September 2017 Archives

slandering Sanger

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My activity on Pinterest occasionally draws a barrage of various un- or ill-informed comments, which can take some effort to rebut. Every once in a while, I want to share my research here--as in this instance--so that its presence online is not dependent upon the whims of Pinterest.

Right-wing hatred of reproductive healthcare (especially birth control and abortion) falls most heavily on women's groups, and particularly on women who dare to be leaders. Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood are the predominant examples, as in this instance of conservative attempts to bring racism, the KKK, and Nazis into their argument via mendacity and misdirection. Rewire debunks some "False Narratives of Margaret Sanger," beginning by noting that "Sanger was pro-birth control and anti-abortion," and making this simple observation:

...whether or not Planned Parenthood had its roots in anti-Blackness is irrelevant in a discussion of the services that Planned Parenthood provides in 2015, ranging from abortion care to prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, to Pap smears and other forms of cancer screening.

The "targeting" allegation is easily dismissed--"It is simply false that Planned Parenthood is targeting Black women by setting up clinics primarily in Black neighborhoods:"

A broader analysis https://www.guttmacher.org/article/2014/06/claim-most-abortion-clinics-are-located-black-or-hispanic-neighborhoods-false conducted by the Guttmacher Institute in 2011 based on data available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that fewer than one in ten abortion providers overall are located in neighborhoods where more than half of residents are Black.

20170917-abortionproviders.png

Also, "it is simply untrue that Margaret Sanger wanted to exterminate the Black race. This is a flat-out lie. Yet it is one that is repeated ad nauseum, both by anti-choice activists and the politicians who support them, most recently Ben Carson." The piece continues:

In her seminal book Killing the Black Body, Dorothy Roberts points out that leaders in the Black community actually welcomed Sanger's birth control agenda in the 1930s, and even criticized it for not going far enough to serve Black people.

W. E. B. Du Bois, who was one of the first Black leaders to publicly support birth control and who worked closely with Sanger to advocate for it, even serving on the board of a clinic that Sanger opened up in Harlem, criticized the wider birth control movement because of its failure to address Black people's needs as well.

Sanger's 1926 speech at a KKK rally in Silver Lake NJ was addressed this way:

Certainly, many of the prominent eugenicists with whom Sanger worked were virulently racist [but] so long as eugenicists continued to disseminate information about birth control, she didn't appear to care about their reasons for doing so. (Notably, many prominent eugenicists at the time didn't believe that all Black people were unfit, but rather they believed in "selective migration"--that the intelligent and desirable Black people tended to migrate to the North, leaving the less intelligent Black people behind.)

Snopes' look at Sanger and the KKK is just as brutal for the right-wing slanderers. Sanger wrote this about her KKK speech:

"Never before had I looked into a sea of faces like these. I was sure that if I uttered one word, such as abortion, outside the usual vocabulary of these women they would go off into hysteria. And so my address that night had to be in the most elementary terms, as though I were trying to make children understand."

As the Rewire piece bluntly states of Sanger, "to hear anti-choice zealots tell it, she was the American version of Hitler, proposing a 'final solution' to the 'Black question.' This is nonsense." So is the rest of the Right's genocidal implication:

In fact, the Nazis were not fans of Sanger. They even burned her books, as Gerald V. O'Brien points out in his article, "Margaret Sanger and the Nazis: How Many Degrees of Separation." Moreover, as Amita Kelly writing for NPR recently pointed out, "Sanger herself wrote in 1939 that she had joined the Anti-Nazi Committee 'and gave money, my name and any influence I had with writers and others, to combat Hitler's rise to power in Germany.'"

Back in 2015, NPR debunked candidate Ben Carson's remarks about Sanger, when he said that "I know that she believed in eugenics, and that she was not particularly enamored with black people." Carson continued by commenting that "one of the reasons you find most of their clinics in black neighborhoods is so that you can find a way to control that population:"

I think people should go back and read about Margaret Sanger who founded this place -- a woman Hillary Clinton by the way says that she admires. Look and see what many people in Nazi Germany thought about her." [addressed above in the Rewire piece]

NPR does a good job handling the nuances of eugenics:

Eugenics was a discipline, championed by prominent scientists but now widely debunked, that promoted "good" breeding and aimed to prevent "poor" breeding. The idea was that the human race could be bettered through encouraging people with traits like intelligence, hard work, cleanliness (thought to be genetic) to reproduce.

As far as the allegations of racism are concerned, NPR dismisses them as well:

Her attitude toward African-Americans can certainly be viewed as paternalistic, but there is no evidence she subscribed to the more racist ideas of the time or that she coerced black women into using birth control. In fact, for her time, as the Washington Post noted, "she would likely be considered to have advanced views on race relations."

NPR easily disproved the targeting accusation by pointing out that "in 2013, 14 percent of its patients nationwide were black. That's nearly equal to the proportion of the African-American population in the U.S." Similarly, Politifact debunked Ben Carson's other 2015 claim (which was rated "False") that "Margaret Sanger [...] believed that people like me ["the black race"] should be eliminated, or kept under control." The piece points out that "Sanger was indeed a believer in eugenics, but the basic concept that humanity could be improved by selective breeding was an article of faith for many in the years before World War II:"

Winston Churchill, Herbert Hoover, Theodore Roosevelt, George Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells all supported the movement. African-American leader W. E. B. Du Bois backed many of its principles as well.

As the piece concluded, "It's a far cry to equate eugenics with advocating the elimination of black people." Continuing in that vein is this observation from Edwin Black, author of the eugenics history War Against the Weak: "Sanger was no racist. Nor was she anti-Semitic."

Finally, in 1966 Planned Parenthood gave its Margaret Sanger award to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The civil rights leader accepted, and sent his wife, Coretta, to accept. The speech he wrote for the occasion stated that "There is a striking kinship between our movement and Margaret Sanger's early efforts."

Herman Cain's similar remarks back in 2011 were also BS:

"When Margaret Sanger - check my history - started Planned Parenthood, the objective was to put these centers in primarily black communities so they could help kill black babies before they came into the world," Cain said during a talk in Washington, D.C., at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative group.

"It's planned genocide," Cain added.

"These facts don't come close to supporting Cain's claim," noted Politifact in their "Pants on Fire" assessment. They also wrote that "we found no evidence that Sanger advocated - privately or publicly - for anything even resembling the 'genocide' of blacks, or that she thought blacks are genetically inferior."

Sanger's first birth control clinic opened in 1916 in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., which was mostly Irish and Jewish.

When she did open a Harlem clinic in the early 1930s, about half of its patients were white. Members of the black establishment, including DuBois and black newspaper the Amsterdam News, supported it. This was hardly the pro-genocide camp.

"Why would Sanger try to destroy a race of people by giving them access to the very thing she thought could make life better?" they ask. That's another question that the Right's propagandists will never answer--because it demolishes yet another of the logical fallacies underpinning their argument.

We liberals (myself included, obviously) need to do a better job of getting conservatives to stick to the subject (PP "targeting" in this case) until their errors are apparent--even if not admitted. The sort of misdirection which I decried in the Pinterest comment thread is the easiest way for them to avoid acknowledging their errors, because they've learned to just keep lying, thereby fomenting fresh outrage while ignoring their factual errors.

We can't let them keep getting away with it; the integrity of the public square depends upon it.

poly acceptance

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Anna Fitzpatrick discusses our growing acceptance of polyamory by way of describing the genesis of the classic book about non-monogamy, The Ethical Slut:

Both Easton and Hardy identified as queer and polyamorous, and Easton wanted to reclaim the word slut. They combined their own experiences with both casual sex and open marriages, navigating orgies and battling jealousy. In 1997, under Hardy's own indie sex-ed publishing house Greenery Press, they published The Ethical Slut: A Guide to Infinite Sexual Possibilities. It would go on to sell 200,000 copies.

The word polyamory had barely existed at that time, having been "credited to pagan priestess Morning Glory Ravenheart Zell in 1990." Fitzgerald continues by noting that:

The 20th anniversary edition of The Ethical Slut, out September 15th, has been significantly updated and expanded from its humble debut, including sections to poly pioneers, black poly activism and yes, shifting attitudes towards polyamory within a new generation. They acknowledge that millennials reading the book today will not have been raised in the same context that Hardy and Easton were - before the sexual revolution, when saving oneself for marriage was considered the norm.

"As polyamory is treated less like a novelty and more of a valid relationship model," writes Fitzpatrick, "modern entertainment is learning to reflect that:"

In the eight-episode web series Unicornland, Annie (Laura Ramadei) is trying to explore her sexuality after the dissolution of her marriage. She does this by "unicorning" - the term given to women who join couples in bed for threesomes. Every three- to seven-minute episode introduces Annie to a new couple: straight, lesbian, kinky, longterm married couples looking to spice up their sex life. It depicts one very specific subset of polyamory, but in doing so manages to explore much of the richness and complexities of modern relationships that go ignored in most mainstream media.

It's certainly more representative of poly life than something like Big Love, eh?

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