In late March, the racist anti-abortion group "Life Always" unveiled a new campaign in Chicago, using the face of our president to demonize and defame black motherhood.
"Every 21 minutes," the billboard read, "our next possible leader is aborted." Next to that text runs the very recognizable profile of our commander-in-chief. Get their message? It's not subtle: black women, they have no shame in saying, are destroying black communities. By choosing abortion, they're decimating our future (never mind that Obama's mother was white). Black women cannot be trusted, these ads clearly imply -- not with their children and families, and certainly not with decisions about their own bodies. Do not trust black women, Life Always implores you. Do not trust them.
It's a message anti-abortion advocates are getting very good at spreading -- and I for one have had enough of it. As a black mother, I take these ads personally -- and you know what, Life Always? I am offended. I am enraged. I am disgusted that it seems to you, and to all these folks who are willing to sell you ad space, just fine to call black women dangerous, incompetent and downright dumb, out in the open air.
To expose these children that you claim to care so much about to messages that come a hair's breath away from criminalizing their mothers. To assume we don't have the good common sense to make reasonable decisions about the limits of our bodies, and our families. To treat us so definitively like what we want and need and believe to be best just doesn't matter.
Do I imagine that the folks behind this ad much care about how angry and depressed these ads make me feel? Do I think they mind that seeing a billboard declaring "the most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb" – in my own hometown-- made me want to tear my hair out with shame and grief? Not really.
Because despite their use of the first person possessive to describe their relationship to the black community, what's agonizingly clear is that groups like Life Always don't really give a fig about black people – not about how they make us feel with their racist rhetoric, nor about what happens to black babies after they are born.
If they did care, they would support policies and programs that prevent pregnancies before they happen (and by that I mean policies and programs that are actually proven to work, as opposed to abstinence-only education). They'd stop cutting the guts out of programs that provide subsidized child-care and early education to low-income families, and stop trying to roll back provisions of health-care reform that provide a greater pool of families and children with the medical resources they need.
They'd be leading investigations into why black women die so much more often in childbirth than women of other ethnicities do, and why black babies are also more likely to suffer the same fate, within the first year of their lives.
But they do none of that. Instead, their goal is to undermine the credibility of humanity of people of color, with an eye to the election season that will quickly be upon us. Don't be fooled: as much as it is about anything else, this campaign is about convincing white Americans (who drive past these billboards, too) of the purported continued "pathology" of the black community – and now, in Chicago, they're tying the president directly to that insidious message, as a means of delegitimizing him, too.
That should be enough to make anyone who believes in equality and justice furious – regardless of how you feel about the very complex issue of abortion.
As for me, I'm tired of being insulted. I'm tired of waking up every morning to a new affront to my existence and intelligence. But I know that this only ends when we make it end. The moral arc of the universe may be long, and it may bend towards justice, but it does not bend without our help. So sign a petition to put an end to these menacing campaigns. Stand with an organization working to stop the insanity. Do something now -- before they come to take more than just our wombs.