No Safe Place

racism, white supremacy culture

I started to write about how I don’t feel safe in Trump’s America but the truth is this election has made me say out loud I have never felt safe in America. The truth is there is no safe space for black people and there never has been. For me growing up in a majority white community and when I said majority white I mean being the one little spot of brown, my so-called safe space was the illusion of post-racialness. That bubble didn’t last for long. People were sure to put me in my place the first time that somebody’s white child had a crush on me or l on them. When one dares to be a little too smart, too pretty or to good at anything someone lets you know, “you’re smart-for a black girl” “you’re pretty-for a black girl”or my favorite “l didn’t know black people could do that”.

White supremacy is insidious and long before I knew the name for it there it was. Ever present always there lurking. Just waiting to make your day worse. Waiting to block your sunshine. Waiting to knock you off your ladder to success. Waiting to tell you your beauty isn’t the standard. Waiting just to make sure you know you are not welcome. Pretty soon you’re not a child and it’s housing you don’t get or assumptions about your parenting. Oh don’t get me wrong my life is full of so-called good white people you know the ones the ones who love me but made sure to tell me how they really felt about interracial dating. The ones who like me but seem to never hire black people. The ones who make sure to tell me but you’re not like those other black people it’s almost like you’re not really black. We have never been able to out run racism or the violence that comes because of it. The bullying, the fights, the police harassment and the systemic oppression.

For years folks have said if you just reach out and talk to people who don’t agree with you things will change I call bullshit. Just integrate schools and sing kumbaya and teach that all MLK stood for was “l have a Dream” everything will be fine. I grew up with nothing but white people until I was 14 and mostly white people after that and guess what many of those white people who love me and my children so much voted for Donald Trump. They could do so telling themselves their conscience was clear because they had a “black friend”. They had a black friend that they stood by when she was a single mom who they took pity on who even though they were better than in their own mind they were good enough to hang out with because they were “good white people” who look past color. They didn’t see color they didn’t see it so much that they make sure to talk about it all the time about how they have a black friend.

Folks it’s not enough to get white kids diverse friends if you won’t talk about whiteness. It’s not enough for you to say you don’t see color. I need you to see me all of me black me, queer me, woman me poor me. All. Of. Me. l need you to hear my pain and actually listen when l speak. You need to teach your children, friends, family and yourselves about anti blackness. You need to fight for anti-racism (not colorblindness) that’s what we need you to do. That’s what I need you to do. Don’t ask me to do it for you. You do it. You save white people. Stop asking us to do it.

Racism didn’t just suddenly find us in this election. lt has always been with us. It is the cornerstone of our country. It is who we are it has always defined us. The only difference is that in the last 50 years it became impolite to speak it and illegal to discriminate in many ways (on paper at least). Yet when a black man became president white people really felt like they were losing their power because Latinos are growing in numbers and black people, Native Americans and even WOMEN were protesting for their rights again.  Suddenly they felt they needed to say all the things that they’d only been saying in private or when they thought we weren’t listening.

No America this is not a new problem. This is not new anger. This is not new white hatred. This is old unsolved unspoken  undealt with leftover racist bigotry ethnocentric white supremacist trash thinking that we need to do away with. So  folks now is the time to figure out who you are. Do we work to confront these beliefs in real ways? Do we engage real truth and racial conciliation or once again ignore the truth in favor a fake politeness and fake equality? Equality on paper, equality in law books but not in function. That is a decision only we can collectively decide before it’s too late.

I Almost died Due To A Catholic Hospital Practicing “Fetal Personhood”

Abortion, Reproductive Justice, Uncategorized

**I originally posted this on my former blog the intelligent statistic speaks  I have edited it for clarity since it is some of my early writing.

*Note-I was motivated to write this in 2011 due to the upcoming ballot initiative to add a “fetal personhood” amendment to the Mississippi constitution. It was the first time I shared my story publicly. I started sharing it again the next year because it applied to HB 1196 the “heartbeat bill“. That bill had been killed but Rep.Andy Gipson stuck modified language in SB-2771 “Katie’s law” a child murder bill, (which led to the bill failing to pass). Although there is was exception for “life” of the mother my situation wasn’t considered life threatening  emergency until it was almost too late – MEDICINE SHOULD NOT BE PRACTICED BY LAWMAKERS AND RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALISTS WRITING LAWS*

In the recesses of my mind there are so many experiences that make it impossible for me to support fetal personhood and abortion bans. No one ever thinks that one day they will be sitting down to tell the story of how they almost died due to being denied an abortion during a miscarriage. These are the stories you stuff deep in your soul and keep to yourself. Yet I feel every story like mine has to be told so that the lies of how the thinking behind personhood won’t hurt any women and will only save “babies” can be exposed.

I was 18 years old, a wife, a mother of beautiful twin girls. I was also solidly anti choice. During the 12-13th week of my second pregnancy I awoke in the middle of the night to the feeling of wetness between my thighs. A quick inspection found a pink discharge. So I rushed to the hospital ER.  After being given a once over I was told to go home, rest and return if I began to bleed. “You may be having a miscarriage but you aren’t right now” they said.

By mid morning I was bleeding; heavily. This time they gave me an ultrasound. They let me know I was indeed having a miscarriage. I was informed the fetus had not developed normally. The embryo had actually stopped growing at 8-9 weeks, but since they detected a faint heartbeat and this was a Catholic hospital they could not do a D&C (*cough* abortion). There policy is NO ABORTIONS. I was again instructed to go home, rest and wait. At this point I, an uninsured low wage worker had made 2 visits to the ER and could see the bills piling up.

Within a few hours of returning home I was experiencing bad cramping, passing big blood clots and bleeding so heavily that I took my young daughters diapers to catch the blood, a normal pad was not enough. I was afraid if I went back to the hospital they weren’t going to do anything. Frankly, we didn’t have the money for another fruitless visit. When you have basically been patted on the head and told to go home twice it’s easy to feel that way. So I carried on with my day as normal. I was sitting on the phone with a friend at my mother’s apartment next door when I fell out of my chair and passed out. All can remember the feeling of the cold floor and my husband’s voice saying “oh my God wake up” while my grandmother yelled “call an ambulance”. By the time the ambulance arrived I was going into shock and my veins were collapsing making starting an IV hard. I was in and out of consciousness on the ride to the hospital. At that moment I had no idea how much blood I had lost or that I was really close to death. I was well aware by the time we arrived at the hospital. I could feel it and the reactions of staff confirmed it.

It took five tries to start another IV line for the blood transfusion I was now in need of, in fact the doctor had to come and do it. My most vivid memory is of my family doctor (a former Ob/Gyn), who was now working his ER shift, yelling in the hall “WHO THE FUCK SENT HER HOME! She could have died!” After they stabilized me a bit I was rushed to emergency surgery for a D&C (abortion they just call it by another name so you feel better) to remove any remaining tissue from my body and stop me from continuing to bleed uncontrollably. It was to be performed by the same Ob/Gyn who had sent me home, twice.

As I was about to be put under I said to the anesthesiologist “please don’t let him kill me”. All I wanted in that moment was to get home to my little twin girls. After surgery I was placed on the maternity floor. The nurse on duty found me crying and said “don’t worry, you’re young you can have more”. Not only was there no compassion for my experience but no acknowledgment that I had just avoided death. After a day in the hospital and almost a week off work my life slowly returned to normal. What angers me is it didn’t have to be like that.

Luckily sometime while I was bleeding to death at home that day I passed the embryo. I often wonder what would have happened if I had not. Would they have even have saved my life or would they have let me die due to a non viable “person” inside of me? Never once did this hospital tell me I could go somewhere else, somewhere non-religious, somewhere that didn’t believe fetuses are people and abortion is murder. They cared more about a 13 week non progressing embryo than me, a living breathing woman. A wife, mother, daughter, and granddaughter and most important a PERSON! A woman who went on to “choose life” 5 more times. Somehow I was not part of the equation only my pregnancy was. To them I lost my rights when I became pregnant apparently even my right to quality healthcare.

I hadn’t thought much about that day until recently because people keep saying that initiative 26 aka the personhood bill will not change the way women are treated by their doctors. My experience with a hospital governed by the same beliefs that this bill is based on says otherwise and I am not alone and studies prove it. I’ll never understand what made a nonviable pregnancy that could not be saved more worthy than living breathing thinking ME. My life should have mattered. My children needing a mother should have mattered. My future should have mattered.

 I think about the consequences for women and their access to birth control. Young women like my daughter who isn’t on birth control to prevent pregnancy but because she has PMDD which causes such profound mood swings before her period we call it “hell week”. Women who like me have fibroids, which led to my hysterectomy, but the first line of treatment often is birth control pills. Women trapped in abusive relationships who use birth control to gain back control of their lives so they are not trapped in their relationship forever. Just some facts women who are in domestic violence relationships are very likely to have birth control sabotage be apart of their abusers arsenal of control. Abusers know that a woman is less likely to leave if pregnant and even if she does he will have access to her for the next eighteen years of her life through her child. Women who just don’t want to have children, ever and that’s ok. All the trans* and non gender conforming people who need access. The families who want to space and control their fertility.

I wonder why when I talk to people about 26 women no matter if they agree or not seem willing to listen but men are angry and loud in their opposition to women having abortion as an option or saying that our bodies matter. I have heard many comments about women needing to live with the consequences of their actions. Even going so far as to declare pregnancies that happen due to rape or incest acts of God that women should be made to suffer through because it’s God’s will. There is a language of divine intervention and women knowing their places as baby carriers. No one should be made to gestate unless they want to regardless of how their pregnancy occurred.

If you pause to think about it it’s a scary thought. It made me think about the “personhood” movement as a whole and how I don’t believe that the consequences to reproductive choices outside of abortion are an accident or collateral damage. It is by design. Women with choices is a scary concept to many people especially cis hetero men. Not being able to shame women through evidence of our sexual behavior doesn’t make them very happy either. When you take away abortion, birth control, and access to IVF many of the things that the people behind “personhood” dislike the most can no longer happen. Women will NOT have control over their reproductive choices. the last option, condom use, will be primarily in the hands of men.

History should tell use how well that works. Same sex couples, trans and single people will not be able to use IVF to create a family outside of conservative religious norms. People will not be able to avoid stigma or shame brought on by unplanned pregnancy and have healthier sex lives (especially teens).

No I don’t think it is an accident that this amendment will have the power to do many things that the conservative movement wants to do. Initiative 26 essentially has the power to turn back the clock on reproductive choices for ALL families. I can’t help but think……….. how 1950s of them.

The Other Dr. King

racism, white supremacy culture

As I commemorated the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, I thought about the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. we rarely hear about. We have allowed people to define King with one speech: “I Have a Dream.”

The speech was important and powerful. When I was a young girl, I copied the whole speech and carried it every day. But Dr. King issued many challenges to Americans that we remain silent about. In a lesser-known speech, “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution,” King said it was time to develop a world perspective, stating: “The world in which we live is geographically one. The challenge that we face today is to make it one in terms of brotherhood.”

Instead of the warm, fuzzy, let’s-all-hold-hands-and-everything-will-be-fine Dr. King that some have led us to believe existed, he understood that racism is complex and woven into our nation’s fabric.

“It is an unhappy truth that racism is a way of life for the vast majority of white Americans, spoken and unspoken, acknowledged and denied, subtle and sometimes not so subtle—the disease of racism permeates and poisons a whole body politic,” King said. “And I can see nothing more urgent than for America to work passionately and unrelentingly—to get rid of the disease of racism.”

This is the same speech in which he famously called Sunday mornings “the most segregated hour” in America. That hasn’t changed much.

King also spoke about the myths around race and race relations that are hindering our progress. The first myth he called out is still with us, too: “One is the myth of time. It is the notion that only time can solve the problem of racial injustice. And there are those who often sincerely say to the Negro and his allies in the white community, ‘Why don’t you slow up? Stop pushing things so fast. Only time can solve the problem. And if you will just be nice and patient and continue to pray, in 100 or 200 years, the problem will work itself out.'”

One moment in time should never define someone. Many prefer Dr. King, the dreamer. People don’t want to know about the Poor People’s Campaign that he was working on when he was assassinated or his anti-war views. The American public doesn’t want to hear any so-called radical or militant words from a black leader they have decided is “safe” on race relations, so Dr. King’s message has to be edited, refined and repackaged for easy mass consumption.

It’s OK to have a dream—just make sure you’re awake for the revolution.

Originally published September 4, 2013 in the Jackson Free Press 

Fat Shaming is Real and Harmful

Uncategorized

Originally posted 7/21/13 on my former blog

Today something happened to me that rarely does-something on social media triggered memories and made me cry. I had just woke up and opened my Facebook page and there it was a picture of a plus size women in a club with the caption “this bitch killed my vibe”.  It was on a close friend’s page so I posted several comments asking what it was this woman had done that was so offensive that she needed to be publicly shamed on the web. Eventually my friend posted that she had hit on him while he was with his girlfriend (oh the horror). I then asked did he post the pictures of skinny women who hit on him in clubs too. Not surprisingly, I didn’t get a response. I decided to flip though a few more of his pics and there was a picture of a older chubby woman sitting alone eating at Raising Cane’s (it’s a chicken fingers place) the caption read “this is what I had to see at lunch”. That picture and caption made me angry and it made me cry.

outside the state capitol -FABULOUS
2006 Miss Phi Beta Sigma Pageant at JSU-GORGEOUS!

I am a plus size woman. I am not ashamed or embarrassed by my size. In fact I wrote a column about this very kind of thing. I just didn’t expect to see it from a close friend. While I am confident in who I am it doesn’t stop the days when people say cruel and nasty things about my weight. The attacks come from strangers, family, friends, co-workers, and health care professionals.

Like the ER doctor who needed to give me a pelvic exam. I was in severe pain and he had already treated me like I was drug seeking because hey I’m young, black and have medicaid. He told me “I think you might be too heavy for that gurney and make it tip. Can you scoot down and see”. When I-naked from the waist down covered in a sheet-did scoot down and it tipped he shouted into the hall “Yeah she’s too big we need the OTHER gurney.” To this day I don’t understand why he couldn’t just get the other one to begin with. Oh wait because I’m fat therefore less than human. I heard him from the hall shortly after the nurse asked “what’s up with room 4” his reply “oh Roberts there’s nothing wrong with her I’m just waiting for her tests so I can send her home.” He had decided when he saw me there was nothing wrong with me. He did however take time to lecture me about my weight.

So I expect maybe people can understand why when I see people fat shame on social media often I recognize myself in those posts. Sometimes I see the people I love.

Mum and I-Dynamic Duo

See I am the child of larger woman. When I talk about fat shaming I don’t only speak from a place of my own pain I speak from a place of watching strangers be unspeakably cruel to my mother for my entire life. Not only was I teased about my mother’s weight but we were constantly stared at in public. There were always comments, gestures and general rudeness. There were the people who thought they meant well “you have such a pretty face it’s a shame you’re so fat“. Then there were the people who were just cruel “who got her pregnant?”. There were the racists “of course she has a black kid who else would want her“. You know because as a white woman she must have been cast off to a lesser black man since she’s fat. There were the people who thought my mom ate my food and that’s why I was thin.  So much so they openly accused her of child neglect. Oh and the people with no boundaries at all who would take things out of her cart at the store and say “you don’t need that”.

None of those people bothered to get to know my mother. They didn’t find out that she was a great person who read to me everyday, took me to the library every week, sewed her own clothes, is a professional level seamstress, that she has a beautiful singing voice or any of the other things that makes her a awesome person. They just saw her size and deemed her unworthy to exist in their space (I am still scratching my head on this concept). She was automatically less than they were in their eyes.

Now I’m a mother of seven children, six of them girls. I cringe every time my daughter who is a size 8 says she is getting “fat”. Every time some one tells one of my girls they are “too big”. When my 10 year old uttered the words “I think I need to go on a diet” it crushed my heart-she is thin and absolutely beautiful. When asked why she said “because dieting is healthy”. Super double facepalm mommy fail on the-healthy eating is healthy-NOT dieting.  I want them to know and understand they are all beautiful active young healthy women. Their bodies are perfect the way they are.

It all takes me back to the first time I drank Slim Fast because I felt I needed to lose weight when I was 7. The first time I counted calories when I was nine. The big one is first time I started not eating and throwing up my food to help control my weight at 12. At 12 I was a figure skater and figure skaters can’t be fat.

4th place in skating competition-age 13

So  I worked really hard at not being fat. I also spent a lot of time hating my body. Worrying that I would get fat like my mom because then I would lose the freedom that comes from not being fat. All that got me was mentally and physically ill. I hide my self hate and my activities. My mother doesn’t even know now I use to purge that’s how secretive I was. That beautiful girl in the above picture felt fat and ugly everyday. I wish I could reach back and tell her that her body was fine. That this is how a society obsessed with fat shaming and thinness makes young women feel.

For my daughters and my son I fight fat shaming. I do it for them because I do not want them to live with the pain of self hate or miss the company of wonderful people due to size bias. Clearly body shaming doesn’t only affect women yet it is harsher on women so for me it’s a huge feminist issue. How am I a free person when I can’t dress how I wish and freely go about my life without being the target of hate and contempt?

My challenge- the challenge for all of us is to ask why we feel the need to judge the appearance of others. What inside of us makes us so contemptuous of other people’s bodies? We need not kid ourselves that it is about fat people’s health because not all fat people are unhealthy. If it were about health people would harass others for a whole host of unhealthy behaviors-for the most part we don’t. Let’s stop acting like it’s about what is morally/socially acceptable as far as fashion. Since if I put two pics up of women in the same revealing outfit one thin-one plus size, the thin one may be slut shamed the plus size one will absolutely be body shamed and slut shamed. The outfit will be deemed absolutely indecent for one not for the amount of flesh showing but the amount of fat flesh showing. Here in lies the problem. Who are any of us to say things like “no one wants to see that”-someone does. Lastly, I am FAT if you have a problem with that YOU deal with it- I’m fine.

Stop Talking To Me About Eating Healthy On Food Stamps

Income Inequality

I started to write a post after seeing yet another poverty shaming meme in regard to food stamps or SNAP and healthy eating. Then I remembered I had written about it already on Natural In A Snap a few years a go. So here it is. 

As I sit to write this post I think back to the first posts that I wrote. How idealistic I was. How I thought that if I just tried hard enough if I just pinched my SNAP pennies eating healthy would be, well a snap. It is possible to live differently. It is not easy and having a dose of privilege is a big help too. Now as all this controversy swirls around regarding the proposed cuts to food stamps I want to share some simple truths with anyone who is willing to read them.

My family eats as healthy as we can. It’s not because I have some high ideals or because I’m morally better than other food stamp recipients. Frankly, it’s because I’m sick. I started on this journey because one day while sitting in my doctor’s office after being diagnosed with fibromyalgia my doctor said “I can’t guarantee that what you eat causes what’s wrong with you but you need to start eating as organic as possible”. This wasn’t totally new information to me, by then I worked at a natural food co-op. The question was how do I afford it? We were having a hard enough time just trying to have balanced meals (that was something we had committed to years before). Now people will tell you that that’s a fiction. That if poor people really want to they can eat healthy even vegetarian or vegan. They will point to studies and week long experiments that say people can eat ‘healthy’ on a food stamp budget. I am telling you my lived experience says that they are wrong.

Here’s why- good food costs money! I have always said that on this blog. Yes there are ways to maximize your budget. However, when you are working with three dollars per person per day for your food budget please explain to me how you are supposed to have a healthy balanced meal three times a day with snacks. Not to mention meals devoid of processed foods and unhealthy foods. (Please don’t say coupons because while helpful just nope and in Mississippi we pay taxes on all food purchases which means if you use coupons you must pay tax in cash on them)

The reason I say devoid of processed foods is because I keep hearing and seeing people say poor people who were on SNAP should not be “allowed” to buy “bad food” or “junk food”. Let me share a secret in order for my family to eat healthy I have to be strict about how much we eat, what we eat, and no junk snacks. That means literally telling my kids they can’t have second helpings or giving them my food meaning I don’t eat (people are probably surprised by that because I’m fat but my kids eat far more than I do). That’s because a healthy food budget doesn’t allow for the cheap things that keep poor people full.

Something I thought about the other day while watching liberals on Facebook discuss how people like me shouldn’t buy this or that is how often the fights my kids have are about  food. I mean that. My kids often fight about food. Don’t get me wrong my children are not starving they are often still hungry (starving and not full are two different things). This is what happens when fruit is a luxury and second helpings can be too. Candy in our house can start a riot not only because it’s rare but because once it’s gone it really is: gone. Someone actually thought I didn’t feed my kids once because my youngest often begs for the junk food she sees everyone else with.

I’m not sure if people realize that with three dollars a day people on SNAP who have food restrictions and dietary needs cannot meet them. People like my children who have food allergies. Which means food stamp staples like tuna and peanut butter are out of the question for them. People like my mother who has such complex needs I can’t even list them all. People like me who have fibromyalgia, interstitial cystitis, rheumatoid arthritis  and may have other autoimmune issues suspected whose very illness is impacted by diet.

We are the people who some people seem not to have compassion for only shame and contempt (epic side eye to you Eric Cantor). Thing is with the country in an economic downturn the likelihood of you knowing someone on food stamps is really high. The likelihood of you knowing someone who has benefited from food stamps in their lifetime is really high.

Far from the caricature of the “welfare queen” we are normal people most of us have jobs, we are good parents, we are caregivers, we are productive members of society. I am not sure what kind of people write off whole groups of other people as unworthy of having food. I will say if you are one of those people I’m not sure I want to know you.

So basically I just don’t want to hear nonsense. I don’t want to hear tired references to “welfare queen myths”. I don’t want to hear how if undeserving people weren’t on the program than deserving people could be. That’s not how it works. If you’re angry that the government hasn’t expanded of eligibility then say that. However, that is not the fault of current recipients that is governmental failure. Every time you blame other struggling people you are falling for the exact trap those in power want to use to divide and conquer us. The more they can get someone who is struggling to hate someone like me the less they will question our current systems failures. I don’t want to hear about how there is rampant fraud in the food stamp program because there’s not. I don’t want to hear anything that isn’t factually based or productive in the SNAP debate.

This debate can not be had devoid of facts and context because I am not a stereotype, my friends are not stereotypes, my children are not stereotypes, my disabled mother is not a stereotype, 45 million Americans are not stereotypes. We are people with names, families with needs. We deserve the minimum respect that people will have an honest fact-based debate about this issue impacting our live.

I Don’t Need To Be Reminded Not To Forget 9/11

Current Events

(Originally posted 9/11/13 at theintelligentstatisticspeaks.blogspot.com )

Today is the anniversary of 9/11 media outlets will spend the day trying to milk our country’s collective sorrow and pain for every bit of ratings it’s worth.

I can do without TV stations replaying a moment by moment, as it happened 9/11 remembrance. We can still remember without doing that. I don’t think it serves any function but to make us scared. The mass media likes scared. Capitalism likes scared. Scared people tend to buy things and stay glued to our TVs which means we watch commercials.

Well media I remember exactly how scared I was that day. So scared in fact that my children were running late for school and I decided to keep them home thinking the end of world was happening.

So scared I called one of my best friends Addison asking “what the hell is going on”.

I remember making my kids huddle on my bedroom floor with me for about a half hour as I had a panic attack. Yes I was THAT scared even though I was in Indiana. Not really a big terrorist target. Yet it felt like it was the end of the world and media helped make it feel that way.

No MSNBC and others I don’t need your yearly trigger. I don’t need Facebook and Twitter posts to tell me to “Never Forget”. I won’t forget nor do I need to see graphic photos to remember.

I do know since that time I have grown. I know that one act of terror doesn’t give us the right to hate or to blow up whole counties making innocent civilians and families feel the same pain as we did and still do.

I know I am not as sure as I once was that charging into countries to “teach them a lesson” is such a good idea. I am much more of a pacifist.

Today we can commemorate those lost without reliving our pain minute by minute. The lessons we need to take away from 9/11 happened leading up to that horrible day and in it’s aftermath. Lessons that in the wake of what is going on in Syria what we need to be even more focused on.

Rage, of the Black variety: A Critical Response to Maafa 21

Uncategorized

Since I have no desire to rewrite what is already well put together about this I’ll leave this here..

The Black Tongue

Right now I am incredibly pissed. I just returned from a viewing and discussion of Maafa 21, a heavily politicized and poorly constructed documentary that asserts that abortions, specifically those given by Planned Parenthood, are apart of a conspiracy – which allegedly stretches back to the time of Darwin – to destroy the Black community.

Before continuing, please stop and uncontrollably convulse and scream.

You’re welcome.

The film begins by vastly misrepresenting the American Eugenics movement’s development during the late 19th century. It asserts that the notions of superiority that were held by these Eugenicists only applied to Black people. This is false. Eugenicists believed that Blacks, Asians, Indigenous Americans, the Irish, “licentious women,” the mentally retarded, criminal, the “lazy,” homosexuals, the “indifferent” and basically everyone else that was not White, Christian, heterosexual, socially “normal,” and law abiding was somehow inferior and sought to prevent the dissemination of their…

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Dear Governor Bryant-Stop Pining For An America That Never Was

Classism

I wrote this when Phil Bryant made these comments in 2013 now in 2015 as he is adamantly refusing to fully fund education in Mississippi the video that prompted this letter is making the rounds on social media again. Thus I have polished it up and posted it her on FeministUppityandBlack.com just for y’all. Enjoy!

(This open letter is in response to comments Governor Phil Bryant made on June 4, 2013 saying that the decline in education is due to women working outside the home)

Dear Governor Bryant,

 I have a request for you and others like you-please stop mythologizing the 1950s housewife. I know, I know like many white middle/upper class males you may have warm fuzzy feelings of home and hearth when you think of  the “Leave it to Beaver” like existences of days past. However, many families never had those existences in fact most families that thought they did-did not. The veneer of 1950s perfection is part of white supremacy culture. It was only meant for white families and the maintenance of it’s existence rested on the backs of others.

Those cookies everyday after school and perfect laundry came at a cost. Not every 50s housewife was happy. Some women enjoy staying home many do not. Even those who feel joy in staying home need support and outlets outside of home and hearth. Women do indeed like to have options and choices beyond being baby factories who are tethered to the kitchen. We have identities beyond wife and mother. We are individual people. In fact that’s a big reason why second wave feminism happened Governor. I don’t know maybe you skipped that part of history.

Perhaps you also skipped the part of history where some mothers never had the option to stay at home or not to work. The legacy of Mississippi’s agricultural and slave holding past is that whether in the fields or as domestic help poor women-especially poor women of color have always worked. Many white 50s housewives you so adore Governor, and let’s be real white women are the women allowed to stay home in your reality, couldn’t have had it all together without the assistance of their black housekeepers and nannies. Black woman washed their clothes, cooked their meals, and helped raised their kids so they could attend to things like improving public schools and playing bridge. At the same time black women then and now are seen as incapable to care for our own children and blamed for being gone “too much” when working. Yet when low income black women stay home with our children we are labeled as “lazy” and teaching children “bad values”. (Then again we know how much you know about race relations in this state which is nothing)

Yes once upon a time some women stayed at home-mostly middle class white women. Now those days are gone and do you know what studies show? Children are fine. Children of working mothers are not worse off Governor. Children benefit from having mothers who are happy. Do you know what does harm children greatly though? Poverty! Poverty really harms children. Having two parents both working two jobs to get by and STILL needing SNAP that hurts families sir. As the Governor of one of the poorest states in the country I would think you would take some responsibility for that rather than blaming mothers for attempting to better their children’s lives by working to provide for them. If parents staying home is your concern what about your failure to provide better government supports for families that would make it possible for parent to be home more? What about YOUR failures to support working families so they can do more for their children? YOU could support things like a living wage, paid family leave, medicaid expansion, LGBT worker protections, FULLY FUND SCHOOLS and many other family friendly policies to make lives for Mississippi families better.

Lastly I must say I am confused because our state wants women to work,right? Poor women women that is. Mississippi believes poor women should always work. The state can’t seem to force poor women back to work fast enough after giving birth . In fact women on TANF have 6 to 12 weeks to go back to work. So much for that needing to be with your child thing. So which is it? Do you want women to work or not? If you want to stick to the myth of the 1950s housewife then you should go back to the old rationale of aid to single women with children, which was to ensure she could care for her child’s basic needs and stay home if needed.

See Governor it’s not easy to stick to outdated sexist ideals is it. So I am asking you to please stop. Stop scapegoating women for the failures of the state of Mississippi. More than that stop promoting an America that never was.

Sincerely,

A Black Mom Who Doesn’t Wish To Be In The 50s

I Hold My Son Close

Reproductive Justice

Originally published in the Jackson Free Press August 20, 2014

On the day in 2002 that I welcomed my only son into the world, I felt joy worthy of a Stevie Wonder song. When Ajani Andrew Michael made his debut at a little over 5 pounds, my heart skipped a beat, and the heavens seemed to open for just a moment before the dark clouds of worry rolled in.

My worry started immediately since my son was born just a little early. So like a disproportionate number of black children, he would have to fight a bit harder due to prematurity. As my handsome boy lay on my chest, skin-to-skin, struggling for every labored breath, my mind was already thinking about how hard life for him would be.

I worried if I had made a mistake by giving him an African name that means “he who is victorious in struggle.” I thought about the odds of him being tracked into special education before the fourth grade. I felt guilty for looking at him and hoping that while I loved the deep richness of his father’s dark skin, his likely lighter complexion would insulate him from some of the profiling that comes from being a black male in America.

As a community health worker, I knew that he had to beat the first-year infant-mortality odds for black babies. I sat thinking all of this as I told him how perfect and beautiful he was, before he was whisked away to the neonatal intensive-care unit.

Since Michael Brown’s killing in Ferguson, Mo., some have highlighted that the killing of young black men is a reproductive-justice issue. Reproductive justice is the right to have children, to not have children, and to parent children in safe and healthy environments. It is based in human rights, just like the right not to live in fear for your child’s life due to the effects of racism and oppression.

Black mothers do not yet have reproductive justice. If we choose to parent, we have a long list of things to protect our children from. We fight to keep them safe from health disparities, educational inequality and the school-to-prison pipeline—the list goes on. Racism and oppression don’t take holiday breaks, and neither do “normal” parenting worries like first steps, colds and grades.

Add to the list the impossible task of protecting our children from racial profiling—a danger that could lead to police gunning them down one day.

Ask my kids who mommy’s favorite is, and they will all say “Ajani.” Truth is, there are no favorites, but I do hold my son close. I know he faces a world that doesn’t actually see him when they look at him. They see a threat, a thug, a problem or a stereotype. Imagine what would have happened if the officer had, instead, seen Michael Brown that day. He might still be alive.

I Don’t Regret Helping My Daughter Get An Abortion

Abortion, Reproductive Justice

(This originally appeared on the Defending The Last Clinic blog September 5,2013 and my former blog The Intelligent Statistic Speaks-it has been edited since)

“It is always easier to fight for one’s principles than to live up to them”- Alfred Adler

It was a day I never thought would happen. I thought I had done everything to guard against it. Yet several months ago there I was hearing that my 15 year old daughter was pregnant.

It all seemed so surreal. How could this have happened to us? As I stood listening to her tell me the test was positive I struggled with the strong desire to scream and cry. In my mind my daughter knew better. She is the homeschooled daughter of the president of the state chapter of a national feminist organization. The first time she ever spoke at the capitol was at a joint Senate and House hearing on teen pregnancy. She was 13 and spoke about the need for comprehensive sex education. She and I along with her sister are clinic escorts. She knows all about birth control, condoms, and Plan B. She has always had knowledge about and access to contraception (despite barriers) as well as being encouraged to wait until she is older to have sex.

This was one of those moments in life when I was faced with living my beliefs. I had always said if one of my daughters got pregnant as a teen I wouldn’t flip out and judge her like so many parents do. I would love her, respect her, and let her choose how to handle it. I would support her no matter what. Yet my mind immediately did judge and I wanted to shake her.

In that moment I took a deep breath put my arm around her and said “everything will be ok”. Then we traveled down the short hall to the counseling room at the clinic we escort at. I kept telling myself “stay calm, breathe, she needs to know you love her”.

You see I knew she was pregnant before she did. I asked her when I noticed her period was late and she flat out denied it was possible. When I asked her to take a pregnancy test at home she had refused. So I asked the clinic counselor to convince her to take one after we arrived to escort.

As we sat down all she kept saying was “I don’t know how this happened” over and over. The truth was in that moment she couldn’t remember having sex the one time with the young man she was seeing. She isn’t alone this happens to grown women all the time who find themselves faced with unplanned pregnancy. The clinic ultrasound tech peaked in with a soft smile and offered to take her back to see how far along she was.

Left alone with two staff members I broke down in tears saying “she knew better” and “I warned her”. It’s funny how all the rational things you know about teen sex and pregnancy go out the window in a crisis. The truth is my daughter was using condoms. Guess what sometimes they fail. Especially, when children who aren’t educated in their use like my child is are the ones placing them on their penis.

So there we were sitting, waiting. The clinic counselor said I was the calmest parent she had ever seen- so I guess there’s that. Even with that comment I couldn’t help feeling awful. Like I failed.

Like I suspected my daughter returned and said she was 5 weeks pregnant. I told her calmly and plainly she had three options she could parent, she could choose adoption or she could have an abortion. I also told her she had time to decide since she was so early in her pregnancy.

Let me tell you my daughter and I both LOVE babies! She loves kids. She is a great babysitter. She and her sister have a babysitting business. She wants to be a mom. She also helps me as a doula. None of this means she is ready to be a mother.

The clinic was closed the next week so we had over a week to be home before she could possibly terminate. A week filled with her being incredibly morning sick , unable to eat and asking questions about what it was like to be a teen mom. I was honest with her. I wouldn’t trade my children for anything but it was hard VERY hard. It is nothing like the fairy tale that anti choicers sell to girls. Yes you can get benefits but you have to tell the state all your business to get them.  I had to work two and three jobs at a time often missing majors parts of my children’s lives. I wouldn’t have made it without my mother helping me every step of the way.

I made plans in my head for each options, if she chose to parent I thought it would be hard but we could do it. I’m a doula who works with teen moms I know the ropes. I tried not to tell her what to do and just gave her simple honest answers to her questions. It was about a day before we addressed the huge issue looming-the fact that my daughter has a illness that is managed by medication that is not compatible with pregnancy. The option for her would be to go off her medication and risk her health severely deteriorating during the pregnancy to the point of hospitalization.  Those are a lot of factors to lay at the feet of a 15 year old girl but this was not my pregnancy or my choice it was hers alone. She spent hours curled up like a baby as I stroked her hair and after days of quiet reflection SHE settled on abortion as her choice.

I made sure she received religious counseling pre procedure from Faith Aloud. She read the stories of other women online on the I had an abortion Facebook page.  I wanted her to know that there was no shame in what she was choosing to do. She was walking a well worn road many had walked before her. I wanted her to understand she had control. This was HER decision and she would have to be a parent, she would be the one relinquishing if she chose adoption and only she would be having an abortion, not me. I told her she could change her mind.  She said nope she knew what she wanted to do.

Doing the work I do I already knew the extra hoops parents are required to go through to obtain an abortion for their child if they are under 16. Let me tell you that knowing something and living something are two different things. In Mississippi a girl under 16 has to have parental permission from both parents, a picture ID, and her birth certificate (which is redundant if she has a state ID since it was used to get the ID but whatever). It is the first time I was ever happy that Kayla’s father is not on her birth certificate because tracking him down wasn’t going to happen, we barely speak.

I had never even thought about having to go through the hoops of getting my daughter a state ID. We like many families in poverty who have moved often couldn’t find her birth certificate so I had to send off to her state of birth for that, priority mail. Then there was actually securing the ID. Our vehicle which like many low income families runs when it feels like it decided to break down when we were driving around to get the ID. Thankfully we have friends who could help us, not everyone does. We also live in the city were we can get all this done . We didn’t have to drive 30 minutes or more away like many women.

We are fortunate that when my daughter and I couldn’t get through on the NAF hotline for abortion fund help (medicaid only pays for abortion in very rare cases my daughter’s wasn’t one her pregnancy was not a result of rape or sexual assault and she wasn’t about to die), I was able to give a person a direct call to get her intake completed. We are privileged that we are surrounded by pro choice and reprojustice activist friends who were able to pitch in and help us with the cost of her procedure. We had a wide ring of non judgmental loving support unlike many of the families we see at the clinic.  Not only was I there on that day but a close friend who is a therapist was there in case Kayla wanted to talk, had complex feelings she needed to process. We even had a plan in case she just changed her mind, wanted to go home and come up with a different plan.

The day of her procedure she insisted on volunteering as an escort.  Which actually worked out well because when procedure time rolled around the protesters didn’t even notice her. They were too busy harassing the other women coming and going to notice a regular fixture especially since we had several camera crews on site and they were showing off for them. In fact we were in a group of patients whose feet were filmed receiving the state mandated pre procedure counseling for Nightline.

Since she is a minor she had the option to have me in the room for her procedure but she wanted to go alone. My daughter received excellent care. The doctor who performed my daughters procedure was caring and professional not only to my daughter but to me. He asked her again before he started if she wanted to go through with the abortion. Dr. Willie Parker talked to her through the whole procedure.  Her procedure was quick and without complications.

She went home and rested. I felt relieved, she felt relieved. I was happy that she had access to all her options. She wouldn’t have to postpone or give up chances like I did. Happy that she wasn’t being forced to risk her health to give birth. Teen pregnancy is by far not the end of the world in fact teens can be and are wonderful parents. Yet no one of any age should be a parent when they aren’t ready.

Within a few days she decided she wanted to go back to the clinic and volunteer to escort.  I thought she might want a break from the insults of the anti choice harassers or that they might bother her. Nope, in fact her resolve was greater than ever. I know that  she never thought it would be her at the clinic. She always said she just wants to help and she does just that.

For me the hardest thing about this whole journey has been living up to the principles I say I live by. It is easy to say we are “pro-choice” or “reproductive justice activists” those are just words and titles if not put into action. It is hard to live them and honor that people we love and want to protect have autonomy and choice. It is hard to not only let go of control and the urge to save but to make space for our kids to exercise their rights to make their own informed decisions. Ultimately knowing that we must honor their decisions as theirs regardless of what we think and feel they should do.

I know there are people who want to know if I regret helping my daughter with her abortion NO I DO NOT! Frankly if she or one of her sisters were pregnant and asked me tomorrow I would do it again. Why? Their bodies, their reproductive futures are THEIR OWN not mine! They are my children-I do not own them. I guide them, I help them, I love them. That is my job. I am their mother NOT their owner.

I am proud of my daughter for deciding what was right for her and being willing to share her story with others and confront abortion stigma. There are plenty of people who wish to make her be ashamed and remain silent. She is rejecting that. She is refusing to be shamed by those who wrap their shaming in a guise of Christian love too (if she wants your prayer or thinks she needs forgiveness she’ll call you). As a mother and woman of color I will continue to strive to make sure no one ever has the right to tell my children or anyone else when, how, and if they procreate. As a people we have already been there done that and it didn’t work out well.

Below is a copy of the speech my daughter wrote and gave at the rally on 8/17/13. In case anyone asks I advised her against going public with her story but she said and I quote

“I want girls like me to know it’s ok and they will be ok”.

Since she has went public the libelous slurs against my daughter and our family have already started. Kayla says she doesn’t care she wants other girls to know all their options and that they don’t have to be ashamed.  That is what she tells girls when they come to her for help. We then refer them where they need to go including if they need a doctor and a doula for their birth. That’s the thing about supporting women’s reproductive health and well being you have to support a range of decisions not just what you would choose.

“Hello my name is Kayla, I am 15 years old and I had an abortion. The day I found out I was pregnant I was scared and ashamed because I was 15 and pregnant. I had a big choice to make-should I stay pregnant, chose adoption, or have an abortion.

I cried because I want to be a mom one day but I was not ready for such a huge step at such a young age. So I chose to have an abortion. I was scared but I knew I was doing the right thing.

Did I feel sad? Yes. Do I regret it? No! Because I know that the spirit I named Mariah will go on to a woman who is ready for her. I love my mom for being so supportive of my choice- I love her for that.

For all the young ladies that might have been or will be in this situation- you are not alone. There are people who support you-always. Even when you don’t know it. Abortion is not a bad thing, it’s a lifesaver! I can now be who I need to be and I know God still loves me! Thank you.”

Kayla Roberts

Clinic Escort, Young Feminist