Seeing black children as nothing but criminals, worthy of death, starts early.

Among the findings likely to provoke reaction, sources say, are two emails written by Ferguson police and municipal court officials.

One, written in November of 2008, said that Barack Obama could not be president for four years because “what black man holds a steady job for four years.”

Another, written in May 2011, read: “An African-American woman in New Orleans was admitted into the hospital for a pregnancy termination. Two weeks later she received a check for $5,000. She phoned the hospital to ask who it was from. The hospital said, ‘Crimestoppers.’”

Ferguson police, court showed pattern of racial bias, Department of Justice to report

“Face it, blacks. Michael Brown let you down.”

Does that headline get your hackles up? It got mine up. But then I read the article, and it was devastating. The author describes the experience of hoping that this time, someone would care that an unarmed black kid had been killed by the police. Maybe this time, someone would think that Mike Brown — and his community — had gotten far worse than they deserved. Until people went looking for reasons why he must have brought it on himself.

For a moment there, things were looking pretty good. A boy shot multiple times with his hands up. College bound. Poor. Innocent. And in response: helicopters and tanks. Maybe this time, we thought, they would believe us.

But that’s all been ruined.

We now have all sorts of reasons to make us doubt Brown’s humanity. He may have stolen some cigarillos. He may have been facing the officer when he was shot. He got shot in the top of the head, which might mean that he was surrendering, or might mean he was being defiant. He made amateur rap songs. Perhaps worst of all, he’s been caught grimacing at a camera making a contorted peace sign, and it turns out that he was pretty tall.

And Fox News has been trying to cast doubt on whether he was actually going to go to college in the first place.

All signs that his life was worth less than we might have hoped.

The inevitable had happened. Apologists for police violence had successfully painted Mike Brown as a “thug” who deserved what he got. If the question is “what could a black person do that would make their death not their own fault?”, there’s no answer. The question should be “why are black people required to prove — over and over again, in a rigged game — that they don’t deserve to be killed?”

Remember literacy tests for voting? They were ostensibly in place to ensure that applicants were educated enough to qualify as voters. But in reality:

Determination of who “passed” and who “failed” was entirely up to the whim of the Registrar of Voters — all of whom were white. In actuality, whites almost always “passed” no matter how many questions they missed, and Blacks almost always “failed’ in the selective judgement of the Registrar.

If you don’t want to grant someone a status in the first place, any excuse to revoke it will do. So it is with the right not to be killed. If people wanted to see an 18-year-old black man as a fully human person deserving of the right to life, then video of him allegedly swiping a handful of cigars and shoving a store clerk wouldn’t change that. Photos of him making a hand signal wouldn’t change that. Rap lyrics wouldn’t change that. That he was tall and heavy wouldn’t change that. How do I know? Because white people miss those questions on the humanity test, as it were, all the time without being dismissed as thugs who need killing.

For obvious reasons, nobody who considers themselves pro-life should embrace an ideology that requires human beings to pass tests to be considered worthy of living.

And speaking of pro-life, consider this: In the United States, the abortion rate is highest among black women. Black women in America have 40 abortions per 100,000 women — almost 4 times the rate among non-Hispanic white women. That’s 360,000 black lives ending in abortion every year. That’s who knows how many black women ending up in clinics like Kermit Gosnell’s. How many of those abortions would have been avoided if black Americans, on average, had the same healthcare, access to resources, and life prospects as white Americans? If we acted like black lives, born and unborn, really matter?

Abortion opponents in the US are talking about the horrendous numbers of sex selective abortions in some Asian nations, especially India and China. Kristen Walker Hatten, for example, writes at LifeNews.com about the “horrifying, misogynistic third-world practice of gendercide.”

But she doesn’t offer any plans for transforming the cultural conditions that lead to such wide-scale abortion of baby girls, before or after birth, except to legally ban it. Never mind that in India, for example, there are already legal restrictions on sex selective abortion. And yet it continues, because violence against girls and women at all phases of life persists.

Walker Hatten concludes that if you don’t support a legal ban, you don’t care about the problem. She asks, “Where are the feminists?” when both prolife and prochoice feminists have been speaking up and agitating for years. She seems even less informed about feminists from within India, for example, who both support abortion rights and seek to abolish sex-selective abortion in conjunction with other lethal practices against girls and women. She would do well to familiarize herself with Rita Banerji of the 50 Million Missing Campaign, for one.

Walker Hatten is also quite problematic when she speaks of gendercide as a specifically “third-world practice” that has spread into the US via immigrants. In the process, she trivializes or renders invisible and inaudible any resistance from within Asian countries to sex selective abortion. She simultaneously obscures the violence against women and girls that is also epidemic in the US culture and contributes to the incidence of abortion there and in many other countries, according to recent scientific literature.

Her argument, like that of many other US abortion opponents, draws, however intentionally or not, upon a centuries-old view of brown, non-Christian, “uncivilized,” “unenlightened” people as uniquely guilty of barbarities against women–and white Christians as their “civilized,” “emlightened” saviors from their misogyny. As if violence against women and girls was not a curse of all religions, cultures, and nations; how else is it that one in three females worldwide has been subjected to gender-based violence?

But her argument, like all too many arguments from US abortion opponents, doesn’t help to abolish female feticide. Such antiabortionists hold one part of humankind responsible while letting another part off the hook, or off too lightly. And their accusation that feminists don’t care cuts off the possibilities of cooperative action with feminists, whether prolife or prochoice, who do care profoundly, and in fact have been seeking and working for much deeper, more decisive solutions than a legal ban for a long time.

We agree with Walker Hatten, of course, that female feticide is horrifying and should be abolished. We also believe that unless prenatal lives are generally treated as if they have inherent value, it is much more difficult to make a case, whether legal, ethical, or cultural, against aborting one specific group of fetuses.

But we cannot accept her blanket accusations about feminist indifference or complicity, let alone the attitudes regarding race, religion, culture, and nationality that arguments like hers encode, intentionally or not. In fact, if we didn’t care about abolishing gendercide, why would we risk the wrath of the US antiabortion movement as such?

Most of the talk of reproductive rights in mainstream politics and media in the United States revolves around not bearing children. Family planning advocates, ourselves included, argue for sex education and access to contraception to prevent unintended pregnancy. Pro-choice advocates argue for a right not to bear children who have been conceived.

What is too often neglected in the mainstream discourse is the right to have children, and to raise them safely and with dignity. One reproductive right that women of color do not have in this country is the right to raise their children free of the fear that their babies will be killed because they are “suspicious.”

Trayvon Martin
was a 17-year-old African American who was visiting family in Sanford, Florida. On February 26, during halftime of the NBA All-Star Game, he walked to a nearby store to get candy for his brother and a can of tea for himself. As he walked back to his father’s home, the hood of his sweatshirt pulled up against the rain, he was spotted by the (self-appointed, as far as I’ve been able to tell) Neighborhood Watch captain George Zimmerman. Zimmerman, 28, thought Trayvon looked “like he’s up to no good, or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining, and he’s just walking around, looking about.” He called 911, then told the dispatcher “these assholes, they always get away” and “he’s running.” Zimmerman left his SUV and followed Martin, despite being told by the 911 dispatcher that he didn’t need to and a squad car was on the way. Neighbors reported hearing a fight, and cries for help. On one 911 tape, cries and a gunshot can be heard. When police arrived, Trayvon Martin was dead — shot in the chest by George Zimmerman. Zimmerman claimed he had acted in self-defense. Sanford police accepted his explanation, saying that they had no probable cause to believe otherwise, despite the fact that Zimmerman shot an unarmed minor with whom he had needlessly initiated a confrontation.

Trayvon Martin had no history of violence or misbehavior, and had no drugs or alcohol in his system. George Zimmerman has a history of belligerent behavior, and was not tested for drugs or alcohol.

I think of how devastated I would be if this happened to my daughter. I also know that it wouldn’t happen to my white daughter; she will never be found guilty of Walking While Black. If she were killed while walking down the street on a simple errand, police would pursue and charge her killer. So while I stand in solidarity with Trayvon’s parents, I also don’t presume to really know what they’re going through, or what all the parents of young men of color who fear that their sons might be next are going through.

It’s too late to help Trayvon Martin’s family keep their son alive. Here’s how you can help them with their demand for accountability for his death:

  • Sign their petition asking the Florida State’s Attorney to prosecute George Zimmerman. Or call the office of State’s Attorney Wolfinger at 407-665-6410.
  • Contact the Department of Justice to ask them to investigate the case and the reluctance of Sanford police to act.
  • Call Attorney Jasmine Rand at 850-222-3333 to give to the family’s legal fund.
  • Share this information. Follow @attorneycrump and @blacklaw18 and the #TrayvonMartin hashtag on Twitter, or “like” the Justice for Trayvon Martin page on Facebook, or follow the blogs I’ve linked here. Don’t let the case fade away without so much as a charge.

Jen isn't the only one at All Our Lives who is asking "What's next?" of those who seek to oppose abortion in such self-defeating ways.

I recently sent the following message to an organization that just brought controversial billboards on race and abortion rather close to home. Apparently the root causes of abortion are not eugenic and genocidal enough to claim their attention, even though attention to these and not simply to the end result, the incidence of abortion, would make a lot of unintended pregnancies and abortions go away.

Dear Life Always,

I hear that you plan to bring billboards into the African American majority areas of my city, saying that "every 21 seconds our leader is aborted."

Now I am pro every life, before, during, and ever after birth. And for this reason, I need to ask: why have I not heard of you coming before into the place where my family and I live, alleviating the very reasons why Black women and babies so frequently are involved in situations of unintended pregnancy, abortion, inhumanely unsupported parenthood?

Many Black women say they feel blamed and scapegoated by your billboards. Might this outcry not be a sign to you that your tactics are misdirected? Why not listen and learn in a spirit of humility?

I wish you'd take the money you are sinking into these billboards and spend it and fundraise instead on fostering everything and anything necessary to challenge the realities of institutionalized racism that account for the higher abortion rate among African American women, including the denial of health services such as family planning (prevention) and prenatal and postnatal care; institutionalized poverty; subsubstandard housing conditions; family and community violence; the enforced lack of educational and job opportunities; the criminalization of Black men; the ruthless stereotyping of Black women as sexually and reproductively feckless, irresponsible, destructive…

If every 21 seconds our leader is aborted, then prolife must mean getting on the case like this. It cannot mean anything one whit less. It cannot mean running away from or denying this full and inescapable set of responsibilities. And it must mean dealing with the fact that pregnancy and motherhood are twisted around by social conditions into forms of oppression that abort women's own leadership capacities!

And you know what? I'm sure Life Always is swamped with responses to these Obama-portraying billboards, but…I haven't heard back from them. And I wonder if I ever will.

Unlike Jen, I did not attend the Open Hearts, Open Minds conference. But I did carefully look over the program materials beforehand, and was struck by how few people of color were involved in it. I was struck that while abortion of disabled fetuses was on the discussion agenda, there seemed to be little involvement of people with disabilities and disability rights advocates.

I am a person with disabilities, and though I am of European descent myself, am the very involved grandmother of a child of color. People with disabilities and people of color have in so many ways, including but not limited to abortion, been denied the rights to life and bodily integrity. So I am troubled by these apparent omissions of vital stakeholders from this conference. 

There is a disability rights movement slogan that occurs to me at this point: "Nothing about us, without us." Hopefully any future dialogue efforts will consider this at the planning stages, not after the fact.

Over the past twenty years, US maternal/fetal deaths from pregnancy & childbirth have *doubled.* The poor and women and children of color are the most affected. Lack of timely health care–or health care at all–is a major culprit. Please demand lifesaving action. http://takeaction.amnestyusa.org/siteapps/advocacy/index.aspx?c=jhKPIXPCIoE&b=2590179&template=x.ascx&action=13937