The XX Factor

Anti-Choice Billboards and Race-Baiting

Michelle Goldberg, writing for the Daily Beast, exposes the mostly-white conservatives behind the push from the anti-choice movement to co-opt the legacy of the civil rights movement. The latest set of billboards in this effort to paint the pro-choice movement as somehow out to get black people was recently unveiled in Chicago, features a picture of Barack Obama, and implies that it was only the laws against abortion that allowed him to be born. It’s hard to really gauge the effectiveness of this campaign in doing much beyond soothing the consciences of white conservatives who generally push policies that disproportionately hurt people of color ( Adam Serwer called this campaign concern-trolling , an apt description), but these billboards nonetheless need to be treated like the affront to decency that they are, because they are just so vicious toward black women.

I was fortunate last night to be on a panel last night with Jasmine Burnett, an activist with SisterSong and Trust Black Women who had just recently returned to New York after being in Chicago fighting the good fight with local activists against these billboards. These billboards are being tied up with legislation in states such as Arizona and Georgia that ban mythical abortions being performed for race or gender reasons. As Jasmine pointed out, what this instead does is creates a situation where doctors have to single out black and Latino patients for a line of insulting questioning that assumes, for no good reason whatsoever, that these women are ashamed of themselves and ashamed of their potential offspring. The assumption that a woman would choose not to have children because of the race of those children tells you far more about the racist beliefs of the people funding this movement than of any women who are making the choice to avoid or delay child-bearing. Putting a black man who had a white mother on the billboards only serves to highlight the ugly assumptions of those behind this campaign, as there is no reality-based reason to think that Obama’s mother was eager to get an abortion. The people who think that are telling you more about their own beliefs regarding interracial families than about the beliefs of people who actually form them.

Trust Black Women has responded to this vicious assumption about black women’s motivations with a Tumblr blog to collect women’s testimonials they make the choices they do, and surprise, it has nothing to do with self-loathing. The first round of testimonials will be out soon, and should make for excellent reading.