Friday, July 29, 2011

Follow-Up Fridays

I want to revisit this post that I made two weeks ago about an anti-abortion ad that was put up in New York City and taken down the next day. I got some good comments/questions, so I just want to expand further on some of my own ideas, and maybe hear more about what you all might have to say.

My white friend Rebecca said:

Is it true that when the unemployment rates are low and the economy is thriving that crime rates drop?

To the best of my memory the time during the Clinton administration our economy was thriving (we were operating on a surplus right).

Yes, Rebecca I do believe that you are right that when the economy is good, crime rates tend to go down. And you are also right that we had a budget surplus under Bill Clinton (Oh, how times have changed...)

But I also think that the authors of Freakonomics took this into consideration when writing the chapter, and found that crime decreased more sharply under President Clinton than during other times of economic prosperity, leading them to speculate that economic prosperity alone was not an explanation for the significant decrease in the crime rate.

My black friend Michelle said:

My understanding as to why that billboard was immediately taken down was that the parents of the little girl in the ad were not informed (or misinformed) as to the ad content.

Yes, I also heard that the little girl's parents were not aware what her picture was going to be used for. But my understanding was that they knew that it was a stock photo, and models for stock photography know that they don't have any control over where their image is going to end up. It reminds me of that Friends episode where Joey is on posters all around Manhattan that say he has an STD.

Additonally, after doing some more research on the internet, it would seem that the protests of pro-choice groups was the biggest factor in getting the billboard removed. At least according to one of the leaders of a pro-choice group. She wrote in part:

I truly believe that our collective quick action, phone calls and letters to the [billboard] company are directly responsible for their decision to pull the ad.

When I wrote the post, I came across some blogs with phone numbers telling people to call and complain about the ad, saying that it was racist. I'm like, "How is this racist?"

One of the (white) bloggers said that is was insulting black women's intelligence by assuming they weren't smart enough to make informed choices about their own reproductive health. I would argue the opposite; that it was giving black women information they most likely didn't already know that might or might not have a significant impact on what reproductive decisions they choose to make.

Now, I understand that the ultimate goal of the group producing the ad is probably to decrease the number of choices that all women have by making abortion illegal. But I personally don't see anything wrong with bringing to light the fact that there is a disparity in the abortion rates between black women and white women. Just like I don't see anything wrong with highlighting disparities in home ownership, incarceration rates, higher education rates, life expectancy, etc. These disparities exist and they should be discussed.

Michelle also said:

So what if abortions occur disproportionately among Black women?
Black women are at a disadvantage. And that's just the way it is.

I would say if black women are at a disadvantage (at least in part,) due to the legacy of historical racist practices and policies, that is an issue of concern for me. Hell, even if this turns out to be an issue of class and white women are aborting their babies primarily because the don't have the financial means to take care of them--that bothers me a lot too.

The reason that I asked you all if it might be racist/racish to be concerned about the rate of black abortions, is because if a white person was like, "I'm going to have this baby so I can help propagate the white race." We would all be sitting here thinking, "Hmm...white supremacist much?" The whole discussion of the number of white babies vs. the number of black babies can start to sound a little Race War-y. But no one reading seemed to have an issue with that. If you did, leave me a comment and I can try to explain why I don't see it that way.

Both Michelle and my new black friend Dayka (Hi Dayka!) offered up some alternate explanations for why the statistics might be the way they are, or aren't actually the way they seem to be. I guess my answer to this would be that the statistics from the CDC are pretty clear cut, and I don't know that the alternate explanations that you provided would be significant enough to explain away the huge disparities in the abortion rate.

For example, Dayka I know you mentioned that white women are more likely to have abortions through private doctors. This may be true, but most hospitals are required by their state laws to report the number of abortions that occur in their facilities. And I don't believe that two out of three white doctors are "protecting" their white patients by not reporting the fact that the patient had an abortion. Especially when you consider the reporting of the procedures is completely anonymous.

My white friend John Ferguson suggested that maybe more black women don't have abortions, perhaps a subset of black women have several abortions which skews the rates. My response would be: either way, this is a problem.

John Ferguson actually said a lot of other things. John, I wish you and I had been able to talk about this more the last time we saw each other, so I could have cleared up some of the things that I said. But I guess instead, I can do it on my blog where everyone can read it (:

Just a few things I want to clear up:

1) I don't believe that black men are inherently more violent or genetically predisposed to commit more crimes than white men.
2) I do agree with the idea that people born to poor,uneducated mothers are more likely to come into contact with the criminal justice system. Note that I didn't say commit crimes, I said come into contact with the criminal justice system (i.e. get caught.) So if there are fewer poor black males to target and incarcerate because of abortion, then the crime rate is going to go down.
Just like if there are fewer poor white males to target, the crime rate is going to go down. Remember, the Freakonomics chapter said nothing about race, it focused on class.

As a sidenote, nobody answered my question about if a decrease in the crime rate should be seen as a benefit of legalized abortion.

I think it's interesting that just based on the comments, no one seems to have a problem with the idea that class based abortions are something to be concerned about. Even if it were proven that this had nothing to do with race, and everything to do with class, should it be disturbing to us that poor women have three times as many abortions as middle-class women or rich women? Perhaps it is not racism; it's just classism--does that make it somehow ok?

I think my white friend JD made an excellent point when she said:

It seems like as a society we've decided that age and situation of the mother, the circumstances of the pregnancy, and disability are "good" reasons, whereas race and gender are "bad" reasons [to have an abortion]. Or put another way, if the mother doesn't want a child, it's a good reason; if the mother (or society) doesn't want a particular child, it's a bad reason. [emphasis added]

JD posted a link in her comment to a very thought provoking article about abortions being used for sex-selection in countries like China and India. I would recommend that you all read it.

I think that the pro-choice camp (of which I am currently still a part, ) has painted itself into something of a corner. By promoting this idea of abortions for whomever, whenever, for whatever reason, and fighting tooth and nail any and all attempts to restrict access to abortion, they are insulting the intelligence of the average human being who recognizes that abortion is (at the very least,) an end of the possibility for a particular organism to have a life. And certain organisms are being disproportionately targeted by the procedure.

One of my most favoritest english teachers in college said that abortion was like waking up one morning and having a world class violinist attached to your shoulder. The violinist would die if you cut him off of your shoulder, but if you didn't cut him off, he'd be with you everywhere you went for the rest of your life. What should you/would you do?

I know that there are more comments that I didn't get to and I also know that this post is probably not as polished as it could be. But little dude is doing his afternoon nap wake-up routine, so I have got to go get him. Thank you all for leaving your comments and I hope that we can continue this conversation. And if you are a new reader like Dayka, I hope that you will look over to the sidebar on the right hand side for all the different ways that you can stay connected with me and know when I make new posts.

Thanks for reading; I look forward to hearing your feedback.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Butterfly in the sky, I can go twice as high...

Hi! My name is myblackfriend, and today I want to tell you about three books that I really like, and think that you might like too!

The first one is called I Like Myself by Karen Beaumont. The opening lines of this book say:

I like myself
I'm glad I'm me
there's no one else I'd rather be

I like this book because it's pink. And also because it has a little black girl talking about how cool she is, and if other people don't like her...oh well. She's just gonna go on being her super cool self. This is a good message for anybody of any race, sex or age. We can all use a reminder from time to time to embrace our unique us-ness.

The second book is called Please,Baby,Please by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee. This book covers the day in the life of a toddler who finds herself in situations where her parents strongly encourage her to make different choices. I like this book because it has a lot of repetition for young readers. Another thing that makes it unique, is that all the characters are black--even the ones in the background. It's very common to see a book with all white characters, or white main characters with unnamed black characters on the periphery. It is less common to see books with black main characters, and even less common to see books with only black characters.

Lastly, President Obama's children's book Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters. I have to be honest and say I've only read this book a couple of times. This is because my little guy is still on board books, and I don't want him to rip the pages of this one when we're reading together.

I like this book because is goes through U.S. history and shows how people of all ethnicities helped to make this country great. Like, did you know that an Asian-American woman designed the Vietnam Memorial? I didn't. I do remember their being some controversy when this book came out around the fact that President Obama honors a Native American leader who killed U.S. soldiers and to that I say--give me a break. If citizens of this wonderful country can't come to terms with the fact that the government did some messed up -ish, and weren't always the "good guys," Then we've got a lot of work to do. But I guess we already knew that, didn't we? ;)

So there you have it--three books that I think would make great birthday gifts, baby shower gifts, or just a new addition to your own child's library. I plan to be back tomorrow to do follow up friday on my last post about abortion, so if you'd like to get in on that conversation, feel free. And if you have any favorite books that feature kids of color (or other kids that aren't typically featured in children's books,) that you'd like to share, I'd love for you to leave me a comment.

Friday, July 08, 2011

It's better to say too much, than never to say what you need to say again...

There's been something I've been wanting to blog about for awhile now, but I haven't. Mainly because I don't want to start crap and also because I am not exactly sure what I want to say. The possibility of crap starting is very high, because it concerns an extremely sensitive topic: abortion.

The billboard above was put up in a neighborhood in NYC a few months ago. It was taken down the next day, amid protests from I'm not sure who.

Now, I have always considered myself pro-choice. But something about the idea that this billboard is so offensive that it immediately needs to be taken down rubs me the wrong way. It is certainly a provocative ad, and the overt racial angle makes it even more so. I have written here before about how black women get a disproportionate number of the abortions in the U.S. They get almost 40% of the abortions and are only 12% of the female population. To me this is not something to be happy about, or even indifferent about.

But part of me feels like if I want to keep my pro-choice label, this is not something I can have an issue with. Because having an issue with the idea of abortion without restrictions is a slippery slope that leads to abortions for no one other than people who have enough money and connections to get them even when they are illegal.

I have also been doing a fair amount of reading about eugenics lately, and it is disturbing to me how closely the ideas of family planning and getting rid of "degenerates" have been tied if you look back in history. And it makes me wonder how much of that pairing is still unspoken today.

Let's make this even more uncomfortable. I don't know if you've read the book Freakonomics, but you should. It is a really interesting book that uses the lens of economics to explain lots of different things that you wouldn't normally look to that field to explain. There is a chapter that talks about how when Bill Clinton was President, there was a precipitous drop in the crime rate that people were not sure how to explain.

The authors of Freakonomics theorized that the reason for the drop was the legalization of abortion. They argued that babies/fetuses/whateveryouwanttocallthem that were most likely to be aborted, are the same people that were most likely to commit crimes. Fewer potential criminals exsiting = less crime. I believe in the book they talked about people most likely to be criminals were males who were born to young, poor, uneducated single mothers. I read the book a few years ago, but I am pretty sure that I remember that they pointedly did not mention race. However, looking at what I said earlier about the abortion rates, and what I wrote here about incarceration rates, what is left unspoken is that many of these abortions were given to black women having black babies.

I have noticed in conversations that I have had with pro-choice women in the past, there are often statements like, "Well, I would never get an abortion, but I think they should be available for other women."

I have always wanted to ask (and now finally am,) "Why is it necessary for you to let people know that you personally would never have an abortion? What are you trying to tell people about yourself by saying that? And who are these other women that abortion should be an available choice for?"

Here are some other questions that I have:

Do you think it is racist/racish for a black person to be concerned that black women are more likely to have abortions than white women? Why or why not?

Should a reduction in the crime rate because of the legalization of abortion be seen as a benefit of abortion? Why or why not?

If you are pro-choice, reading this, and getting mad me...I want to offer something to you. I think that part of the reason you're getting upset is because I am taking abortion, something that is commonly associated with liberals (i.e. the good white people,) and joining it up with not wanting black people around/not caring if fewer black people are around--something usually associated with conservatives (the racist white people.) Think about it.

I am not sure of the answers to the questions that I posed, which is a big part of the reason I asked them of you. I am very curious to hear your thoughts, so you should strongly consider leaving me a comment. Remember that you can leave comments anonymously.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Fewer words than usual Wednesday

I took the picture above a couple of weeks ago. While I remember seeing this game when I was a little kid, I never actually played it. My guess is it is a lot like The Game of Life.

I took this picture because the game depicts not only a black doctor, but also a female mechanic/handywoman. Whoever designed this cover was really going for it out of the box thinking-wise.

That got me thinking: How many black doctors do I actually know?

I know one personally and one professionally. If we move beyond M.D.s to include PhD's, dentists, etc--I probably know 10-15.

I don't know any female mechanics. I do remember seeing a story on tv once about a garage that was staffed completely by women. I think it was in California.

So fair many black medical doctors do you know personally and/or professionally? How about other black people with Doctorates? What about women that fix stuff for a living? Anything noteworthy about your experiences (or lack thereof) to share?

Hope you all had a nice 4th of July; leave me a comment if you feel so inclined.