Posts Tagged ‘racism’

A  series of billboards in Georgia are linking abortion with supposed “efforts” by various groups to reduce or limit the size of the black population. The ads first surfaced at the beginning of February, in time for Black History Month and have gradually been reported in the mainstream press. The most recent story appeared on March 1st in the Los Angeles Times.

The billboards are the brainchild of Ryan Bomberger, founder of Georgia-based group “Radiance.” Bomberger, who is adopted, claims to be the son of a white woman raped by a black man.  He believes data that shows a much higher percentage of black women seeking abortions, as well as the number of Planned Parenthood offices in urban areas, is “evidence” of racial targeting, a claim several minority women’s groups denounce as offensive, condescending, and dangerous nonsense.  They concede the high number of abortions among black women in Georgia, but point to other socio-economic factors, such as limited access to birth control and family planning information as well as inadequate insurance coverage.

But the anti-choice forces are jumping on the bandwagon. The Georgia Right to Life organization has partnered with Radiance on the eighty or so ads, which will be displayed at least through March.  Alveda King, the niece of Martin Luther King, Jr., experienced a religious conversion after two abortions and now sits on the board of Georgia’s Right to Life organization. She claims to know absolutely that abortionists are targeting the black community for ethnic cleansing.

As a staunchly pro-choice supporter, I am nevertheless deeply sympathetic to those who are deeply distressed by abortion. In truth, all of us are; as one  advocate put it: “Pro-choice doesn’t mean pro-abortion.” No one I have ever met, including those who’ve had abortions, has ever been the least bit cavalier about the procedure, which is why I hope that a measure of common ground can someday be found — say, in efforts to expand information about birth control and family planning.

But I’m also deeply offended by  deliberately provocative and highly misleading advertising that attempts to shame and terrorize women who need and deserve support in making decisions about their reproductive health.  Moreover, I’m infuriated by yet another attempt to use words to drive people further apart on one issue  – abortion – by raising a red flag about another – racism.  I’m afraid – truly afraid – we haven’t seen the end of these billboards.

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People are not stupid. Nor (and I’m going out on a limb here) are they willfully ignorant. In fact, if this protracted political campaign season gives me hope about anything, it’s that more people than ever appear to be trying to stay informed.

Still, people, I’m worried. Negativity is finding new and subversive ways of showing its ugly face. Radio and TV talking heads, not to mention on and off-line journalists of all stripes, are salivating over opportunities to trip up the candidates and their surrogates. The political opposition is in full collusion mode. What did he mean by that comment, hmm? What about the way she phrased that last remark, eh? Sexist? Racist? Atheist? Unpatriotic? Un-American?

It’s one thing to legitimately want to understand a candidate’s position on the issues. It’s another to believe there’s a hidden agenda and sinister intent behind every single utterance a punch-drunk and sleep-deprived campaigner makes. Some of the advisors, frustrated by the rise of nuance-free news, have played right into the microphones of conflict-seeking reporters. Hello, are you nuts? There is no such thing as off the record. Others speak their minds without considering that what makes sense to one group will be anathema to another. Then again, they’re not the ones running for President. 

Words mean something, yes they do. That’s why we are trying to listen to (not just hear) what the candidates are saying. Sure, we care about who their advisors are and what advice they’re receiving. But let’s keep our eye on the prize. We’re not electing their preacher or teacher or spouse or elderly mother. We’re not going to get distracted by the mind-games the minions are playing on each other, fully egged on by a media mostly bent on stirring things up. We’re better than that, right, people?

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