Backlash from GOP Against Tea Party Spitters

March 23, 2010 at 12:58 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Republican Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH) called on the Republican Party to distance itself from the behavior of tea party protesters who spat on black members of Congress.  Congressmen John Lewis (D-GA) and Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) were also the targets of racial slurs and House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) has received faxes with racial slurs and images of nooses.  In addition, derogatory epithets were hurled at Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA), an openly gay member of Congress.

Health Care Reform Bill in photos…

March 23, 2010 at 11:57 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The White House released a photo slide show of the journey the health care reform bill has taken from its beginnings with support from the late Senator Ted Kennedy, through forums and rallies, to its passage earlier this week.  (Please click on the image).

President Obama on speaks on healthcare reform

March 19, 2010 at 11:58 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

President Obama spoke at the George Mason University Patriot Center. He talked about the health care reform debate over the past 16 months and what is included in the health care bill. In his remarks he said, “The time for reform is now.”

Ethnic Media by Press Pass TV

March 16, 2010 at 3:02 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The young media makers at Press Pass TV take a look at the importance of ethnic media in Boston.  (Click on the image to see the video.)

From the Press Pass TV site:  For 5 years, Press Pass TV has gathered some of the brightest and most dedicated minds in media to work with youth. With humble beginnings in an after school program at the Dearborn Middle School in Roxbury, Press Pass TV has become and integral part of the community, serving young people throughout the city and increasing the capacity of organizations and schools throughout Greater Boston.  For more information visit www.presspasstv.org.

Guest Editorial: Black Motherhood and the Oscars

March 12, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Black Motherhood Lost at the Oscars
by Rev. Irene Monroe

Academy Award winner Mo'Nique in the film "Precious"

The historical legacy of the devaluation and demonization of black motherhood was both applauded and rewarded at this year’s Oscars. And the point was clearly illustrated with Mo’Nique, capturing the gold statue for best supporting actress in the movie “ Precious,” based on the novel Push by Sapphire, as a ghetto welfare mom who demeans and demoralizes her child every chance she can.

Mo’Nique’s role juxtaposed to Sandra Bullock’s, who captures her Oscar as best actress in the movie “ The Blind Side,” offers the hand of human kindness to a poor black child in need of parenting.

But the images African- American parenting have historically been viewed through a prism of gendered and racial stereotypes. And the image of Mo’Nique as the “bad black mother” and Sandra Bullock as” good white mother” is nothing new.

The images of the “bad black mother” have not only been used for entertainment purposes but also used for legislating welfare policy reforms.

For example, in Ronald Reagan’s era (1981- 1989), black motherhood was constantly under siege. These moms were depicted as Cadillac-driving “ welfare queens,” who had little to no ambition to work, wanted money for drugs, and wanted to continue, due to their uncontrolled sexuality, to have illegitimate babies in order to remain on welfare.

Reagan told a fallacious story about a African American mother from Chicago’s South Side who was arrested for welfare fraud that subsequently not only shaped public perception of black mothers but it also shaped welfare reform:
“She has eighty names, thirty addresses, twelve Social Security cards and is collecting veteran’s benefits on four non-existing deceased husbands. And she is collecting Social Security on her cards. She’s got Medicaid, getting food stamps, and she is collecting welfare under each of her names.”

The story of Precious takes place in 1983. And while the book shapes the character Precious and that of her mother Mary within both the economic an cultural context of the Reagan era, the movie “Precious” does not. And this one-dimensional depiction of Mary conveniently reinscribes black mothers’ fear that haunts us daily — that we’re never good enough.

The feeling that we as mothers are never good enough was thrown in our faces also in Daniel Moynihan’s 1965 report “ The Negro Family: The Case For National Action.” This report – also known as the Moynihan Report- states that the cause of the destruction of the Black nuclear family structure were women, giving rise to the myth of “the Black Matriarch.” The myth proposes that African-American women are complicit with white patriarchal society in the emasculation of African-American men by becoming heads of households and primary jobholders.

Lee Daniels, the director of “Precious,” has a knack for portraying monstrous black mothers on the silver screen. Halle Berry won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 2001 for her role as bad mother in Daniels’ “ Monster’s Ball.”

In this “post-racial” Obama era, the subject of race and the politics of black representation in films are constrained by neither political correctness nor moral consciousness. But Daniels would argue that the moral conscious of his “Precious” is evident by the film’s crossover appeal, but also by the universality of its message- the suffering and damage of child molestation at the hand of parents.

While Daniels’ film shocked and awed moviegoers across the country, many African American sisters, like Precious, didn’t find the film as liberating and cathartic as intended.

For many of these sisters- as with a lot of African American women- we saw not ourselves, but rather a modern-day version of an old racist stereotype.

Some African American woman told me they saw the character Precious as our culture’s new “Hottentot Venus.” Hottetot Venus was Saartjie “Sarah” Baartman from South Africa, who was forced to reveal her huge buttocks and labia to curious Europeans in a traveling human circus show.  The  Hottentot Venus has become the iconic image for portraying black female bodies as subhuman, and this image is still very much part and parcel of our culture’s social discourse.

“Portraying African-American women as stereotypical mammies, matriarchs, welfare recipients, and hot mommas has been essential to the political economy of domination fostering Black women’s oppression, ” sociologist Patricia Hill Collins writes in  Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment.

“Precious” is no doubt an important film. But when the artistic portrayal of the characters and people Daniels is trying to bring to life in a new way reinscribes century-old stereotypes, Daniels -albeit with good intentions-  has caused harm.

And if Daniels won’t take my advice on this, then he should just pause for a moment and go and ask his momma.

Reverend Irene Monroe is a nationally-known writer, speaker and theologian.  She has been profiled in O, Oprah Magazine and is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post.  (The views expressed in this essay are solely those of the author.)

Guest Editorial by Rev. Irene Monroe: African Americans and Abortion Ad

March 5, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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Black Community’s Division on Abortion Ad Campaign
by Rev. Irene Monroe

Given the history of the exploitation of African American women’s reproductive system for involuntary sterilization, medical experimentation, monetary compensation, and political gain, it’s difficult for many in the black community to not see an anti-abortion ad campaign specifically targeting the African-American community in Georgia — with a message of “Black Children Are an Endangered Species” — as a form of race-baiting.

With 80 billboards throughout metro Atlanta, sponsored by a coalition of pro-life organizations such as Georgia Right to Life, The Radiance Foundation, and Operation Outrage, the message they want to convey is resoundingly clear: black women disproportionately undergo abortions.

Georgia’s anti- abortion ad campaign comes at a time when data, gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), showed that in 2006 alone, 57.4 percent of the abortions in Georgia were performed on African-American women, although blacks comprise only 30 percent of the state’s population. Of the 37 states that reported abortion data by race that year to the CDC, Georgia was second only to New York and Texas in the number of abortions performed on black women.

The statistics nationwide are equally alarming when African Americans comprise only 13 percent of the nation’s population but approximately 40 percent of African-American pregnancies end in induced abortion, compared with 34 percent of non-Hispanic white women and 22 percent of Hispanic women.

And according to Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell,  citing statistics from CDC, single black women receive two-thirds of all abortions between 18 to 24 years of age, and have annual incomes of less than $15,000 or have Medicaid.

There is no doubt a problem here. However, how the message is spun and what solutions are advised will determine the outcome.

For African-American anti- abortionists, this recent ad campaign has re-opened the century-old pro-life debate within the African-American community about why abortions are part and parcel of this nation’s history of slavery, lynching, and genocidal conspiracy theories to kill black people.

Haunted by last century’s Tuskegee syphilis experiment that deliberately researched the progression of untreated syphilis on a poor population of 399 African Americans without their consent — and haunted as well by this century’s continued disparities in health care — our distrust in the medical establishment is hardly unfounded.

And our distrust is with our government as well.

Case in point: New Orleans Republican State Rep. John LaBruzzo’s plan to save his state from financial ruin after hurricanes Katrina and Gustav called for  legalizing the sterilization of poor women, giving sound reasons why these genocidal conspiracy theories are still alive today.

In 2008, LaBruzzo feared that Louisiana would be headed towards an economic crisis if the percentage of people dependent on the government was not decreased. His brilliant solution: pay impoverished women $1,000 to have their tubes tied so they will stop having babies they can’t afford.

“I realized that all these people were in Louisiana’s care and what a massive financial responsibility that is to the state,” LaBruzzo told the Times- Picayune. “I said, ‘I wonder if it might be a good idea to pay some of these people to get sterilized.’”

But Catherine Davis — an African American woman who has had two abortions herself and who is  the minority outreach coordinator at the largely white Republican staff of Georgia Right to Life — argues she’s merely trying to save black women’s pregnancies from what black pro-lifers call “womb lynching.”

With  many Planned Parenthood clinics located in black neighborhoods throughout metro Atlanta, a number of black pro-lifers feel that Planned Parenthood preys on young black women to propagate the institutionalization of abortion as a practice.

“ I realized that African-American women just [don’t] not know the truth, they [do] not understand the truth about the abortion industry,” Davis told the Atlanta-Journal Constitution.

According to pro-lifers, the truth is that the abortion agenda is tied to ideas and resources of the eugenics movement in America that started in 1926.  Planned Parenthood’s founder, Margaret Sanger, an iconic figure for the women’s reproductive rights movement, did  have black women in mind. As a matter of  fact, Sanger espoused eugenics theory to initiate the “Negro Project” in 1939, which was to be a precursor to what eugenists wanted to implement on a much larger scale.

“The main objectives of the [proposed] Population Congress is to…apply a stern and rigid policy of sterilization and segregation to that grade of population whose progeny is already tainted, or whose inheritance is such that objectionable traits may be transmitted to offspring, ” Sanger stated at the “Plan for Peace” Senate hearing in 1932.

But Sister Song, an African-American women of color reproductive health collective in Atlanta, finds the anti- abortion ads campaign misleading and Davis misguided. They argue that promulgating a rhetoric that abortions are genocidal is deleterious to the entire community because African American women have always been engaged in some form of birth control and reproductive justice to reclaim control over their bodies, dating back to Africa and pre-slavery.

Long before the passing of Roe v Wade, women of all races have used herbal abortives in an attempt to control their fertility to give themselves the freedom to dictate decisions about their reproduction, thus giving them the freedom to choose.

The high rates of abortions among African-American women in Georgia and elsewhere is a systematic problem that pro-lifers can do something about rather than pointing an accusatory figure at black women who chose to have abortions. They can help the African-American community curb sexual violence in our relationships, homes, and communities; help provide access to services like comprehensive sex education and pregnancy prevention programs; and help provide the availability of contraception.

While many black pro-lifers believe that the way to maintain the institution of the black family and to overcome white supremacy is by denying women their right to choose, these same anti-abortionists ironically are also anti-gay, anti-birth control, and anti-condoms, ignoring that homophobic vitriol, STDs and HIV/AIDS will kill the black family sooner than white supremacists anti-black conspiracy theories.

Reverend Irene Monroe is a nationally-known writer, speaker and theologian.  She has been profiled in O, Oprah Magazine and is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post.  (The views expressed in this essay are solely those of the author.)

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