So, I had this long rant that was building up in my head to refute Bishop Harry Jackson’s idiotic claims that birth control for women is a eugenics program against black people. He claims that contraception is a “silent effort of the powerful to control black breeding”. Really. That’s what he said.
Then I realized that my argument was much, much simpler and doesn’t necessitate a huge diatribe. So here. I’ll let you read his remarks and then make a few brief comments of my own.
But black Americans in particular would be wise to pay close attention, since the age old contraception battle has special historical significance to them. For over a century, “reproductive services” have been special code words for the constant, silent effort of the powerful to control black breeding. And this control has often come in the form of a “helping hand.”
From the earliest days of our nation, people in power have wanted to control black reproduction. Before the Civil War, slave owners had a financial interest in increasing the birthrate among their slaves. This was a matter of simple economics: even before the transatlantic slave trade was outlawed, it had become cheaper to “breed” your slaves than to import new ones. Female slaves were pressured to become pregnant (often they were raped).
After emancipation, black birthrates (and marriage rates) were higher than whites, causing great concern in the growing movement known as Eugenics. An elite group of whites began to see the growth of the black population as a direct threat to their community. Blacks at this time actually had a higher employment rate than whites, because black men were willing to work for lower wages. In a time when many intellectuals were becoming paranoid about overpopulation, some began to fear that blacks would compete with whites for the resources needed to survive.
Powerful whites no longer wanted blacks to make more babies that they could enslave; now they wanted blacks to stop having babies that would compete for their jobs or overcrowd their cities. Their goals changed from forcing them to breed to preventing them from breeding.
Thus in modern times, no people group has been plied with more contraceptives than African Americans. People willing to turn a blind eye to the obvious still aren’t convinced about whether abortion is aggressively marketed to blacks. But there can be no confusion about contraception being pushed on black women from the time they are middle school students to even the most highly educated married women. And in a way it is working: despite a terrifyingly high 70 percent illegitimacy rate, the black American population continues to decline as a percentage of the American population.
The black community does not need more birth control. We need men and women who respect their bodies and raise their children to do the same. We should put more energy and effort into educating people to make wise choices in relationships and being a family instead of mandating how they make those choices. Let’s let our representatives know how we feel!
So here we go:
Slavery used rape and pregnancy to control black women’s bodies to serve the purposes of a white, patriarchal economic system.
Eugenics, using insidious techniques like forced sterilization, controlled black women’s bodies to serve the purposes of a white, patriarchal economic and social system.
In referencing the 70 percent illegitimacy rate, we see that even average, everyday men have used black women’s bodies for their own purposes. While perhaps not as systemic as the above examples, it still points to a negation of the person in order to use the body to serve their own selfish needs.
So to say that contraception, the allowance of individual black women to control when and if they reproduce, is somehow akin to any of these examples, is not only wrongheaded and illogical, it is exactly the opposite of all of those things. It is acknowledging that a woman does not have be enslaved by her biological makeup, and can make her own choices and decisions regarding the purposes of her own body. She and she alone, using the other stuff that biology gave her, like a brain and a heart, can make decisions that affect the rest of her body, without being held captive by anyone else’s wants, needs and/or insidious purposes.
You are wrong, Mr. Jackson. You are not only wrong, you are dangerous. You are playing on a very real and reasonable fear of manipulation of black women’s bodies by a white, patriarchal culture that has historically done just that, but your alternative is just as manipulative and controlling and dismissive of those same women’s autonomy.
At the end of the day, black women’s bodies are still little more than tools for your own purposes. Sounds familiar.