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“Black Children Are Not Baby Seals”

The post is from March 2010, but I recently came across this important perspective on the Radiance Foundation billboards from a pro-life African-American woman: Black Children Are Not Baby Seals. An excerpt:

Think about how we often regard animals on the Endangered Species list: they are protected with the hope that they can be released back into the wild, where they can survive on their own.

The late Spencer Perkins identified the problems with this kind of thinking back in 1989, when he raised the question of a “pro-life credibility gap.” In Perkins’ view, those Christians who were most visible in leading the pro-life movement were often not as interested in other issues of justice for African Americans. He wrote, “I feel that if the love of Christ compels me to save the lives of children, that same love should compel me to take more responsibility for them once they are born.” Though Perkins was making the point about white pro-lifers, it’s a question for all of us to consider.

An “endangered species” mentality de-contextualizes and dislocates many children from the possible sources of the issues they may face. This mentality doesn’t imply that these children will need places to live free from poor environmental settings and polluted air, or a neighborhood that isn’t a food desert, or a street that’s safe from the bullets of warring gangbangers, or church families to help support them, or high-quality public schools to prepare them for life, or intact families with parents whose relationships provide a secure home, or people (of any race!) who will adopt them and raise them lovingly.

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What’s Next? Wait, There’s More!

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.

Blog Posts

What Many Religious Groups Need to Learn

PBS TV in the US is airing a fascinating documentary. The Calling follows seven different young adult Americans as they become clergy in their different religions.

One is Jeneen Robinson, a now-ordained pastor in the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church. "The Calling" shows Robinson as she prepares for the ministry and single mothers her young son, who has asthma. His father left them during the pregnancy.

Robinson's denomination does not bar her from the clergy because she is a single mother. Rather, she is praised for the "courage and fortitude" she has shown as one.

Hopefully more religious groups will learn something about respect for all lives from the encouragement and affirmation offered to Jeneen Robinson. In the name of "Godliness," too many single pregnant and parenting women have been hounded, ostracized, branded morally depraved, blocked from the exercise of their gifts.