By Pam Chamberlain, Senior Researcher, Political Research Associates.
The anti-abortion right wing is hard at work trying to drive a wedge into communities of color. A conspiracy theory -- which alleges that abortion amounts to genocide perpetrated by white people on minority communities -- is gathering steam. It started this summer in Birmingham and Atlanta, targeting African Americans, and quickly spread to the Midwest. Now the campaign is making its way to California to focus on the Latina community. The anniversary of Roe V. Wade this month is a good time to reflect on this disinformation effort and to take action against it.
Mark Crutcher, a white anti-abortion activist (and associate of Priests for Life president Fr. Joe Pavone) can really pull old ghosts out of the closet. The president of the "pro-life" media center Life Dynamics has produced a documentary film, Maafa 21, that rekindles the flames of conspiracy thinking about black genocide.
Using black voices as narrators, this two-hour film argues that wealthy white elites in America have a hidden racial agenda that began the day slaves were freed and is now based on the racist Eugenics movement from the early 20th century, best exemplified, they incorrectly say, by Planned Parenthood. The plan they seek to expose is the encouragement of abortion within the black community as a form of population control, to enlist African Americans as willing dupes in their own genocide.
As a new investigative video series on GRITtv, called Conspiracy Tactics, proves, this is a rewarmed and discredited argument. It was pulled up again for Crutcher's own hidden racial agenda. He plays on real fears of a community worried about population control. Crutcher's film plays on stereotypes of white powerbrokers as rich elites who in their positions of power would prefer to eradicate the black population than to figure out how to deal with "the Negro Problem."
Maafa 21 skillfully presents half-truths, and the continuous background music relies on an ominous, scary thumping in the bass. The filmmakers' agenda is not really to educate African Americans but to drive a racial wedge in that community in order to stigmatize black women who choose to have abortions and to heighten black support for the predominantly white Christian Right anti-abortion crusade.
Crutcher manages to develop his argument without a single reference to God, even from the several black pastors he showcases, demonstrating that a secular opposition to abortion can be created from the remnants of past debates within the black community.
Another tactic, also promoted by mainly white organizations, is a billboard campaign spreading across the country that targets black women who choose abortion with the message, "Black children are an endangered species." This campaign is touted by Priests for Life through their spokesperson Alveda King, Dr. Martin Luther King's niece, an anti-abortion advocate. According to Atlanta-based SisterSong, a women-of-color reproductive justice advocacy group, both these approaches are evidence of a campaign to increase anti-abortion activity in the African-American community by calling up an image of black genocide. The racialized argument even extends in this case to black women who are praised for choosing life by giving a child up for adoption.
A third project was a summer bus tour called "the Pro-Life Freedom Ride," the most blatant attempt by Priests for Life to appropriate the rhetoric and powerful emotional pull of the civil rights movement for anti-abortion purposes. When the bus tour unloaded after its ride from Selma to Atlanta, the riders revealed themselves to be almost entirely white Priests for Life supporters.
Three anti-abortion tactics aimed at the African-American communities need everyone's attention, not just because they are irresponsible pieces of propaganda but because they insult black women and disingenuously use black "front" people to build support for a cornerstone of the white Christian Right--opposition to abortion.
This convergence of opportunistic campaigns targeting African Americans but largely designed and controlled by white anti-abortion activists would look ridiculous if it didn't appear to be having an impact. Fortunately, black women and their allies have been on the offensive with all of these projects, calling them out and responding to being insulted with responses that have been heard across the nation. SisterSong in Atlanta is a model for feminist activism within communities of color that we all can emulate.