In February writer and managing editor of Wear Your Voice Mag (where you should regularly be reading this column) Lara Witt published ‘White Women: This is Why Your Critiques of Beyonce are Racist‘. In this piece Witt responds to white women saying Beyonce’s pregnancy photo shoot was tacky and not humble enough. Witt illustrates the racism behind such comments with the following points (the links are also original to Witt’s article):
- Black women do not have the same relationship with maternity as white women do. Why? Years of systemic racism, chattel slavery, and white supremacy, and because negative portrayals of black motherhood are pervasive in American culture.
- Pregnancies and labor tend to be riskier for black women because of systemic racism within health care, and the lack of access to good maternity care pre and post labor.
- While many white women fought for reproductive rights, black, latinx, and native women were fighting for reproductive justice as a result of forced sterilizations and eugenics programs in the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries.”
The piece is an important read. It is too easy for others to decide who should and should not be a parent, the often heard ‘There should be a license to have children’ comes to mind, and like Witt articulates, there kind of is. Forced sterilization has been used on racialized folks and (dis)abled folks. Adoption and fertility treatments are not accessible.
The following is research from an old paper I wrote for class. The intention is not to share another’s pain without their consent, but to illustrate how forced sterilization is not something of the past. I am absolutely open to listening if I am crossing any lines, however, please e-mail me if you find this to be the case.
Dateline did an episode on the forced sterilization of Roma women living in Slovakia. Not too long ago Roma women and men were paid to be sterilized, the racist reasoning being Roma should not be having children and keeping their people and culture alive, or, maybe ‘worse’ having children with whites. By 1990 it was decided to be unlawful to do these procedures. Today, Roma men are still being paid for voluntarily sterilization. Women, however, are being tricked into it. The young doctors who were around during the legal sterilizations are now chiefs of hospitals, and still bigoted. Roma women report that when they went to the hospital to give birth, they would be told that they would need a c-section. Some women were told that it would be too dangerous to have more children and would need to be sterilized, it was not clarified that the procedure is permanent. Other women reported signing papers while on the delivery table and under duress, while another said that after she was told she would have to have a c-section she was given an injection, “I remember nothing after that.”
Roma women report racism and segregation within the hospital. One woman remembers that when her child was being born she saw the doctor turn around and make faces, saying, “yuck, dirty G***y,” while refusing to touch her. Other women say they were beaten, screamed at and segregated from white folk in the hospital dining rooms and bathrooms. Nurses and doctors interviewed say that Roma women purposely segregate themselves and that their children are put in danger due to their mother’s negligence in acquiring proper pre-natal care. However, it is also revealed that Roma women were only able to visit the doctor on one day of the week, the rest of the days being reserved for white women only. Mothers interviewed report that even the emergency room will not treat their children. Health professionals deny this negligence, while at the same time calling Roma a degenerate race, very much behind in terms of hygiene, social, cultural, and psychological development. These so-called professionals say Roma women lack maternal instinct and are only having children in order to receive family allowance. Similar medical treatment has been reported in Macedonia, according to Bernard Rorke, where one Roma woman was left in a hospital to give birth on her own after a nurse told her, ‘You have already given birth to four children, so do not make scenes, stop screaming!” The woman was also slapped and told that she squeals like a pig, which is ‘unbecoming.’
As for children’s education, the documentary Romanipen shows how Roma children in Slovakia are being segregated from the school system and put in ‘special needs’ schools. Valeriu Nicolae and Hannah Slavik write that, in Romania, children are told that Vlad the Impaler, a man famous for impaling his enemies, and someone who wanted to cleanse Romania of Gypsies, peasants, and impure women, is a hero.
This example is not to say that racism happens everywhere els and not within western culture. Western culture’s racism has a far reach – folks I interviewed for this research regarding Roma women have said, as an example, that Brexit has only worsened these conditions.
I don’t know if I would have thought of these ideas without Witt’s article, and I thank them for their work!
I write other stuff too! Check out HillaryDimenna.com