaction. But, I also understand that society must be taught to acknowledge and respect the level of empowerment I embody — for that acknowledgement is certainly not something Black women and girls can simply expect from a society that has evolved little, despite what we’ve been told.

Let’s just demand what we desire and require to live healthy lives. Let’s stop expecting too much only to receive the same minimum amount from this stagnant society. Let’s stop being disappointed about something that we know this society is acutely familiar with, the ability to package our identities for its sick and barbaric consumption. When you know the idea of the thing you’re far more clear about how to handle it. Within that, we can’t expect much from an industry where many Black women still do not reflect, nor are represented our self defined standards of beauty.

Let’s stop being surprised by the ignorance of this country and challenge ourselves to be proactive about our images. The exploitation will continue if we don’t provide an alternative. I personally plan to make Dolce & Gabbana an example of the ongoing racial ignorance in society and a non factor to how I work to strengthen and empower Black women and girls.

The Sound of Silence: Where Is the Anti-Choice Outcry Over North Carolina’s Forced Sterilization of Women of Color?

11:44 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

(photo: ee382, rhrealitycheck)

(photo: ee382, rhrealitycheck)

Written by Pamela Merritt for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

A task force in North Carolina recently ruled that survivors of that state’s eugenics program should be paid $50,000 each in financial compensation. Eugenics is often defined as the science of “improving” a human population by controlled breeding to increase the occurrence of “desirable” heritable characteristics. The practice of eugenics was not limited to Nazi Germany nor is it a well kept secret that’s been waiting to be discovered by organizations opposed to reproductive justice.

In America, state governments set up eugenics boards that determined the reproductive future of thousands. I grew up listening to my maternal Grandmother, a Mississippi native, warn against trusting doctors and passing along lessons she learned from other poor women of color who went into a hospital to give birth only to later find out that they were given a Mississippi Appendectomy without their consent. The horrific legacy of these state eugenics boards is one of the reasons why I embrace the reproductive justice framework advocating for the right to have children, not have children, and to parent children in safe and healthy environments.

From the early 1900s up until the 1970’s, over 30 states had formal eugenics programs. These programs enforced compulsory sterilization of individuals deemed to be “unfit” and “promiscuous.” States sterilized people that were disabled, poor, people of color, and immigrants. North Carolina had a particularly aggressive program that was alone in allowing social workers to select people for sterilization based on IQ tests. To date, only seven states have formally apologized for eugenics programs and no state has paid money to survivors. Although a task force appointed by the Governor in North Carolina ruled in favor of payment to survivors, their recommendations are now in the hands of state legislators.

Too often eugenics is looked on as a shameful part of German history and many Americans are unaware of the history of eugenics in this country. I’m reminded of the warning that those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it. No, I’m not about to repeat black genocide claims that modern health care centers use contraception as a weapon or the ‘easily debunked if folks just used Google Maps’ conspiracy theory about abortion clinics being located in predominately black neighborhoods. I’m referring to the history of government taking control over people’s reproductive future and how that component of the history of eugenics and is very present today. While those opposed to reproductive justice appropriate the language of Civil Rights to perpetuate bizarre anti-knowledge theories about dangerous black women and how we are the greatest threat to the newly identified species of “black child,” states that actually ran eugenics programs and sterilized thousands of people get little to no attention and all too often as not held accountable for those actions. Read the rest of this entry →