Ryan, stop trying to define our “Hood” (It's Black WomanHOOD)

Friday, July 26, 2013

By Jasmine Burnett

This blog is re-posted with permission from JasmineBurnett.com.

I am thoroughly unimpressed by you, Ryan Bomberger and your insidious campaign of shaming Black women and girls. Unfortunately, it didn’t stop with the disgusting racist and sexist billboards claiming, among other equally disturbing messages, “The Most Dangerous Place for an African American is in The Womb.” In fact, you went even further this time to attempt to compare the murder of Trayvon Martin to the death of Tonya Reaves, an African American woman who died from health complications after receiving an abortion at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Chicago, IL.  This billboard is equally as disrespectful as the first with the message, “She Wasn’t Wearing a Hoodie but was killed in the hood…Planned Parenthood.”  Mr. Bomberger what you’ve actually done is sign off on the distribution of tilted messages to advance the conservative Right-wing’s agenda in limiting access to quality health care and Black women’s ability to make our own decisions.
How dare you use Black women to advance your oppressive politics and pawn off our experiences as a brutal extension of your white supremacist patriarchy. You’re even slick enough to attempt to commodify our lived experiences in our “Hoods” across this country, while at the same time exploiting the sensitivities of Black Americans. All of this, while you have proven that your concern is not in any way connected to the realities of Black women and girls' lives. By presenting the story of Tonya Reaves as if she were unaware of her rights, or the procedure involved in her accessing abortion, you posit Black women as at once desperate and stupid and fall in line with the abortion restriction laws that you and anti-choice folks have called “informed consent.” Your position also presents her as someone who was unaware of her ability to make a decision about her life. To me, this implies that you feel you have the authority to think for a Black woman who is not here to speak for herself. Your tactics are a defamation of Black women’s character, and the fact that you receive millions of dollars to push this agenda rather than to address some of the real social ills that impact Black women’s lives proves you to be opportunistic at best and a coward at worst.
Your analysis on our lives and decisions presents us as individuals who are incapable of critical thought or reflection. How presumptuous and disrespectful of you! It is you, Ryan Bomberger, who is in the business of reproducing 19th century racist notions of Black womanhood that work to devalue our worth. I argue that we don’t need protection from Planned Parenthood, however we do need protection from you and your zealots that camp outside of Reproductive Health clinics, who also happen to be the same individuals who push policies to limit our access to housing, comprehensive health care, employment, child care, and education.  I believe you’re afraid for the focus to be directed on your true intentions for Black women and our families, which explains your constant pathological emphasis on Black womanhood.
Ultimately, you want to control us and we are NOT going to stand for that. Black women Reproductive Justice advocates are in the business of protecting and defending Black women’s reproductive dignity. It’s clear that you don’t share our values in the ways that we respect Black women and girls. Black women fighting to protect and defend our Reproductive Justice believe that people, community, spiritual and economic growth matters. You, on the other hand, focus on control and power over our spiritual and economic lives, which you attempt to dictate for your own selfish gains.
While Black women work to defend our dignity in this country and stand strong in ourselves, you create campaigns and build a culture that makes attaining that harder to achieve. Our messages are life sustaining for Black women, our families and our communities, while your messages and tactics are life depleting. But, you already know this right? I’m not telling you anything that is outside of your intentions: to negatively impact Black women’s lives and self-esteem concerning the decisions that we make for our lives and our families.
Black Reproductive Justice activists and our allies are creating a world where Black women can feel, give and receive authentic love. Your message is built out of a series of contradictions that are antithetical to the desires that we have for ourselves.  Your social policies aggressively disenfranchise Black women within the public infrastructure and deem us unworthy of meeting our basic needs. Your strategies also work to deny us the holistic construction of our lives and the ways in which we self-identify as Black women.  Considering that you’re not a Black woman what gives you the right to do that? I’ll answer for you: nothing. It doesn’t feel good to have someone speak for you or dictate your decisions, does it?
What you and those who support your rhetoric need to get clear about is that Black women in the Reproductive Justice movement are in the business of saving ourselves. For us this means standing for ourselves and the Black women and girls that you attempt to keep under the manipulative control of your patriarchal systems.  We fight back against anything or anyone that prohibits us, and our communities from being whole. Our goal is self-determination, period.
Jasmine Burnett is a contributor to Echoing Ida, a project of Strong Families. She is a dynamic leader with a mission to collect a set of contributions that will transform the way society thinks about Justice, Love & Diversity. Since 2009, Jasmine has been a Reproductive Justice leader and  grassroots organizer in New York City.  She is the Lead Organizer of New York Coalition for Reproductive Justice (NYC4RJ). Find her online at jasmineburnett.com and follow her on Twitter @blkfeminst.  

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