Worried About Women of Color? Thanks, But No Thanks, Anti-Choicers. We’ve Got It Covered.

By Guest Contributor Miriam Pérez, originally published at RH Reality Check

This article is part of a series appearing on RH Reality Check, written by reproductive justice advocates responding to recent efforts by the anti-choice movement to use racial and ethnic myths to limit women’s rights and health. Recent articles on this topic include those by Pamela Merrit, Gloria Feldt, Kelley Robinson, and Maame-Mensima Horne.

273At first glance, it’s nice to see the anti-choice community pretending to care about communities of color. But within a few minutes, the skepticism sets in. What’s really behind these tactics, coming from a group that is majority white, middle-class and Christian? In the end, we know this isn’t actually about women of color and their well-being. It’s a sensationalist attempt to pit women of color against the reproductive rights movement. Classic divide and conquer.

Women of color within the reproductive rights and justice movement have brought light to the policies (often perpetuated by our own government, medical providers and researchers) that serve the mission of population control within our communities. We’ve fought back against the connections and alliances with those in the environmental rights movement who blame the challenges of resource scarcity on women of color and their family size.

We’ve fought back against governmental policies like welfare family caps and limits on access to certain types of contraception over others. We’ve fought with the reproductive rights community to get them to care about these issues and how they affect our communities—and we’ve won.

We’re fighting for access to contraception, to abortion, to options for childbirth and parenting. And now we’ll fight the racist and paternalistic logic behind the eugenics arguments being made by anti-choicers.

In the Latina community, we’ve dealt with all sorts of attempts at controlling our families. In addition to welfare family caps and abusive immigration policies, we’ve also got a long history of sterilization abuse. The height of this was in the 1970s, when Dr. Helen Rodriguez-Trias and others discovered that doctors and residents at a Los Angeles hospital had sterilized hundreds of Mexican women, without their knowledge or full consent. We’re talking women being asked to sign consent forms in languages they did not speak, being lied to and told that the procedure was reversible, or being offered sterilization in the midst of labor.

The result of this was a major organizing push by CESA—Committee to End Sterilization Abuse–to enact federal informed consent laws for sterilization. They won, and in 1976 these laws were enacted, mandating processes for informed consent, waiting periods for sterilization consent, and forms that had to be in the patient’s language, among other things.

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How Do We Talk About Police Brutality When The Cops Aren’t White?

By Guest Contributor Julianne Hing, originally published at Racewire

mineo_022210.jpgYesterday, the verdict in the trial involving three New York police officers accused of abusing a young man of color was announced.

Without even knowing the particulars of the case—say, for instance, that one of the police officers in question allegedly abused a man named Michael Mineo with a baton, which led the other two cops to orchestrate a cover-up—you probably know exactly what the jury decided yesterday.

That’s right, all three cops were acquitted of all charges, on the claim that there was not enough evidence to prove that Mineo had actually had a baton shoved inside of him. The news came just days after it was announced that the cops involved in the shooting death of Sean Bell will not receive federal charges.

People of color, especially young Black and Latino men, get shot at and killed by the police at disproportionately high rates. That much seems to be common enough knowledge these days. And the white cops who’ve shot them? They’re all typically acquitted, but that is less common knowledge and more irrefutable fact.

But much of the way we talk about police brutality as a manifestation of racism rests on a classic narrative of individual white aggressors who brutalize Black and Latino men. So what happens when not all of the officers involved are white? In Michael Mineo’s case, the three accused officers were white (Officer Richard Kern) and Latino (Officers Andrew Morales and Alex Cruz).

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links for 2010-03-01

  • Across the country, the anti-abortion movement, long viewed as almost exclusively white and Republican, is turning its attention to African-Americans and encouraging black abortion opponents across the country to become more active.
  • Three years. That's how long it took to get a street here renamed after [Cesar Chavez] the labor leader and human rights activist. The supporters never thought it would take that long…"This has been horrible," said Marta Guembes, co-chairwoman of the Cesar E. Chavez Boulevard Committee. Take the effort to Tijuana or Mexico City, said others. Renaming the street would "open up the border," some predicted. Such sentiments were the minority, but the words cut deep. "It turned ugly," said Sonny Montes, a member of the committee…Said Adams: "Portland is a progressive city, but not, clearly, without its vulnerabilities around issues of race and racism and phobias and discrimination and stereotyping."…Portland is one of the top five whitest metro areas in the country, according to a 2007 Census Bureau survey. With 78% of its 2.17 million metro area population being white, it's even whiter than Salt Lake City.
  • It took years for work crews to tunnel through the edges of the 2,031-foot peak that stands between Malibu and Agoura. It took a century for authorities to dig their way out from under the shame that came with the mountain, however.

    But another work crew will soon erect a bronze plaque that changes the name of "Negrohead Mountain" to "Ballard Mountain" in honor of a black man who was a pioneering homesteader in the Santa Monica Mountains. John Ballard was a former slave who ran a delivery service and was a co-founder of Los Angeles' first African Methodist Episcopal Church, but the city's rising property values and its class structure forced him to move his family 50 miles out into the mountains in the 1880s.

  • On a campus already facing racial tensions, UC San Diego police said Friday that they were investigating the discovery of a noose hanging from a library bookcase and questioning a student who may be responsible. The probe will look into whether the noose — which was seen by some as a symbol of lynching meant to intimidate African Americans on the campus — was connected to recent racially charged incidents and subsequent protests at UCSD.
  • …during construction of a General Services Administration office building in Lower Manhattan, graves were discovered 24 feet below ground, and when those remains led to the discovery of hundreds of other bodies in the same area, and when it was determined that these were black New Yorkers interred in what a 1755 map calls the “Negros Burial Ground,” the earth seemed to shake from more than just machinery…That is a reason why Saturday’s opening of the African Burial Ground Visitor Center, near where these remains were reinterred, is so important. Among the scars left by the heritage of slavery, one of the greatest is an absence: where are the memorials, cemeteries, architectural structures or sturdy sanctuaries that typically provide the ground for a people’s memory?
  • Identify yourself as being of ''Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin'' on the 2010 U.S. Census questionnaire, and you will get to be more specific about your ancestry, such as Mexican-American, Cuban or Puerto Rican. But check the box for ''black, African-American or Negro'' and there will be no place to show whether you trace your identity to the African continent, a Caribbean island or a pre-Civil War plantation. Some Caribbean-American leaders are urging their communities to write their nationalities on the line under ''some other race'' on the forms arriving in mailboxes next month, along with checking the racial categories they feel identify them best. It's another step in the evolution of the Census, which has moved well beyond general categories like ''black'' and ''white'' to allow people to identify themselves as multi-racial, and, in some cases, by national origin.
  • A State Supreme Court jury in Brooklyn lost little time exonerating three police officers of charges that they had brutalized a man named Michael Mineo in a subway station and then covered it up….Al Sharpton, who by no coincidence is a prominent supporter of Mr. Mineo, demands federal action almost by rote whenever a judge or jury doesn’t convict a police officer…[But] whether led by a Democrat or a Republican, the Justice Department turned a deaf ear to demands that it look into the police killings of Amadou Diallo, Patrick M. Dorismond, Police Officer Omar J. Edwards and Sean Bell. (That decision was announced last week.)

Cultural Appropriation Can Win You Olympic Medals

By Sexual Correspondent Andrea (AJ) Plaid

I guess there are days when I’m thankful for having been an ice-skating fan in my younger days, though I was absorbing some floaty, dreamy, and cornball heteronormative crap against the white-ice backdrop.  So, as much as I did enjoy figure skaters Oksana Domnina’s and Maxim Shabalin’s technical excellence, I can honestly say they should have applied all that technique—and subsequent press–to another routine that didn’t involve offending people of color.

Here’s their original routine, if you missed it:

Bev Manton, a Worimi woman and chair of the Aboriginal Land Council, sums up the outrage:

From an Aboriginal perspective, this performance is offensive. It was clearly not meant to mock Aboriginal culture, but that does not make it acceptable to Aboriginal people. There are a number of problems with the performance, not least of all the fact both skaters are wearing brown body suits to make their skin appear darker. That alone puts them on a very slippery slope.

Australians know only too well the offence that can be caused by white people trying to depict themselves as black people during performance pieces. Last year’s domestic and international furore over the blackface skit on Hey, Hey it’s Saturday’s Red Faces is a recent case in point.

That said, I don’t think it’s the most offensive part of the performance. That honour belongs to some of the claims by Domnina and Shabalin that have accompanied it.

They are not, as they state, wearing “authentic Aboriginal paint markings”. They are wearing white body paint in designs they dreamed up after reading about Aboriginal Australians on the internet. The designs are no more “authentic” or “Aboriginal” than the shiploads of cheap, “Aboriginal” tourist trinkets that pour into our country from overseas.

This is not a particularly difficult concept. For art to be Australian, it must be painted by an Australian, and for art to be Australian Aboriginal, it must be painted by an Australian Aboriginal. Russian art is not painted by Italians, and I doubt Russians would be impressed if someone tried to pass it off otherwise.

And just as the designs are not Aboriginal, nor is the music to which the dance is being performed.

I acknowledge that Aboriginal people do not own the sound of the didgeridoo. That is one of our gifts to the rest of the world. Everyone is free to use it. But that does not mean it should be sampled and then presented as something it is not — traditional Aboriginal music.

Al-Jazeera English reports :

“The dancers have defended the routine, saying it’s not intended to represent Australian culture, but a mélange of ethnicities.”

Before anyone starts in with “but Domnina and Shabalin are racially ignorant exceptions” or that they don’t “get” racism because they’re Russians (or globe-trotting sportspeople), I’d say that, like many other human societies, Russia isn’t an othering-free country, though people of color in that nation may not call what they’ve experienced “racism” as how USians understand it:

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The Fading Histories of People of Colour: Depardieu Plays Dumas

By Deputy Editor Thea Lim

DumasReader Carleandria sent us this link to an article from the Times Online, discussing a controversy that is gaining ground in France after the release of a biopic on French writer Alexandre “The Three Musketeers” Dumas starring Gérard Depardieu:

A fuss over race has soured the release of the latest film in which Gérard Depardieu takes on one of the giants of French history. Black actors and anti-racism campaigners are upset that the white star is cast as Alexandre Dumas, the country’s biggest national hero with mixed blood.

The blonde, blue-eyed Depardieu sports curly hair and darker skin in L’Autre Dumas [trailer here], directed by Safy Nebbou. Dumas, who is still probably the world’s best-loved French author, was an exuberant, high-living celebrity — like Depardieu. His paternal grandmother was a former Haitian slave. His father, a Napoleonic-era general, was deemed to be a Caribbean “negro”. In his lifetime, the novelist was mocked for his African features and he called himself “un nègre”.

…Non-white celebrities, some Dumas experts and black organisations are angry because they say that the producers missed a chance to celebrate France’s ethnic diversity and remind the world of the writer’s part black origins.

“There is a mechanism of permanent discrimination by silence,” said Jacques Martial, a black actor who made his name playing a television police detective. Patrick Lozès, President of the Council of Black Associations (CRAN) wondered: “In 150 years time, could the role of Barack Obama be played in a film by a white actor with a fuzzy wig? Can Martin Luther King be played by a white?”

…In a protest on the internet, the CRAN said that the casting of Depardieu was fresh evidence of France’s failure to promote non-white stars in its cinema and media. “Very few of our compatriots know that Alexandre Dumas was mixed race and considered to be a black in his lifetime,” it said.

The film commits a double sin in the CRAN’s eyes because its plot, adapted from a successful play, discredits Dumas’ genius by depicting his white assistant as the true creator of his works. “Possibly for commercial reasons, they are white-washing Dumas in order to blacken him further,” it said.

…Dumas’ Wikipedia entry (yes, sorry) contains a quote in which Dumas replied to a taunt about being black. “My father was a mulatto, my grandfather was a Negro, and my great-grandfather a monkey. You see, Sir, my family starts where yours ends.”

Personally I had no idea that Dumas was black.  This makes me wonder how many famous people of colour – especially those of mixed heritage – are white-washed by history.   I also recently learned (through another reader tip!) that the Russian poet Alexander Pushkin was black too.

POC reclamation project, anyone?