Earlier in the semester, we have had class discussion about racial health disparities. We’ve discussed many of the ways racial experiences determine biological and social health of pregnant women, mothers, and infants. I briefly mentioned in class that the killing of black youth and young men by police officers could be a direct stressor to black mothers or soon-to-be mothers. The recent murders of black men and children (including Tamir Rice, age 12) and the failure of the justice system to indict their murderers is a violation of reproductive freedom, which includes the ability to choose to parent. Every mother is entitled to raise her child a safe environment. No mother should ever have to watch her child be murdered for existing and then watch his killer walk free. No woman should be afraid to become a mother out fear of bringing a child into a racist, violent system that will target him as a thug, a predator or a criminal.
Reflecting over the failure to indict Darren Wilson over the past week has caused me to wonder why some lives matter and why some don’t matter to our government. This question is connected to our last class discussion about what causes a political issue to receive attention or not. The murder of Michael Brown and the Ferguson protests have certainly gained attention in the media. But action against racial police violence has not received agency in our government. People are putting themselves in danger to protest racial injustice just as they have been doing for decades, but the government is taking little action. I believe that the answer to my initial question lies in century-old institutional racism that values white lives over black lives.
This article was posted in August, five days after Michael Brown was fatally shot. The following quote resonates with me conceding the connection of reproductive justice to racial justice:
It is here where the question of “Whose lives are valued?” enters into the picture, for how cheap must a life be if millions of onlookers can think that stolen cigars justify a murder? Can we have reproductive justice if the children of some are considered inherently less valuable by several orders of magnitude? If the life of a child or a young man or woman is so cheap that misunderstandings, small mistakes, or false accusations justify their deaths, what can then be said about the rights they enjoyed in life and how valuable they turned out to be?
Reproductive justice is about more than the right to choose whether or not to be pregnant. It includes ensuring that all lives are valued and each person has access to safety- free from violence against the body or livelihood. This can be applied globally; people deserve the right to reproductive justice no matter where they live, how much money they have, or where they stand in society. To ensure that reproductive justice is reached, we must work to dissolve the disproportionate violence faced by people of color and poor people. We must dissolve the devaluation of lives based on color. In America, we must start by protecting black lives from systematic violence and attaining justice for the lives that have already been lost.
This post laid out some very crucial things to consider when it comes to issues of race and childbirth. The social construct of race and its implications influence our lives in many ways. Some of the most damaging ways are psychologically. The mind is a very powerful thing, so powerful that it can begin to have affects on our body. I think the racial climate in America is a perfect example of the negative ways ones health can diminish simply for existing in your own skin. Its a terrible thing to hear a black woman express fear of bring a child into the world for fear that they will be leaving before her. As a person of color myself, I am unsure whether the US is a place where I want to be when I start my family. If our children can just be gunned down in the street and a jury can’t agree that there was even possibility of a crime being committed what kind of person would I be to willfully subject my children to that? Black mothers are afraid for their back sons, black sisters are afraid for their black brothers, and black boys are afraid for their black lives. This is not the way it should be in the year of 2014, there are systemic problems that needs to be addressed and dealt with. First we must start with making the murder of innocent black lives a crime. No one is asking for these officers to be strung up in the streets or unjustly dealt with, all we ask is that they do actually be dealt with. You should not be able to kill someone and it be okay because you wore a uniform and badge while doing it. I agree with you that we need justice; we need it now.
Thank you for your response, Ugochi. I’m sorry to hear that you feel that way about raising a family here, but that fear is incredibly valid. I was thinking a lot about my racial identity while I was writing this post. As a white person, I will never know that fear. However, I will speak out in favor of bringing the white people who are committing these crimes against humanity to justice. You’re absolutely right; it’s devastating that people have to work so hard for a crime to even be dealt with.