Black Children... Beautiful, or Endangered Species?
On March 31, I spotted a few billboards reading "Black Children are BEAUTIFUL" in downtown Atlanta. Underneath the still-drying wheat paste, the signs' original message was not so uplifting: Black Children are an Endangered Species.
Over the past couple months, these provocative billboards have been sprouting up in Atlanta neighborhoods. Featuring a fearful-looking African American child juxtaposed with the disquieting statement, the billboards are part of a campaign sponsored by an organization called the Endangered Species Project. On March 29 a bill they supported, the OBGYN Criminalization & Racial Discrimination Act, was passed.
The Endangered Species Project is a collaboration between Georgia Right to Life, the state's largest anti-choice group, and The Radiance Foundation, an Atlanta-based adoption advocacy group. It's no surprise to find that this has sparked a great deal of controversy on both a local and national level.
According to the campaign's Web site, the underlying message behind the advertisement refers to statistical data that suggests that black women in the state of Georgia have a disproportionate amount of abortions when compared to other groups of women.
This is true. According to the Center for Disease Control, even though African Americans represent only about 30% of Georgia's population, over 57% of the state's abortions were performed on African American women. It's also true that some early advocates of abortion, like Margaret Sanger, were connected to the eugenics movement and saw the operation as a way of limiting Black population growth.
However, what the Endangered Species Project fails to mention are the broader reasons behind abortion today.
Women's choice over whether and when to have children is complex, including many unintended pregnancies resulting from inadequate sex education, the difficulty of raising children as child care and other services are cut, and poverty (recent data revealed that the median wealth for single Black women is only $5!)
This information goes largely unheard in the debate, and the people of Atlanta are instead subjected to racist and sexist messages like the ones presented in the billboards.
But beyond these factors is the most important consideration: the right of all women to control their own bodies. This cynical effort to highlight Black abortions (in order to chip away at reproductive care for all women) specifically denies Black women that right.
In a press release in response to the billboard campaign, Sistersong, an Atlanta-based women of color collective specializing in reproductive health issues, said that “the mere association between the born and unborn with endangered animals provides a disempowering and dehumanizing message to the Black community, which is completely unacceptable.”
Abortion and all types of reproductive health care are every woman's right -- and every woman's decision.