I was frequenting an Black feminist group on Facebook when I came across an article. From looking at the title of the article, I knew the topic of the article would be about some negative assumption about Black women. As I clicked on the article, I, immediately, read it. Needless to say, I was disgusted to read about Wisconsin state senator Sean Duffy’s racist and misogynistic comments on how Black women aborting their children had something to do with BlackLivesMatter movement. As I did my research, the more I realized that Senator Sean Duffy’s comments were not only wrong but problematic to the cause of Black women’s reproductive rights in this country.
Like many people in the rightwing, Conservative circles, Senator Duffy believes that Black people are inherently less intelligent, less hard working and more violent than their White counterparts. His comments reflect the belief that Black people are somehow inferior to other races particularly his remarks that Black women ”jump on anything that moves”. On the House floor of Congress, Senator Duffy pointed out why the Black Congressional Caucus wasn’t more concerned about protecting the lives of unborn Black babies than they were about protecting Black people from being murdered in the hands of the police.
Here Senator Duffy is quoted saying this:
” ‘Here are some stunning facts. The African-American community is 15 percent of the country as a whole, but accounts for 40 percent of the abortions. Fifteen percent of Americans, 40 percent of the abortions. In New York City, the most recent statistic is that African-American women had more abortions than live births.’ ”
According to my research, Senator Duffy’s statement does hold weight. Statistically speaking, Black women are five times more likely to have an abortion than White women. Black women’s ratio of abortions is 459 abortions per 1,000 live births while White women’s ratio of abortion is 132 abortions per 1,000 live births. However the population of Black people in the United States is only around thirteen percent not fifteen percent. Since the White population in the United States is much more populous than the Black population, the percentage of White women who had abortions was slightly higher than Black women who had abortions. In fact, statistics show that 37% of White women have had abortions compared to 36% of Black women, 20% of Hispanic women and 7% of women of other races and ethnicities. 58% of these women who have aborted their fetuses were in their twenties. 98% of them aborted their children due to personal reasons and many of these women also tend to be from lower and working class backgrounds. Senator Duffy’s statement may hold weight but it doesn’t entirely tell the whole scenario behind why some women choose to abort their fetus.
” ‘And why is that?” he asked. “It’s as though nobody knows. Or they don’t care. This has become typical of this country, we have all these problems and issues, and everybody is trying to deal with the consequences instead of focusing on the cause. And that goes especially for African-Americans. Everybody keeps saying that all men were created equal and that we all deserve the same treatment, but it doesn’t look that way to me. To me, black people got the worse deal – they’re not as hard-working as other races, they’re not as intelligent as other races, and they seem to have the lowest inhibitions of all the races in our country.’ ”
Here is where Senator Duffy’s racism starts to rear it’s ugly head. If he truly believed that, ”all men were created equal”, then he wouldn’t have believed that Black Americans weren’t as intelligent or ambitious as people of other races. In other words, he seemed to blame Black American collective for the predicament of generational poverty, housing discrimination, job discrimination, bias in the healthcare system and inequalities that is a normal part of their daily lives in America. Thus he was pushing the false notion that ”pulling yourself by the bootstraps” will solve the problems in the Black collective.
” ‘Well, it’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? How come no one is asking why white people or Hispanic people aren’t as poor as African-Americans? Why white women or Hispanic women don’t have as many abortions? The answer is simple – black women are simply wired that way. They’ll jump anything that moves without thinking for a second about the consequences. And when they’re done, they realize what just happened and you know what comes next – an abortion and complaining about how African-Americans in the U.S. somehow ended up with the short end of the stick.‘ ”
Now his racism and misogyny definitely becomes even more evident in this statement. He is making the assumption that Black women are somehow more promiscuous than their non Black counterparts. The belief that Black women were somehow inferior to White women, sexually loose and immoral didn’t start overnight. The mindset that Black women are sexually loose and ”Jezebels” stems back from centuries of European colonialism and slavery that degraded the image of Black women. These depictions were created to justify the sexual and economic exploitation of Black women’s bodies during slavery and colonialism. Unfortunately, these negative depictions of Black women’s sexuality has carried over to the twenty first century due to media images depicting many Black women as Jezebels or oversexed. Senator Duffy’s statement adhered to the very belief that Black women’s sexuality is somehow tied to the condition of Black people in this country.
” ‘Until science comes up with a drug of some kind that enhances a person’s ability to say no to an intercourse, the only thing left for black men to do is chain their wives up at home and pray to God they aren’t strong enough to get free. I know it sounds too similar to what was done to black people in slavery, but everybody knows that when a black woman sets her mind on something, she’ll go through hell or high water to get it. So, we can’t just trust white men to say no to them and then be on their way. We need something more drastic, and having their husbands, boyfriends and families chain them up will have to do, at least for now.‘ ”
Now this statement really reveals the depth of his racist and misogynistic thinking. Black women are so sexually loose that even a White man can’t resist her? Insanity. So it is Black men’s responsibility to chain up their Black women who happen to be their sisters, mothers, aunts, nieces, grandchildren and even wives at home to prevent them from seeking out men to have sexual intercourse with them? Sexually loose women exist in every race and ethnicity out there yet Black women are his target based on his misconceived notion that Black women are more ”loose” than women of other races. Men with this mindset only further the belief that women should adhere to a strict form of responsibility politics when it comes to expressing their sexuality in society while men are let off the hook. His racism also intensifies the belief that Black women’s sexuality is dirty, immoral and debase by nature.
” ‘And besides,” the GOP lawmaker added, “it’s not like they’ll mind being tied up. Black people like it rough, otherwise they wouldn’t be able to survive living in ghettos.’ ”
Senator Duffy belief that Black people supposedly live in the ghetto and ”like it rough” stems from stereotypes. Black Americans are stereotyped as living in the ghetto, unattractive, uncouth etc. His final comment reflected his belief in the negative stereotyping of Black people. Worst of all, tying up Black women and keeping them from leaving home wouldn’t solve any of the problems many Black women face when it comes to reproductive care.
The reception of Senator Duffy’s comments was met with mixed reviews. Many Conservatives praised him for bringing up the important of unborn children while others disagreed with him. Senator Duffy received backlash from many Liberals and Democrats for his comments especially from another fellow, Wisconsin senator, Gwen Moore. Senator Gwen Moore, on the other hand, believed that his comments reflected hypocrisy, ignorance and lack of knowledge about what Black women go through in society.
Here are Gwen Moore’s remarks as a response to Sean Duffy’s ignorant comments:
” ‘Over the years, I’ve heard some absurd comments from my Republican colleagues about abortion. Some have compared Planned Parenthood to drug dealers, abortion factories, and the KKK. I’ve heard grown men debate “legitimate rape” on live television. I’ve even seen a Republican lawmaker put forth the claim that if women are allowed to have abortions, men should be allowed to rape.
“After nearly 30 years in public office, not much surprises me anymore. So you can imagine my lack of astonishment when a conservative member of the Wisconsin Congressional Delegation recently used abortion statistics as a means to lecture Black legislators like myself about defending the welfare of our constituents.
“Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1973 that women are guaranteed the privacy and power to make medical decisions concerning their own bodies, anti-choice legislators like Representative Sean Duffy have been trying to end safe and legal abortion. A tactic that has long been a part of their strategy is using inflammatory racial arguments and deceptive claims to stigmatize abortion in communities of color.
“I don’t expect Representative Duffy to understand why his comments were so offensive, nor do I anticipate him apologizing for them. What he and so many of his Republican colleagues fail to understand is the underlying context behind high abortion rates in African American communities. High rates of abortion are related to poverty and lack of access to prevention services. A number of African American women face multiple barriers to accessing quality, affordable health care, which can lead to higher rates of both unintended pregnancy and abortion.
“Representative Duffy’s hypocrisy on this issue is as predictable as it is offensive. If he truly believes that we all should be fighting for the “hopeless and voiceless” among us, why doesn’t he stand with us as we defend Planned Parenthood, an organization committed to ensuring all communities, and especially those most in need, have access to high-quality care? Where was his support when my Congressional Black Caucus colleagues and I tried to secure greater funding for SNAP, WIC, and Head Start? Where was his advocacy when we needed Republican support to ensure that we have highly trained and qualified school personnel like social workers and counselors for our most vulnerable students?
“It’s painfully obvious that Representative Duffy’s concern for life ends as soon as the umbilical cord is cut. That being said, I don’t believe that his comments were said in malice or meant to inflict harm. Representative Duffy’s rhetoric is indicative of someone who just doesn’t know any better. I suggest that Representative Duffy educate himself on these critical issues.’ ”
Her whole commentary was well stated and her point was eloquently delivered. Many people on the ”Right” believe that the livelihood of unborn children should be protected however these people don’t show the same concern for children who are already living. There isn’t anything wrong with being concerned about the livelihood of unborn children however that concern should also be shown for children already living on the planet. The way she exposed the blatant hypocrisy of men with Senator Duffy’s mindset was excellent and contrived. Men like this don’t have much problems policing women’s bodies and telling them what to do but men aren’t held to the same standards. Senator Moore pointed out that one of these men said if abortion was legal, why legalize rape thus exposing the misogyny, hypocrisy and warped mindsets of many GOP lawmakers.
Senator Moore was accurate on her analysis about the high abortion rates in the Black collective. A lack of access to quality healthcare due to a cycle of generational poverty and structural racism plays a role in higher abortion rates. Many of these women, particularly African American women from lower class backgrounds have less access to affordable healthcare due to the impoverished conditions many of these women live in. Without access to quality healthcare, the risk of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases increases. Many of these young, African American women believe that a safe and legal abortion would decrease their likelihood of raising a child that they can’t take care of. Hence I believe Senator Moore’s analysis was well thought of and very accurate.
Senator Duffy’s comments were problematic and only further promoted more propaganda and misinformation about Black women when it comes to abortion and reproductive rights. His comments represented the ignorance and futileness of his belief in trying to ”save unborn children” from being aborted by the women who carry them. Comments like his also tries to steer women particularly Black women from exercising their right to control what goes in and out of their bodies. His comments only adheres to the racist and patriarchal societal notions of womanhood, motherhood and Blackness. It is one thing to be for protecting the lives of unborn ”children” but it is another thing to use racist stereotypes to justify these disgusting beliefs.
Educating young, Black women about the reproductive system and contraception would help reduce the rates of unwanted pregnancies in the Black collective. Using condoms and other birth control methods isn’t a guarantee that a woman wouldn’t become pregnant or contact a sexually transmitted disease. However, using birth control and condom does lower the risk of becoming pregnant and contacting a sexually transmitted disease. The importance of educating young, Black women about their reproductive system and initiatives such as birth control, the pill and condoms to help prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases will help the lives of many young, Black women out there. Using and utilizing any resource to protect yourself and your womb is essential to the livelihood of young, Black women across America. Thus trying to control what women do with their bodies and restrict their sexuality is harmful and wrong.
Ultimately, people are entitled to their opinions when it comes to women’s reproductive rights in this country. It is one thing to advocate for protecting the lives of unborn fetuses but it is another thing to use racial stereotypes to justify restricting a certain group of women’s right to choose what goes on in their bodies. While it is important to be passionate about women’s reproductive issues, no one’s opinion should interfere with a woman’s right to choose what she wants to do with her own body.
Sources from where I get my information from: