Christian Right’s Historical Repetition – CAUTION: BEWARE OF [HOMOS]

On Saturday, August 30, 2014, I approached the Nelson Mandela Capture Site and Museum in South Africa. Mandela was arrested here in KwaZulu-Natal, and sentenced to life imprisonment at Robben Island. As I walked around these hallowed grounds, surrounded by the history of apartheid and oppression—it strongly dawned on me that human liberation has a cost, which only some people must pay.

nelson mandela museum

 

Visiting the site with me were 39 scholars, religious leaders and civil society leaders, who had joined me in South Africa for a three day consultation on human sexuality. These distinguished leaders came from around the continent and the diaspora, representing Uganda, Kenya, Malawi, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Cameroon, Lesotho, South Africa, and Tanzania. We had chosen South Africa because it is the first and only country in Africa to grant equal rights to sexual minorities.

Walking onto the Mandela capture site with Prof. Sylvia Tamale, Prof. Esther Mombo, Dr. Musimbi Kanyoro, Dr. Nyambura Njoroge, and Dr. Manasseh Phiri was no small honor; their wisdom and courage have pioneered women’s liberation and the fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa. And standing next to them, courageous young scholars like Dr. Ezra Chitando, Dr. Nyeck Sybille, Dr. Masiiwa Ragies Gunda, and others were equally inspirational. These are the leaders and scholars who give me hope that someday all people of Africa will be treated equally, who had inspired me to help organize the Conference on Human Sexuality so that African scholars could discuss the treatment of LGBTQI people without Western influence.

The Mandela Capture Site is a small building on a very big piece of land—nothing much to see. On that day, it was full of people, young and old, boys and girls—most of them getting ready for a bicycle marathon. Inside the Museum, however, was a hushed reverence as we examined pictures and depictions of the life of Nelson Mandela and his family. Photos told the story of the civil rights hero’s life from his early years to the end. An old TV broadcasts the propaganda of the racist government of the time—craftily touting to international journalists the “beauty” of the Robben Island prison, where Mandela spent 18 of his 27 year prison sentence.

As I listened to the broadcast, I was reminded of how this shameful propaganda wasn’t limited to just South Africa, and how U.S. conservatives, particularly under the Reagan administration, amplified the smears on Mandela’s name. The attacks got so bad, Desmond Tutu was forced to declare the U.S. policy on Apartheid “immoral, evil and totally un-Christian,” in 1984. Political Research Associates published our report Apartheid in Our Living Rooms, exposing the Christian Right’s support of the racist authorities in South Africa. In July, 2013, Sam Kleiner called U.S. conservatives’ newfound respect for Mandela after his death “Apartheid Amnesia.” After all, national U.S. conservative figureheads like Jeff Gayner of the Heritage Foundation, Pat Robertson, Pat Buchanan, Jerry Falwell, and many others all supported the racist South African regime’s imprisonment of Nelson Mandela on the premise that he was “terrorist and communist.” To them, fighting for the fundamental human rights of Black people was wrong. Some even used the Bible to justify the mistreatment of black people—claiming it was God’s will to treat Black people as second class citizens.

caution beware of nativesAfter I left the TV’s eerie reminders of the past, one of the pictures on the wall caught my attention. “CAUTION: BEWARE OF NATIVES,” the sign in the photo read. In the old black and white photo, two Black Africans are walking past the posted sign on a road. I asked one of my colleagues to take my picture next to the photo, making us three. “Beware of natives?” I wondered. Were we a danger? I was struck by how closely the old propaganda mirrored how Africa is now treating our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex. With the help and encouragement of U.S conservative exporters of the culture wars, similar messages can now frequently be seen at anti-LGBTQ rallies across Africa—“Beware of Homos,” “Homosexuals are a Danger,” “They Are Coming After Your Children,” and many others.

To be LGBTQ is to be an enemy of humanity. African kids are taught to fear these oppressed minorities, constantly told they are a danger to the community. “If we allow them to exist,” Africans are taught, “they will destroy our families and humanity as we know it.”

It’s like watching history repeat itself: African governments copying the tricks of the past, using propaganda to deny the plight of sexual minorities in their countries, while running full steam to destroy them. I thought of President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, President Yahya Jammeh of the Gambia, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria—all claim that African sexual minorities are not under siege. U.S. conservatives working in these countries repeat these lies to their American audiences. Even as African LGBTQ people are murdered, beaten, and raped, U.S. culture warriors like Rick Warren, Scott lively, and Sharon Slater claim that the international human rights community are misrepresenting the facts. Africans now believe that sexual minorities are a danger to humanity—forgetting that we, Black people, were once viewed the same way.

As I walked through the capture site, my head was filled with thoughts of not only Nelson Mandela, but the millions of South Africans who were captured and the thousands who were killed by the apartheid government for standing up for their rights. My eyes filled with tears as I recognize this monstrosity happening again as sexual minorities are forced to fight for the basic dignity of being recognized as fellow human beings.

Will the world remember the capture sites of LGBTQ people who are currently being held and die in African jails from Lusaka to Cairo? Will the blood spilled by the countless murdered African sexual minorities who sought nothing more than to live in peace mean something at last?

Despite the vast amounts of money, guns, jails, and bibles being used to deny sexual minorities their fundamental human rights, the Mandela capture site is a reminder that justice will come one day. Just as those young boys and girls race in the Marathon to the finish line at the Mandela memorial, the race to freedom for African sexual minorities will not end in African jails or in unmarked graves, but in the heart of young people—boys and girls who will grow to see the day when people will not be judged by their sexual orientation or gender identity, but by their humanity. These are the ones who will laugh in horror at the posters that demonize sexual minorities today and like me, will take pictures with those posters and try to imagine what the world was once like. But they will also celebrate the courage of those who have risked their lives for the freedoms of all people—regardless of who they love or who they are inside.

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How Colorblindness Co-Evolved with Free-Market Thinking

Click here to see the full neoliberalism issue of The Public Eye magazine

Click here to see the full neoliberalism issue of The Public Eye magazine

As White supremacists shifted tactics in response to mass social movements, they needed a mass electoral base. Neoliberals helped build it for them—and colorblindness helped wipe out some inconvenient historical truths.

**This article appears in PRA’s Fall, 2014 issue of The Public Eye magazine, a special edition on neoliberalism and the Right**

The following is an edited extract from a new essay in the 20th anniversary re-issue of the authors’ book, Racial Formation in the United States, 3rd edition (New York: Routledge, 2014).

The hegemony of neoliberal economics is matched and underwritten by the racial hegemony of colorblindness. In the U.S., neoliberalism is as much a racial project as a class project. Although it was developed by big capital, it owes its ascent to the mass electoral base that only right-wing racial ideology could provide. It is the convergence of neoliberalism with colorblindness—the right-wing racial ideology of the post-civil rights era—that accounts for the success of neoliberalism.

In the United States, neoliberalism is as much a racial project as a class project.

In order to acquire a mass base, neoliberalism had to undo the New Deal coalition, which had held power—under both Democratic and Republican administrations—from the 1930s to the 1970s. The New Deal had been politically and morally complicit with Jim Crow and indeed could not have been implemented without deference to the “solid South.” But in the post-World War II period, and in many ways because of the war itself, that complicity was no longer politically viable. The Black Movement challenged it and ultimately overthrew it, splitting the Democratic Party in the process and transferring the South, as Lyndon Johnson lamented, to the Republican column.

The rise of neoliberalism in the United States depended on the containment of the political challenge of the Black Movement and other social justice movements: other movements of people of color, the Feminist Movement, and eventually the environmental and LGBTQ movements, as well.

Containment meant more than restricting the reach of demands for greater racial equality and for a vastly expanded democracy. It also meant resisting the demands of the 1960s movements for the redistribution of wealth and power. The threat that the Black Movement and its allies posed to the New Deal coalition was quite severe. It involved the prospect of a full-fledged social democratic system in the United States, serious commitments to full employment, substantial curtailment of U.S. imperial adventures, and recognition of race- and gender-based demands for full-scale social equality and inclusion.

Capital, the Republican Party, and the Right Wing of the Democratic Party all united against those demands. Colorblind politics were developed from about 1970 as the post-civil rights racial ideology of this new coalition, this new power-bloc. As colorblindness became hegemonic, this new racial ideology incubated and buttressed neoliberalism, as well.

Genealogy of Colorblind Politics

During the 1970s, neoliberal politics was invented through a series of experiments with racial reaction. These experiments took form as “massive resistance,” the rise of the “New Right,” and neoconservatism.

Nothing in the early phases of racial reaction pointed toward what would become “colorblind” racial ideology. The initial response to civil rights demands had been driven by racist rage and full-throated rejectionism in the form of massive resistance. After segregation was ruled illegal by the Supreme Court, southern states and local governments sought to outflank Brown and the decisions that followed it through a strategy of education privatization. (Incidentally, massive resistance anticipated many of today’s battles over public education, engineering closures of public school systems and establishing private, largely White, schools.)

But the massive resistance approach, for the most part, collapsed quickly. It was opposed by the majority of Americans; private segregationist groups, it turned out, could not afford to dispense with public education; and the federal government acted to undo massive resistance, albeit unevenly. In response to this failure, the organized opposition to civil rights reform had to regroup.

White supremacists had to make strategic concessions to win allies outside the South and to operate effectively within the national party system (both parties). The core task they faced was developing a New Right. This required what we call rearticulation. This concept refers to the ideological appropriation of elements of an opposing position.

In the early post-civil rights years, the New Right learned to make use of the deep-seated racism of the White working and middle classes, without explicitly advocating racial “backlash.” The rise of code word strategies was the first attempt at this. It was an effort to race-bait less explicitly, while making full use of the traditional stereotypes. Code words like “get tough on crime” and “welfare handouts” reasserted racist tropes of Black violence and laziness, often without having to refer to race at all.

But the use of code words was ultimately inadequate. Code words could not mobilize a mass base for racial reaction, especially one that would incorporate not only Whites of the Jim Crow South but also centrist Whites across the nation.

In order to reach out further, the New Right developed the ideologically grounded reverse racism (or reverse discrimination) framework. This took shape over the 1970s. Reverse racism had several advantages over code words. The most important of these was the claim that racially inclusive reform policies—notably affirmative action—were unfair to Whites: they were portrayed as “punishing” Whites who were merely seeking a job, admission to a university, or a federal contract. In seeking to overcome the legacy of past racism, it was charged, ostensibly anti-racist policy and state actions were themselves guilty of racism with Whites as the “new victims.”

Racism was thus recast as something that could affect anyone, something that was practiced as much by Blacks as by Whites. A whole century of White supremacy—with Whites as the subjects of racism, and Blacks and other people of color as the objects—was thus peremptorily dismissed. And that was only taking the post-emancipation period into consideration. When the entire structural legacy of slavery was taken into account—massive theft of life and labor, ongoing denigration and exclusion, not to mention torture and terror past and present—the chutzpah of the “reverse racism” claim mounted to the very heavens.

A racist animus bubbles beneath the hegemonic racial ideology of colorblindness. Photo courtesy of Wissotzky.

A racist animus bubbles beneath the hegemonic racial ideology of colorblindness. Photo courtesy of Wissotzky.

The concept of “reverse racism” was presented to Whites as an effort to protect them from “unfair” claims on the part of Blacks or other people of color. The agenda was to consolidate and expand the New Right’s mass base among Whites without appealing to racist tropes as the code words approach had done. Attacking affirmative action and other civil rights reforms as unfair to Whites (as “racial quotas” and supposedly “preferential treatment” of non-Whites, etc.) worked to defend existing systems of racial inequality and domination much more effectively than use of code words.

Colorblind racial ideology came later still. It represented a step beyond “reverse racism” because it repudiated the concept of race itself. Colorblindness built upon earlier articulations of post-civil rights right-wing ideology. Of course, code words did not disappear. Reverse racism charges did not disappear. Colorblindness simply advanced racist ideology to the next level, one premised on the concept of race “neutrality.”

To dismiss the immense sociohistorical weight of race, to argue that it is somehow possible, indeed imperative, to refuse race consciousness and simply not to take account of it, is by any rational standard a fool’s errand. But because colorblindness more successfully rearticulated Black Movement demands, because it expressed a sort of anti-racism “lite,” an aspirational post-racism, and most of all because it overlapped with the repudiation of the welfare state and was consistent with neoliberal individualism, colorblind racial ideology turned out to have political legs.

Racial Neoliberalism

Colorblindness advanced the neoliberal agenda piece by piece through successive presidential administrations, both Republican and Democratic. Reagan’s efforts were crucial. His iconic comment in his first inaugural address—“In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem”—distilled a political orientation that was hostile to civil rights, the welfare state, taxation (though Reagan did raise taxes several times), and unions.

George H. W. Bush maintained this approach, balancing the “mainstream” Republicanism of Wall Street with the New Right ferocity of his political gunslinger, Lee Atwater. Atwater became famous for the Willie Horton political ads (on behalf of Bush) and the “White hands” ads (on behalf of reactionary North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms). These attacks on presidential candidate Michael Dukakis and on North Carolina senatorial candidate Harvey Gantt invoked centuries-old racist themes: the criminal Black predator and the unqualified (presumably “lazy” and undeserving) Black worker, respectively. Without explicitly stating it, Republicans were coming out in opposition to civil rights and to racial equality while reframing themselves as the White people’s party.

Bill Clinton brought a more Democratic version of neoliberalism to the political arena. He campaigned for reelection in 1996 on a promise to “end welfare as we know it.” Propelled by the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, Lyndon Johnson had expanded the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program. Thus the Great Society had partially undone the New Deal’s exclusion of Blacks and Latinos from the welfare system. Commonly known as “welfare,” AFDC was the principal source of federal aid for poor people. It was the only federal program that directly provided cash to Blacks. AFDC had evolved out of the Social Security Act of 1935, slowly developing over the decades into its Great Society version of cash support for the poor and excluded, though still heavily stigmatized. Clinton sought White support by attacking this program.

Neoliberalism gave its adherents permission to ignore the “others”: the darker nations, the poor, both of the United States and the entire planet. It required colorblind racial ideology for this purpose.

Privatizing Welfare

Although it assisted many Whites as well, AFDC was seen as a Black program. It had always been means-tested, unlike Social Security itself and Medicare, which were “entitlements.” It was punitive and was subject to constant right-wing stigma, but it stood in sharp contrast to the 1935 law, which had been crafted by Dixiecrats and western Republicans to exclude Black and Brown recipients, in provisions FDR had never questioned.

Clinton’s proposal substituted for AFDC the much more punitive Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act (PWORA), which effectively privatized the welfare system. This was neoliberalism with a Democratic face.

George W. Bush implemented a hardcore neoliberal agenda that outdid Reagan on several fronts. He attempted to privatize Social Security. His effort failed, but only because it sought to apply the same rough treatment to an entitlement valued by Whites that Clinton had successfully applied to a program associated with Blacks.

Obama has also been under constant pressure to restrict entitlements, and he has sometimes capitulated to this pressure. Well-aware of the cauldron of racist animus that bubbles beneath the hegemonic racial ideology of colorblindness, Obama has avoided racial politics as far as possible. And like Clinton, he has deployed a more liberal version of neoliberalism, so to speak. We can question his judgment, but like him, we must recognize both the hegemony of colorblindness and the hegemony of neoliberalism—in other words, the combined power of structural racism and capital.

In its abandonment of all egalitarian social policy commitments in favor of a “free market” ideology (which was anything but free in practice), in its repudiation of the welfare state, in its passionate embrace of market fundamentalism, neoliberalism struck at the heart of the Black Movement’s demands for economic redistribution and political inclusion. Adopting the evolving racial “common sense” of colorblindness, neoliberalism was able to build a mass base composed of working- and middle-class Whites who were threatened by racial equality and racial democracy.

These Whites, or their parents and grandparents, had benefited from the welfare state under the New Deal when it was a Whites-only affair (and when it was quite anti-immigrant as well). But when the Black Movement and its allies sought to extend the welfare state to communities of color—when in the mid-1960s they sought to lift New Deal restrictions on social investment in those communities— many Whites got off the freedom train.

Neoliberalism gave its adherents permission to ignore the “others”: the darker nations, the poor, both of the United States and the entire planet. It required colorblind racial ideology for this purpose. The containment of civil rights was not the goal of the neoliberal project. Indeed the neoliberal objective was larger than that. It was to dismantle the welfare state, to limit taxation and other forms of regulation of capital, and to ensure the docility and desperation of the “others”: the poor, the workers who were increasingly people of color but also White people, women, and even the middle classes.

Toward A Market-Based Hegemony

This was the neoliberal agenda. Restricting the welfare state, abandoning and punishing the poor, the neoliberal argument went, was not about race, since we are all colorblind now. These policies were presented as an effort to treat everyone alike, to apply the same market-based rules to all. If you disagreed with this, you were the “real racist.”

Neoliberalism required a racial ideology that repudiated the movement agenda of state-enforced equality and the extension of democratic rights to people of color (women, labor, imperial subjects, LGBTQ people…). The exhortation to be colorblind avoided a regression to overt White supremacy or a reversion to explicit policies of Jim Crow segregation. Repelling, repressing, and rearticulating the Black Movement’s (and allied movements’) agendas would not be enough for this purpose.

In order to achieve hegemony for the neoliberal project of reinforced social inequality in a U.S. rid of its welfare state, with all the redistributive dimensions of social rights finally repudiated, it would be necessary not only to oppose demands for racial justice and racial democracy; it would be necessary to take race off the table. It would be necessary to become “colorblind.”

Michael Omi is Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies and the Associate Director of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society (HIFIS) at the University of California, Berkeley. Howard Winant is Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he is also affiliated with the Black Studies, Chicana/o Studies, and Asian American Studies departments. Winant is the founding director of the University of California Center for New Racial Studies (UCCNRS), and the author of a number of books, including The New Politics of Race: Globalism, Difference, Justice (UMinn Press, 2004).

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LIVE BLOG: Values Voter Summit 2014, Day 2

Welcome to PRA’s live-blog of the 2014 right-wing Values Voters Summit in Washington, DC. Refresh for updates. Follow us on twitter @PRAeyesright for even faster updates.

If you’re looking for our recap of Day 1, it’s here.

VVS logo

5:30pm: That’s all for the live-blog! Thanks so much for following along. PRA will be releasing detailed analysis if the Right’s new strategies over the next few days! 

4:10pm: (workshop) We Are Winning! How to Save Religious Liberty hosted by Liberty Council

Before this session starts, we encourage our readers to watch this short video of PRA senior fellow Fred Clarkson, explaining how the Right is redefining Religious Liberty from being a shield for individuals into a sword for institutions:

Liberty Institute says they are “winning” the battle of Religious Liberty. Sadly, that’s very very true. The Left has yet to figure out how to truly speak to the truth about Religious Liberty (upcoming PRA report, don’t worry).

Liberty Inst says they work in 4 different areas: public arena, schools, churches, the military. They say that religious liberty has nothing to do with individual rights, but about the right of churches and pastors to “expand outside of the walls of the church.”

Liberty Institute is really leaning on the rules that pastors cannot give religious sermons at public school graduations. According to these Christian Right groups, their own religious liberty is violated if they are not allowed to preach to non-Christian students were are required to be sitting in the audience.

Liberty Institute now talking to a pastor of a Southern Baptist church in the South who wanted to build a church on the public town square. Town told him that he was required to get 60% approval signatures from residents within 1/4 mile. Liberty Institute says that’s an absolute violation of religious freedom. Unfortunately, Liberty Institute has failed to highlight the part about the building being on the public town square–and that allowing a church to be built on public property is a pretty clear violation of the separation of church and state.

How does Liberty Institute win so many cases? They cherry pick cases in small towns that have little resources or qualified city attorneys. They then charge in with $500k/hr attorneys to establish precedent they can take to the next small town.

Now hearing from Brooks Hamby, a high school student was asked not to give a religious speech at a public school assembly. Despite Hamby’s outrage, it sounds like his teacher, counselor, principal, and then superintendent all went the extra mile to try and help him understand that there are many non-Christian students who are required to be in the audience who would be offended by his speech. He gave it anyway.

Now hearing from Sergeant Phillip Monk, who claims that he was disciplined by a lesbian superior officer for having anti-Marriage Equality beliefs. The entire story is fabricated. In reality, a lieutenant that Monk oversaw was forcing his religious beliefs onto non-Christian subordinates. Monk’s commander (who happened to be a lesbian) ordered Monk to stop the Lieutenant from doing so. Monk refused and disobeyed a direct order from his commanding officer. He, in fact, was not punished. Rather, he was simply reassigned to another position that was still commensurate with his rank. Yet somehow, he’s managed to spin his story into being about Liberty Institute’s faux version of religious liberty.

Now in the Q&A portion. Audience member asked about SPLC. Liberty Institute and other right-wing groups have evolved–slipping so far into the extremes that they have attained “hate group” status. But instead of that being a wake-up call, or moment for self-reflection, they instead turn around and attack SPLC and groups like PRA for being “hate groups.”

3:15pm: How to Stop Losing: Reclaiming Blue Collar Conservatives (workshop)

Sen Rick Santorum says for the last few decades, the GOP has not paid attention to workers. Says they face problems like stagnate wages.

Santorum says GOP candidates need to show up at traditionally Democratic working neighborhoods (who have seen their labor rights eroded). It’s interesting to listen to him talk about outreach to workers, while the economic Right is waging a war against low-wage worker organizing (more on that here: http://www.politicalresearch.org/2014/06/04/dark-money-dirty-war-the-corporate-crusade-against-low-wage-workers/

Santorum’s #1 idea for how Republicans can reach working families who are traditionally Democratic supporters? “Eliminate more corporate taxes.”

Santorum says almost all of the 6 million net jobs created in last few decades have been taken by “illegal immigrants.” He adds that those immigrants are the reason why worker wages are stagnant, because “as all those illegal immigrants come into the country and take all the jobs, they hold keep the wages low.”

Basically, Senator Santorum isn’t advocating for any changes to policy. Rather, he says that conservatives need to start mentioning workers when they speak, instead of just the CEOs and business owners.

2:10 pm: Glenn Beck

Beck says he told his wife “we could burn every school book, all we need is this [the bible].”

Beck really is quite clever. He wrote his own intro to the bible, talking about how the government isn’t biblical enough. He’s reading it from inside a real bible, elevating his words to “scripture status.”

Beck says he will stand with LGBTQ people against Russia or other countries that seek to kill sexual minorities. Yet on his show, he regularly hosts U.S. culture warriors who export homophobia and sexism to those countries and are directly involved in the creation of those laws. More details on that here: http://www.politicalresearch.org/africa/book-american-culture-warriors-in-africa/

Always a fan of props, Beck has so far held up an original arrest warrant from the Salem Witch Trials, and the mic used by Tokyo Rose.

Beck is talking about “a revolution of love.” Have to wonder if he’s trying to counter the disturbingly large and growing segment of the Right using violent rhetoric: http://www.politicalresearch.org/2014/06/11/rumblings-of-theocratic-violence/

It seems Beck’s speech is primarily about how to get the Right to stop sounding so opposed to everything. (Not to actually change their policy, of course. But to sound like they are.)

The weirdest thing about Beck’s speech? The last 14ish speakers before him spent a day and a half telling this audience that all Muslims are terrorists to be hated and feared.

It’s official. Glenn Beck is the closest thing to being a voice of reason at the 2014 Values Voter Summit.


 

PFOX, a group advocating ex-gay torture for youth, talks to parents at VVS14

PFOX, a group advocating ex-gay reparative therapy for youth, talks to parents at VVS14

 

 

FRC's Peter Sprigg talks to a father and his young son at VVS14

FRC’s Peter Sprigg talks to a father and his young son at VVS14

Glenn Beck's staff setup his chalkboard and props for his VVS14 speech.

Glenn Beck’s staff setup his chalkboard and props for his VVS14 speech.

Washington Times being promoted at VVS. They provided much of the funding for the Summit.

Washington Times being promoted at VVS. They provided much of the funding for the Summit.

Lunch Break Until 2pm EST.

Noon: Bridgitte Gabriel, president of Act! for America.

Gabriel already diving down Islamophobia tunnel. Says “more than 20% of Muslims are willing to walk into this room and blow us to smithereens.”

Gabriel is comparing “radical Islam” to Nazis, Russians, Chinese, and 9/11 terrorists.

The last speaker (Todd Starnes) talked about how Christians are being persecuted for their religion. Now, Gabriel is advocating for US government persecution of Muslims.

Gabriel made a point to say she is “only talking about the radical Islamists.” But then tells a story about how she grew up knowing that “all Muslims want us dead.”

These terrorist attacks “are always Islamists against Westerners.”

An audience member just said “we should kill all the Muslims.” All the audience members around her murmured “yeah.”

Gabriel is the 2nd VVS speaker to specifically use the phrase “we need to start telling the *truth* about Islam.”

Gabriel says Act! for America has passed 35 bills in 17 states over the last 5 years. That might be the scariest thing we’ve heard yet, today?

11:45 am: Fox News personality Todd Starnes

Interestingly, Starnes is introduced as “someone who promotes our [right-wing] Christian values to America.”

Starnes says America is targeting only one religion for persecution, and that’s Christianity. He also says Obama is treating the American military as a “social experiment petri dish.”

Starnes is hitting the highlights:

  • repeats the Right’s redefined version of religious liberty, falsely claiming that “you can either own a business or have faith. But you can’t do both.”
  • Repeats the totally-fake IRS scandal.
  • Laments that public university student clubs aren’t able to kick out LGBTQ student members.

Starnes is also going on about how speakers at public universities and schools should be able to preach Christianity to non-Christian students who are required to be in attendance.

11:25 am: Congressman Jim Bridenstine (R-OK)

Bridenstine gets a cheer for being a Navy pilot. Can’t help but remember when 2 years ago they booed an active Marine in Afghanistan just because he was also gay.

Bridenstine says that “the surge” worked, and “completely secured Iraq.”

Bridenstine says we never should left Iraq, and is advocating leaving combat soldiers on the ground their indefinitely. *standing ovation* He got another standing O for being the latest speaker at VVS to call for a full-scale invasion of Iraq and Syria immediately.

Bridenstine says “absolutely nowhere in the constitution or the 1st Amendment is there separation of church and state.” He also says that if we remove the word ‘god’ from the pledge of allegiance, it would officially establish Atheism as the national religion.

“Let me tell you, the Korean War was just.”

According to Rep Bridenstine, North Korea lost the war and their citizens are starving because they “don’t have God.”

11:00 am: Common Core panel, led by FRC’s Sarah Perry

Panel claims that Common Core is a secret Obama plot to flood schools with the LGBTQ agenda.

The level of tap dancing going on by the panel is truly amazing to watch. They admit that Common Core was started by the states, but say it’s federal because of funding. They admit that the states are the ones to set the standards, but say it’s a federal takeover.

So why is the Right working so hard to push this Common Core conspiracy? In private schools, they’ve successfully integrated textbooks for kids that deny evolution, claim climate change is a myth, etc.

10:40am: Star Parker

Parker says she wants Franklin Graham to run for president.

“Liberals are unable to see how evil they are or the violence they cause.”

Parker is claiming that Liberals are purposefully covering up the existence of “many other Kermit Gosnells” [he was the abortion doctor who was illegally performing late-term abortions].

10:15am: Tony Perkins and right-wing radio personality Mark Levin

Perkins opens the interview with a joke about how all Democrats commit voter fraud.

Levin says that “the Left is totalitarian. They can’t win on ideas because their ideas are goofy and stupid.” He added that the only thing the Left really does is “package things as compassionate, but then talk about race and genitalia.”

Levin is swinging heavily at the so-called “establishment Republican party. He says they lose elections because they are “cowards and neostatist big government Republicans.” He also says that when they lose, “they blame us [social conservatives], and when they win they pat themselves on the back.”

First Hillary joke alert: “Hillary Clinton is just Barack Obama in a … well not a skirt… in a pant suit.”

Levin went on to say that it’s time to tell the truth about Islam. “We’re sending soldiers to fight against fundamental Islam, and it’s damn time for the president to admit that.”

The VVS audience gave a good giggle when Perkins quoted President Obama saying “Islam is a religion of peace.”

Interestingly, Levin says that neo-confederate secessionists “don’t really understand the constitution.” It’s interesting because many of those secessionists have already spoken here at VVS14.

9:48am: Mat Staver, chair of Liberty Council

Staver kicks off with a Voter ID joke, says he knows it’s a conservative audience “because no one here tried to vote twice.”

Staver is describing a visit to Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius. Drawing parallels to America ‘ignoring the warnings.’

Staver adds his name to the list of VVS speaker who repeat the absolute LIE that employees using their earned benefits for contraception is equivalent to companies paying for abortions.

Staver says he loves everyone, but “every once in a while it’s time to act like Jesus with the money changers.” (Is he advocating whipping Liberals?)

Literally 20 seconds after calling same-sex parents “straight from the pit of hell,” Staver says “we would never run an ad in the Washington Post calling people haters.”

Staver also complained about the states that have outlawed ex-gay torture on LGBTQ youth.

Staver finished his speech saying he was thrilled that in this generation, even “red and yellow” people are “bending their knees to god.”

9:30am: Ryan Bomberger

Anti-choice activist Ryan Bomberger is next. Check out our full profile on him here: http://www.politicalresearch.org/2013/09/12/the-next-generation-of-antichoice-ryan-bomberger/

Bomberger goes after “venom-spewing hateful SPLC” for designating FRC a hate group.

Bomberger says it’s ironic that Liberals “who only exist because of free speech,” have “the audacity to call the murder of unborn children ‘reproductive freedom.'”

It’s interesting to hear Bomberger talk so much about an “assault on unborn black babies,” when right-wing groups are PAYING CASH to women of color to sterilize themselves and reduce the number of Black children being born.

9:10am: Sandy Rios

Anti-choice activist Sandy Rios is speaking first. You can read our full profile on her here: http://www.politicalresearch.org/2013/10/21/profiles-on-the-right-sandy-rios/

Rios says that “even more than gay marriage or abortion, God hates pride the most” and it will destroy the country.

Rios walks through examples of pride she says are evil and “destroying the country because God hates it.” Included in her examples: a girl who decides she wants to live with her boyfriend, and former Boston mayor Tom Menino who after the Marathon Bombing said the city will survive because we’re Boston Strong (didn’t give credit to god).

She concluded talking about David & Goliath, saying “America will kill her enemies so that the world will know there is a god in America.”

9:00am: VVS is once again promoting I Pledge Sunday

The Christian Right has developed an app for pastors to check and see whether or not members of their congregations are registered to vote / have voted. More details here: http://www.politicalresearch.org/2014/09/25/theres-now-an-app-to-further-the-christian-rights-notion-of-religious-freedom/

8:56 am: Conference hall starting to fill up. Should be getting started in about 4 minutes.

LIVE BLOG: Values Voters Summit 2014, Day 1

Welcome to PRA’s live-blog of the 2014 right-wing Values Voters Summit in Washington, DC. Refresh for updates. Follow us on twitter @PRAeyesright for even faster updates.

Looking for our live coverage of Day 2? It’s here

VVS logo

9:06 pm: That’s it for us today! Thanks for following along, we’ll be back first thing in the morning with live coverage of Day 2 of #VVS14.

8:40 pm – Dunham Brothers

Up now are the Dunham brothers, who were fired from HDTV after they used their positions are representatives of the company to promote religious beliefs.

It’s fascinating how when LGBTQ people boycott a business, the Right labels it as tyranny. But when a private company follows market trends and fires employees who are losing them money, who happen to be Christian, that’s also tyranny?

8:20pm Duck Dynasty’s Alan Robertson

Alan Robertson’s speech is just odd. He started off by comparing his family’s beards to Osama Bin Laden. He then compared each member to different dogs, including his Uncle who is “just like a meth lab.”

He’s also pitching Phil Robertson’s new book, and talking about his now infamous anti-LGBTQ statements. Oddly enough, he has yet to mention Phil’s statements supporting underage marriage.

By the end of his speech. Robertson had fully pitched (including slides) 1 TV show, and 4 separate books written by various members of the family.

It’s worth mentioning that the Duck Dynasty Robertson family are all multi-millionaires, who pretend to be poor on tv in order to sell more product.

8:00pm Mike Huckabee

Huckabee starts with a Benghazi reference, saying that the “red phone” at the White House “went to voicemail that night” when the call for help came in.

Huackabee is just the latest today to equate ISIS with all Muslims everywhere, failing to recognize that there is a huge difference.

Huckabee calls for repealing the 16th amendment and completely abolish the IRS.

Huckabee is rewriting the constitution on stage. Says the judges who have ruled same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional do not have the authority to do that unless the legislative and executive branches concur with them.

Huckabee seems to be in charge of the GOTV effort at VVS. Story after story about how only those who show up and vote make a difference.

7:40 The Duggars

The Duggar family came on stage with almost all of their 19 children. The group sang O’ Precious Blood, and now the parents are talking about how the most important thing in their life was when they were “saved.”

7:30: FRC promo video

FRC is paying tribute to the Washington Times, which provided much of the funding for the Values Voters Summit this year. (pic)

Washington Times FRC

Dinner Break until 7:30 pm tonight.

5:00 pm: Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal

Jindal says “It’s not ‘the economy, stupid.’ It’s ‘the culture, stupid.'”

Jindal also said that Liberals fail to “recognize the dignity” of “all God’s creation.”

Jindal co-opting Liberal talking points, talking about how the American Dream means that the circumstances of your birth shouldn’t determine the outcome of your life. Yet Jindal is in favor of the rising income inequality between entry level workers and CEOs. And he’s in favor of dismantling labor unions and low-wage worker organizing.

Jindal says that the “assault” on religious freedom is unprecedented.

4:38 pm: David Limbaugh

David Limbaugh makes the case for why Jesus was really the savior. Not sure who he’s preaching to. Audience extremely restless, talking to each other.

4:15 pm: Sarah Palin

It took less than 5 seconds for Palin to throw out her first “lamestream media” quote.

“It’s time to fight back against this imperialist gun-hating president.”

“It’s time to end the politics of division” and we need to kick out these “orwellian out-of-control elitists”

Palin on the workout photo: “I rarely wear a ring in Alaska. We’re too busy choppin’ wood or slaughterin’ a moose, or something..”

Palin says all charges of “racism” are just an attempt by Liberals to change the subject. “We here in this room are the most slandered group in America.”

“If ISIS isn’t Islamic, why do you think it has such an appeal to the Muslim world?”

3:41 pm: Anti-Marriage Equality Panel, hosted by FRC’s Peter Sprigg

On the panel:

  • Eric Teetsel, exec dir of the Manhattan Declaration
  • Rep Vicky Hartzler (R-MO)
  • Melissa and Aaron Klein, owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa
  • Dr. Jerry Johnson, CEO of National Religious Broadcasters

Hartzler bemoans Catholic charities CHOOSING to stop receiving federal funding, rather than provide services to LGBTQ parents.

The audience gives an applause to the lone judge in Louisiana who ruled against marriage equality. All other judges post-Windsor have ruled for Marriage Equality.

Melissa Klein breaks down in tears.. very upset that she had to get paid to bake a cake for a happy couple getting married who happened to be LGBTQ.

Dr. Johnson blames the entire Marriage Equality movement on Obama’s inauguration speech, where he mentioned “gay and straight” people. Johnson says that speech signaled to the media that they should support and promote Marriage Equality.

Johnson also encouraged the audience and the media to stop using “LGBT” and to just go back to “gay.” He also says that for conservatives, “history is on our side” on marriage equality–because for “hundreds of years” it has been one-man-one-woman.

3:25 pm: Rep. John Fleming (R-LA)

Fleming says that legalization of marijuana is one of the key factors behind the “decline” of the American family.

Fleming claims that Marijuana is “highly-addictive” and is enslaving youth and teens. Not sure where Fleming gets his statistics, but he claims that rehab centers report that teen marijuana addiction is the most frequent diagnosis. He also claims that there are more pot dispenceries in California and Colorado than there are McDonalds and Starbucks combined.

Fleming also claims that the high-rates of incarceration for simple marijuana use “is an absolute myth.”

According to Fleming, 1 in 11 adult marijuana users become addicted, and 1 in 6 among teens.

“Have I convinced you, yet?” Fleming asks the audience. “Oh yes” they reply.

3:00 pm: American Values president Gary Bauer

Bauer is yet another speaker going the Islamophobia route. He conjured the specter of 9/11, talking about how he saw Muslims cheering afterwards.

He then talked about the Oklahoma employer who was well within his right to tell his Muslim employee to stop trying to convert his fellow employees at work. (But if Christians are told to stop trying to convert at work, that’s a violation of Religious Freedom.)

Bauer went on to categorize all Muslims from several nations, including Iran, as “bloody” and murderous.

Bauer says “We have a president more interested in defending the reputation of Muslims than in defending the lives of Christians.” *standing ovation*

2:35 pm: Rick Santorum

Santorum was introduced by National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown. Brown said that the reason Republicans have been losing elections is because they are trying to stifle social conservatives. He then introduced Santorum, who lost decisively by running as a social conservative.

Santorum is spending his speech talking about Islam. Says if you “truly understand Shia Islam, it’s easy to understand that the path they’re on” is to arm and use nuclear weapons against the U.S. He calls any leader (especially President Obama) who doesn’t recognize the need for action in the middle east is “at Disneyland.”

Santorum truly sounds like he’s calling for all-out war with the entire Islamic world. Says “the reason they’re winning is because they’re the ones willing to sacrifice.”

Santorum also took heavy swings at the so-called “establishment” Republican Party, encouraging attendees to never vote for a candidate who isn’t outspoken on social conservative issues.

2 pm: Kelly Shackleford, president of Liberty Institute

Liberty Institute has been one of the primary drivers behind the Right’s redefinition of religious freedom, transforming the Founder’s shield for individuals into a sword for institutions to impose religious mandates.

Shackleford says that religious employers and employees should be able to discriminate against employees and customers who don’t conform to their religious beliefs.

Shackleford is spending time talking about cases they’re fighting against the ACLU, over veteran war memorials that use Christian imagery and symbols. Liberty Institute calls it a defilement for non-Christian veterans to not want those symbols at the memorials.

“I’ve heard of a soldier who was commanded by his lesbian officer to agree with gay marriage, or be discharged.”

Lunch Break until 2pm

12:30 pm Lt Colonel Oliver North (ret)

North’s speech centered around the idea that American soldiers are star-spangled awesome, and far too good for the likes of Pres. Obama to be leading.

He also threw down on the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, saying “U.S. soldiers are being treated like lab rats in a radical social engineering experiment.”

Like a few speakers before him, North also reiterated that “America has nothing to apologize for.” As PRA fellow T.F. Charlton quipped on Twitter: “Except for slavery, Jim Crow, genocide, land theft, rampant inequality, prisons…”

11:50 am: Michele Bachmann

Interesting way to start a speech: “I’m a normal, real person.”

Bachmann is the latest to repeat the popular conservative line about how rights are given by god, and how “no man can take them away.” If that’s the case, we have to wonder why conservatives are claiming that the Left is “taking away” religious liberty rights.

Bachmann is also leaning heavily on Hillary Clinton. Says she fostered a “smaller, weaker America” and that “we want our 1984 foreign policy back!” (not sure whether or not she’s referencing Iran-Contra.)

Bachmann adding her name to the list of people blurring the line between Muslims and ISIS. Says “Mr. President, [ISIS] IS all about Islam. … We need to kill this evil!”

11:30am: Sen Rand Paul (R-KY)

Rand Paul is now the 4th speaker today to bring up the McCarthey-esque “our enemies are not without but within” theme. Paul also called the war against ISIS in Syria illegal, saying that “if I’d been president, I would have called a joint-session of Congress.

Paul also takes swipes at Obama’s use of executive orders, calling them tyrannical and illegal.

“Obamacare tries to separate our faith from our businesses. Thanks goodness for the [Hobby Lobby] Supreme court ruling.”

Paul also claimed the the “rise of radical Islam” is the result of the secular persecution of Christians around the world.

Paul says he wants to withhold “every dollar” of foreign aid to every country where any Christian is persecuted. He, of course, did not mention anything about the torture, rape, and murder of LGBTQ people and women all over the world—including here in the U.S.

11:00 am: Texas Lt. Gov David Dewhurst

Dewhurst touts the Texas legislature passing the infamous anti-abortion bill last year, despite protests by Wendy Davis and sexual and reproductive health and rights supporters. He claims all SRHR supporters in Texas were just bused in.

Dewhurst moves on to illegal immigration. Says “If we don’t stop these bad guys at the border, they’re going to be in your neighborhoods tomorrow.” He also calls for a much faster deportation process for the refuge immigrant children who are fleeing gang and drug violence in Central/South America.

He also says that finding prayer rugs near the border is “proof” that terrorists have infiltrated the U.S.

10:30: Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX)

(Last year, Cruz’s speech touting the GOP Government Shutdown was interrupted by several protesters calling for immigration reform)

Cruz started by claiming he’d “elevated the debate” over Obamacare when he shut down the government last year. And he joked about how the Secret Service should arrest that “intruder” Obama from getting into the White House.

Cruz went on to make some sweeping accusations, claiming that all Christians in Muslim nations are being persecuted.

But the nuts and bolts came with Hobby Lobby, which Cruz called a “phenomenal ruling.” The Senator lamented that the ruling was only 5-4, and repeated the incredibly medically inaccurate conservative claim that emergency contraception are “abortion-inducing pills.”

Cruz also made a big defense of Citizens United, calling efforts to overturn it “tyranny” and “evil extremism” design to repress free speech.

 

10:12 am: Rep Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind)

Stutzman is only hitting the greatest hits: “Families are great,” “Big Government Liberals are bad.” Although he did call for the abolishment of the NSA, EPA, and IRS.

9:30 am: Next up is a panel on terrorism. On the panel is:

  • Lt. General William Boykin – Executive Vice President, FRC; Former Commander, Delta Forces*
  • Gen. James Conway – Former Commandant, U.S. Marine Corps*
  • Major Gen. (Ret.) Robert Dees, Associate Vice President for Military Outreach, Liberty University*
  • Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.)*

Maj. Gen. (ret) Robert Dees gives frightening speech about American Exceptionalism. Warns that “We have been infiltrated! There are enemies within!” Claims there are “Muslim safehavens” all over the U.S. where terror cells form and are safe. He was given a standing ovation. Dees also says that U.S. soldiers have “lost all faith” in the Commander-in-Chief. Making a veiled reference to the repeal of DADT, he says “soldiers don’t have time to be P.C.”

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) says that Al Qaeda has terrorist cells in Columbia and other parts of South America, and that America’s “open southern borders” are “letting in terrorists to live among us.” Meadows went on to say we should not be relying on Iraq or Syrian soldiers. Makes the case for U.S. troops to permanently occupy middle east territory.

Boykin finishes. Says it’s terrible that we sent 3k troops to Africa to help deal with Ebola, says we should have sent them to fight ISIS instead.

9:17am: Rep Jim Jordan (R-OH)

Jordan laments that Hobby Lobby SCOTUS decision was only 5-4. Says Obama Administration is purposefully targeting Religious Freedom and 2nd Amendment. Jordan then focuses heavily on the supposed IRS scandal, saying that the Left was purposefully targeting conservative PACS. He says Dems are using scary terms like “dark money” and “shadow groups.” “They’re coming after us!” he says.

9:10am: Tony Perkins

Perkins offered up a strong defense of Citizens United, claiming that the Left is “tarring and feathering” wealthy conservatives. During his 5 minute speech, he also hinted at the Left’s supposed “attack” on Religious Liberty. Expecting to hear from almost every speaker this weekend.

9:00am: House cleaning opening speech includes lots of coffee cup/salute jokes, and a near-standing ovation for the resignation of Eric Holder.

8:50am: @JoeMyGod will be thrilled, the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family & Property are here. (pic below)

TFP

8:47 am: Waiting for the sessions to kick off for this year’s VVS. There’s a new group in the exhibit hall this year, the “ex-gay” PFOX.

Sticks and Cages, Carrots & Cash: The Right’s Racist Assaults on Reproductive Freedom

This post is the fourth in a five-part series examining the U.S. Right’s efforts to alter demographic trends by re-popularizing arguments and ideologies rooted in eugenics. (Read parts one, two, and three.) Today, I continue to discuss the U.S. Right’s coercive attempts to limit the fertility of people of color, an egregious affront to reproductive justice. This segment covers private and state mechanisms for preventing poor people of color, particularly Black women, from having children.  

As shown in the most recent post in this series, institutions like hospitals and other health care providers—generally regarded as unequivocally positive presences among White communities—often cast a much more violent shadow over communities of color. Similarly, White communities typically experience police officers as their protectors, while the same forces can pose a constant and lethal threat to law-abiding Black communities. People of color are also disproportionately likely to be ensnared in institutions designed to exert control without any veil of benevolence. Because mainstream narratives situate Black and Brown bodies as dangerous, as somehow oppositional or threatening to White American identity and nationhood, the state project of containing people of color is normalized and accepted as legitimate. Unspeakably inhumane apparatuses are thus widely regarded as necessary. Of the institutions violently managing Black and Brown bodies and populations (in every sense of both terms), mass incarceration likely looms largest.

The criminal justice system deploys a variety of methods to deny incarcerated people their rights to have children, and because mass incarceration is a racist project, African American people bear the brunt of this punishment. (Significantly, incarceration itself fundamentally obstructs the right to parent, making it a critical reproductive justice issue.) One such method is deliberately handing a woman a sentence likely to extend through her procreative years; another is forcing people convicted of certain crimes to “choose” between serving jail time and adopting long-acting contraceptive use; another is shifting parental rights over newborns to foster or adoptive parents; and another still is the practice of shunting people into carceral institutions distant from their communities and their partners. Additionally, incarcerated people’s access to reproductive health care tends to be abysmal. In some prisons and jails, the problem is not just the absence or insufficiency of care, but also procedures that are undertaken without informed consent.

A study by the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) found that between 2006 and 2010, nearly 150 people (if not more) held in California state prisons were sterilized under coercion and without legally mandated state approval. Christina Cordero, who received an unauthorized tubal ligation while incarcerated, said the prison OB-GYN persistently recommended that she undergo the procedure, making her “feel like a bad mother if [she] didn’t do it.” Kimberly Jeffrey, a Black woman who was also sterilized while incarcerated, reported being “pressured by a doctor while sedated and strapped to a surgical table for a C-section” (emphasis added). Jeffrey also recalls being told that she could only reclaim custody of her youngest child if she underwent a full hysterectomy. Jeffrey, who works with Justice Now, received no medical consultation about the operation, and her explicit resistance was ignored. Even if she had willingly acceded to the operation, however, Jeffrey could not have given consent: according to University of Pennsylvania Law professor Dorothy Roberts, courts have ruled that the conditions of labor can impair judgment, making it such that informed consent cannot be given during labor. (See Roberts’s Killing the Black Body ((1997)) for a more comprehensive analysis of attacks on Black women’s bodies and fertility.)

James Heinrich, the unremorseful OB-GYN who performed many of the tubal ligations, told CIR that he believed the cost of the surgeries, at nearly $150,000,to be negligible “compared to what you save in welfare paying for these unwanted children…as they procreated more.” Heinrich’s language is loaded. “Unwanted” implies promiscuity and assumes carelessness, while “procreated” indicates animalism, as opposed to the white feminine ideal of nurturing motherhood. Perhaps most appalling is Heinrich’s implicit bottom line: that certain people, disproportionately poor women of color and particularly poor Black women, ought not to have children because their offspring would be supported at the expense of the state’s more deserving citizens. Like the mythical “anchor babies” of Latina/o immigrants, the children of incarcerated people are presumed to be parasitic strains on the “system” even prior to their conception.

His prejudicial premise aside, Heinrich’s cost-benefit analysis hardly stands up to interrogation. His economic argument belies the fact that the exponential rise in incarceration itself, caused not by a rise in crime but rather by increasingly harsh and inflexible sentencing laws, has incurred enormous cost to the state. While expenditures on assistance under Temporary Assistance to Needy Families totaled about $5.3 billion in Fiscal Year 2013, the President’s FY13 budget request for the Federal Bureau of Prisons was $6.9 billion.

For those complicit in imposing tubal ligations in California prisons, the procedures were predicated not on smart budgeting so much as on problematic notions of who deserves support and who deserves punishment. Like the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), and its rabidly anti-immigration constituency, Heinrich and his colleagues cast poor women of color as scam artists or conniving thieves, rather than rational agents of their own reproduction. The anti-immigration Right may no longer be taking active measures to physically manage Latina women’s fertility, but the arguments for sterilizing incarcerated people who can become pregnant (who, in California and elsewhere, are disproportionately poor and of color) are much the same as the arguments put forth by FAIR and other nativist groups highlighted earlier in this series.

Some on the Right, however, have explicitly condemned the malfeasances that occurred in California prisons, based on the notion that sterilization frustrates potential life. These anti-choice groups’ denunciation is well directed, but ill-reasoned. The arguments and strategies employed by individuals and groups like Heinrich and FAIR are reprehensible not because of the hypothetical lives lost to sterilization, but because they deprive living people of their fundamental right to build the families they wish to build. Still, while imagined children are not the victims, nor are they irrelevant. It is critical to understand that the criminalization of Blackness, of Brownness, and of poverty is so entrenched that it precedes birth.

Moreover, while certain right-wing groups have seized the opportunity to criticize the wrongdoings undertaken by state institutions under majority Democratic governance, the same factions have looked on silently, even supportively, as Project Prevention (PP, formerly Children Requiring A Caring Kommunity, or C.R.A.C.K.) pursues a parallel process, ideologically and practically, outside of prisons.

The name C.R.A.C.K. invokes President Reagan’s manufactured panic surrounding the crack epidemic and its racialized and scientifically baseless ghouls, “crack mothers” and “crack babies.” The organization was founded in 1994 by Barbara Harris, whose first mission was to pass state legislation punishing people who give birth to drug-exposed infants. Such punishments, codified and otherwise, abound, and in the 413 cases analyzed in a 2013 study, 59 percent of people subject to state punishment under post-Roe v. Wade legislation criminalizing pregnancy were of color, and 52 percent were African-American. Harris’ particular initiative, however, proved unsuccessful. Founding C.R.A.C.K. was her ostensibly benevolent alternative.

Today, Project Prevention gives $300 in cash to people who are or have been addicted

C.R.A.C.K. flyer targets women of color, offering them cash payouts to go on long-term birth control

C.R.A.C.K. flyer targets women of color, offering them cash payouts to go on long-term birth control

to drugs or alcohol and who submit documentation proving that they have undergone sterilization procedures or are using long-acting contraception, such as Norplant or Depo-Provera. The organization, whose advertising targets low-income communities of color, also disseminates stigmatizing and scientifically inaccurate literature, which describes imagined horrors of drug-addicted motherhood and the irresponsible hyperfertility Harris attributes to women who use drugs.

Just as the California sterilizations took place among the innumerable other restrictions incarceration imposes on incarcerated people’s reproductive lives, Project Prevention represents an extreme manifestation of racist ideologies and practices that are widely accepted and deeply rooted in American society.

Lynn Paltrow, founder and executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW), argues that the organization’s strategies are actually part and parcel of Harris’ original, more overtly punitive, intention. PP’s mission, she argues, could be “understood as one designed to stigmatize certain people and to make them seem appropriate targets for sterilization and other forms of population control” (23).

Paltrow’s analysis is supported by a 2012 article Jed Bickman published in Salon, which states that of the 4,077 people the newly rebranded Project Prevention had paid to be sterilized or use long-acting contraceptives, 24 percent were African-American. The United States population is only 13.2 percent Black, and illicit drug use among Black Americans is not substantiallyif at allhigher than it is among White Americans.

Groups like NAPW have worked extensively to expose and oppose PP’s discriminatory efforts to undercut reproductive justice. But where is the Right with its ardent defense of life and unequivocal condemnation of contraception? They’re funding Harris. By 2006, C.R.A.C.K. had received donations totaling more than $2 million, the majority of which, Paltrow documents, came from wealthy conservatives. Major benefactors included the Allegheny Foundation, founded by the “funding father of the right,” billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife (who also contributed millions of dollars to FAIR and to other nativist projects initiated by FAIR’s eugenecist founder, John Tanton.); Dr. Laura Schlessinger, the vitriolically anti-Black and anti-LGBTQ talk show host; and right0-wing donor Jim Woodhill, Woodhill also hired British psychologist and unabashed eugenicist Chris Brand to bring Project Prevention overseas. Project Prevention’s sites of operation now include Haiti and Kenya, where its staff works to sterilize women with HIV.

Like Heinrich and the fertility-obsessed nativists, Project Prevention’s representatives are adept at speaking in code. The publicity team at Project Prevention characterizes the organization as seeking to “save our welfare system and the world from the exorbitant cost to the taxpayer for each drug-addicted birth”(Bickman).Ultimately, all of these enemies of reproductive autonomy position themselves as noble crusaders against the “threat” of government resources sustaining Black and brown children and families.

In the final installment of this series, I will more specifically address welfare’s role as part of the Right’s rhetorical and practical strategies for vilifying poor women of color and limiting their reproductive freedoms.

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To Shock the Heart of the Nation

Click here to see the full neoliberalism issue of The Public Eye magazine

Click here to see the full neoliberalism issue of The Public Eye magazine

An Interview with Rev. Dr. William Barber II, President, North Carolina NAACP

**This interview appears in PRA’s upcoming Fall, 2014 issue of The Public Eye magazine, a special issue on neoliberalism and the Right**

“We had some happy clients when we found out they wouldn’t have to pay the North Carolina estate tax,” Elizabeth Quick, an estate lawyer in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, told Forbes magazine in July 2013. The state’s Republican governor, Pat McCrory, had just signed a repeal of the estate tax that removed the obligation for one wealthy family to pay more than $2 million, and another family $680,000, into state coffers.

So that those two families (plus around 20 others) could keep the entirety of their estates intact, the governor and state legislature eliminated the Earned Income Tax Credit, depriving 907,000 low-income North Carolinians of state funds that many counted on to pay their utility bills and rent.

Tax cuts for the wealthy are a common Republican tactic, but this wasn’t just a Republican maneuver. McCrory and the GOP-dominated legislature were just getting started on a set of policy changes reflective of a comprehensive and far-reaching neoliberal agenda. Within the first 50 days of the 2013 legislative session, the lawmakers, whose campaigns had been backed by some of the wealthiest families in the state, enacted a string of new laws that transfer wealth from poor to rich. The state moved to refuse federal dollars for expanding Medicaid to cover 500,000 more people under the Affordable Care Act; suppress the vote with a restrictive Voter ID law; cut off unemployment benefits for 170,000 North Carolinians; and slash teacher salaries to bring North Carolina to 46th place nationwide for teacher pay.

These policies were among the wishes of Art Pope, a retail tycoon and former state representative whose interest in politics is so keen that he became McCrory’s state budget director (a position from which Pope just stepped down amid controversy over how concentrated his power had become).  Pope, along with organizations such as the (billionaires and political allies of Pope) Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity—exerts such influence on Gov. McCrory and state legislators that even some Republicans in the state have suggested it is too much.  In one egregious example, in 2013, Pope entered the statehouse during debate on a bill that would have allowed public funding of campaigns for judgeships and collared a GOP lawmaker who was considering a compromise, reminding the lawmaker of Pope’s past contribution to his campaign and thus personally ensuring the bill’s death.

Pope also funds NC-based think tanks—such as the Civitas Institute and the John Locke Foundation— that generate research to support the neoliberal agenda that has, in two short years, come to dominate the political process in North Carolina. “He drives the budgetary policy goals of this administration,” complained one anonymous North Carolina Republican lobbyist to the Washington Post in July 2014.

But a grassroots movement is underway to fight back against Pope and the free-market incursions he and other neoliberals are making against the state’s hard-won policies for racial and economic justice.  Tapping into the same religious core that fueled the Civil Rights Movement, state NAACP President Rev. Dr. William Barber II has energized a broad swath of people in the state to take to the streets at least 70 times since 2012 to say that enough is enough. Rallying thousands of North Carolinians around a 14-Point People’s Agenda, the Moral Marches (or Moral Mondays, as they were first popularly dubbed) have come to be seen as a touchstone for a renewed social justice movement across the South. As Barber prepared to spread a message of hope and democracy through a week of actions Aug. 22-28 in Raleigh and other Southern state capitals, he talked with me about North Carolina’s free-market ideology and how it has already affected the people who live there.  Barber, referring to the billionaire-backed Tea Party, the national group that pushes free-market policies at the local and state level, says these past two legislative sessions have been a “coordinated, premeditated attempt to undermine progress and engage in regressive Tea Party policies.”

William Barber

Rev. Dr. William Barber II

“This is really Robin Hood in reverse,” Barber told me. “It is government of business, bought by business, for business. And not just business—because lots of business leaders disagree with them—but this is Tea Party greed. This is Koch brother-type greed.”

“This is really Robin Hood in reverse,” Barber told me. “It is government of business, bought by business, for business.

Barber bristles, though, at the notion that conservatism or partisan politics are at the root of the problem. “I fuss against these terms ‘liberal’ versus ‘conservative’,” he says, “because I want to conserve the essence of our Constitution and then liberally make sure everybody has access to them. What we’re dealing with is extremism, and you can’t just define it as ‘conservative.’”

At the local level, says Barber, the state legislature’s extreme adherence to free-market neoliberal policy is gutting the state’s public school system. “Five thousand teachers being fired, being removed, and local school boards decrying [this] because of the impact that it was having on classroom sizes and students,” he says.

Barber adds that, because of the salary cuts, he sees teachers actively leaving North Carolina. “In fact,” he said, “one state, Texas, sent memos out and said if you’re in North Carolina, come to Texas. And you know that’s kind of sad, considering Texas’s regressiveness, when they actually can offer teachers more than North Carolina.”

Barber also described the legislature’s attempt to shift $10 million earmarked for public schools to voucher programs that could only be used to pay for private schools. In shifting these public funds into private hands, said Barber, the legislature refused to require that private schools benefiting from the vouchers maintain the same non-discrimination standards that public schools must uphold, meaning that private schools receiving voucher funds would have been allowed to restrict enrollment however they chose. A Superior Court judge declared on Aug. 21 that the state’s school voucher program is unconstitutional, citing the lack of accountability inherent in the program, and issued a permanent injunction stopping the voucher program from going forward.

Art Pope and the Tea Party aren’t just alienating teachers and progressives, says Barber. They are also alienating Republicans across the state. Barber says that the legislature and McCrory never made clear, even to their own constituents, what they were planning to do once they achieved a supermajority in the statehouse and won the governorship. “They did not run saying,  ‘Elect me, I’m going to take your health care, cut your public education, and strip you of your unemployment even if you lost your job at no fault of your own,’” says Barber. “So, we’ve had a Republican unemployed person stand on the stage [at a Moral March] and say, ‘I’m a Republican, but I’m unemployed—I didn’t vote for this.’”

Even Republicans holding public office are objecting to the legislature’s actions. Adam O’Neal, a self-described conservative Republican mayor from Belhaven, NC, began a one-man march of 273 miles to Washington D.C. on July 14 to dramatize the impact of Gov. McCrory’s and  [House Speaker] Tillis’ refusal to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. O’Neal explained that the lack of Medicaid funds had forced the only hospital in his coastal community to close, creating a “medical desert” that would certainly cost lives. O’Neal also laments the potential economic impact of the hospital closing; he told NPR, “How many people go retire somewhere where it doesn’t even have a hospital?”

I asked Barber what he believes is the neoliberals’ vision for North Carolina. “They believe that the way to a great North Carolina is to deny necessary funds and access to public education.  Attack teachers. Deny unemployment. Deny earned 

“They believe that the way to a great North Carolina is to deny necessary funds and access to public education.  Attack teachers.

income tax credit and other safeguards for the working poor.  Deny affordable healthcare and access to healthcare, even if it allows people to die. Deny labor rights, LGBT rights, women’s rights, immigrant rights … And then, if you really want a great America after you’ve done all these things, then suppress the right to vote and attempt to use your power to stay in office.  And then, after you’ve done all of that to create all this tension,  ensure that everyone has access to guns easier than they have access to the polls. Now, that sounds crude and sinister, but those are their policies.”

Having set this grim scene, Barber continued with a surprisingly upbeat message:  “Whatever we’re facing now, it’s not greater than slavery, it’s not greater than Jim Crow, it’s not greater than women being denied the right to vote.  We won those battles.  But we did not win those battles by merely engaging in political arguments. We had to tap into the moral and social consciousness of the nation.”

“I am hopeful,” he went on, “because I believe in the deep moral consciousness at the heart of America. Those of us who believe in justice and who believe in freedom, we are the heartbeat of this nation. Our role now is to be like a social defibrillator, to shock the heart of the nation, to cause it to revive and to remember what the real enemy is: regressive extremism. And it’s not just about winning all the elections, but changing the context in which our politicians have to operate.”

Barber said he hopes that the momentum of the Forward Together Moral Movement (as one of the core groups organizing Moral Marches is currently called) will spread. He sees it moving across the South from North Carolina to help change the political context and create the possibility for the state NAACP’s 14-Point People’s Agenda to be written into legislation both in North Carolina and beyond. The Agenda includes anti-poverty, pro-labor policies; equality and equitable distribution of resources in public education; access to healthcare for all; fairness in the criminal justice system; and protection and expansion of the right to vote and the rights of immigrants.

Barber acknowledges that the neoliberal forces in his state—and across the country—remain powerful. “We’ve got to fight in the courts, we’ve got to fight the legislative halls, we’ve got to fight in the streets, we’ve got to push at the pulpit, and we have to work at the ballot box,” he says. “If we do all of this with what I call a moral critique, so we’re not trapped with the language of Republican versus Democrat, I believe we can continue to work towards the reconstruction of this nation.”

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Eugenics as U.S. Nationhood: Situating Population Control in a Settler State

This post is the third in my series examining the U.S. Right’s efforts to alter demographic trends by re-popularizing arguments and ideologies rooted in eugenics. (Read part one and part two.) Today, I continue to discuss the U.S. Right’s coercive attempts to limit the fertility of people of color, an egregious affront to reproductive justice. This segment addresses U.S. initiatives undertaken to limit Native American women’s reproductive autonomy.

In my last post, I discussed right-wing nativists’ efforts to establish a two-tiered citizenship structure, which would institutionalize discrimination against and disenfranchisement of people of color. While this redefinition of citizenship has not gained legal ground, comparable institutions proliferate in the U.S.

image via http://nativeamericansterilization.wordpress.com/

image via http://nativeamericansterilization.wordpress.com/

Indeed, it is important to acknowledge that the United States itselfnot only the structures it creates and upholdsis such a system. Superimposed as it was, and is, on land once shared by tens of millions, this country is a settler colonial state and a necessarily genocidal project: as Cavanagh and Veracini explain, “settlers want Indigenous people to vanish.” In the United States, this aim has been largely (though certainly not entirely) realized, and sterilization has been among the means of effecting it.

The genocidal practices undertaken during the formation of the U.S. are well documented and fairly well known, as are some of those implemented in the 19th and early 20th centuries. More contemporary iterations of the U.S. genocidal project are less widely known, due in part to the widespread misconception that Native Americans have long been virtually extinct.

Between 1973 and 1976, the Indian Health Servicea federal programsterilized more than 3,406 Native American people who could become pregnant. Dozens of those sterilized were under 21, contrary to a moratorium on sterilizing minors. From 1969 to 1974 (coinciding with President Nixon’s term), the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) subsidized a full 90 percent of the costs of these sterilizations (Ralstin-Lewis). Many were sterilized against their will; moreover, a substantial portion of the providers lacked documentation attesting to fully informed consent. As researchers Jane Lawrence and D. Marie Ralstin-Lewis show, the consent forms the patients signed were often incomplete, and many did not indicate that they had a right to refuse the procedure at no risk of losing benefits. Nor is it evident from any of the forms later evaluated by the U.S. General Accounting Office that providers had fully informed their patients of what sterilization entailed. They certainly did not make a compelling effort to overcome cultural barriers in explaining the procedure. Additionally, consent is difficult to ascertain in light of the circumstances in which Native patients found themselves; the dire poverty inflicted by the United States, constant infringements on sovereignty, and concerted efforts to uproot indigenous cultures shape a landscape in which white doctors could coerce their Native patients in highly subtle ways.

Both Lawrence and Ralstin-Lewis also stress the significance of Native Americans’ ability to have children in the face of continuing efforts to exterminate them. Ralstin-Lewis reports specifically on extensive investigations undertaken by Native Americans. Cheyenne tribal judge Marie Sanchez and Northern Cheyenne tribal member Mary Ann Bear Comes Out concluded that in just three years, a full third of the mere 165 women of childbearing age on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation and Labre Mission grounds had been sterilized, “reducing births within this group by half or more over a five-year period” (82). This devastating statistic is representative of what many tribes experienced: a Lakota researcher named Lehman Brightman devoted many years to investigating the sterilizations of Native American women and found that approximately forty percent of all Native women had been sterilized (Ralstin-Lewis).

It would be reductive to attempt to identify the U.S. government’s discrete motivations for reducing the Native American population, which cannot be understood outside the context of settlement and genocide. However, it is worth noting that while many of the arguments put forward for limiting immigrants’ reproductive agency are manifestly inapplicable to Native American populations, some of the explicit justification is the same. Specifically, proponents and practitioners of sterilization frame it as an investment, contending (sometimes implicitly) that when certain people do not have children, the money saved in welfare expenditures will offset the cost of sterilization. The welfare state is a ubiquitous trope in right-wing rhetoric surrounding issues of poor women of color’s reproductive autonomy. Ralstin-Lewis comments, “The noncompliant female body has become the central point of contention for conservative fury about the welfare state” (89).

The conflation of certain bodies with welfare costs, which is inextricable from the degradation of welfare itself, is a means of normalizing and obscuring racism and sexism. The construction of these bodies as burdensome allows bigotry to be couched in ostensibly pragmatic arguments against unnecessary spending. Meanwhile, welfare is seen as objectionable and unnecessary because it is associated with marginalized people. Prejudice is thus woven invisibly through the fabric of public opinion.

This is consistent with Thomas W. Volscho’s thesis that “sterilization racism” is a function of the U.S. having been organized around white supremacy. Volscho uses Cazenave and Maddern’s definition of racism as “…a highly organized system of race-based group privilege that operates at every level of society and is held together by a sophisticated ideology of color/race/supremacy,” theorizing that the hierarchy this produces will give those at the top control over or influence within the institutions determining their reproductive abilities (such as health care providers), while those at the bottom will be subject to the whims of the same institutionsand those of others intended specifically to constrain them (19). (This too is part of the colonial project, which necessitates that those in power be able to manage the bodies of those they subjugate.) The next installment of this series will give an overview of ways in which constraining institutions, including the carceral system, have targeted Black women’s reproductive freedom.

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Of Bombs and Wombs: Nativist Myths of Weaponized Fertility

(More Right-Wing Prophecies of White Supremacy’s Decline)

This post is the second in a series examining the U.S. Right’s efforts to alter global demographic trends by re-popularizing arguments and ideologies rooted in eugenics. (Read part one here.) In this post and those to follow, I discuss the U.S. Right’s coercive attempts to limit the fertility of people of color, with a focus on the anti-immigration Right. 

In my last article, I discussed the Right’s fear-mongering narrative that contraceptive use and other exercises of reproductive freedom and bodily autonomy are catapulting civilization into decline. Curiously, there is also a swath of powerful right-wing voices making what appears to be a diametrically opposed argument. They are organized around the perceived threat of population growth, and—like their pro-population growth counterparts—they are deeply invested in regulating exactly which populations are permitted to procreate. In truth, though, these seemingly rival factions are two sides to the proverbial coin, and that coin is eugenics.

Courtesy of peoplesworld, Creative Commons

Courtesy of peoplesworld

Population alarmism, or the notion that high rates of population growth are to blame for poverty, climate change, and a host of other nightmarish global problems, is a well-disguised framework for undermining poor people of color’s reproductive autonomy. Its insidiousness comes from the effective coding of rhetoric surrounding hyperfertility and handout-seeking burdens to taxpayers as references to women of color, particularly poor Black women and immigrant Latina women. The fiction that excessively high birthrates are the source of human suffering becomes a way to mask racism, misogyny, and elitism while still clearly identifying poor women of color as the enemy, the undesirable Other.

It is important to note that not all people who can become pregnant are women; many trans men and nonbinary people can also become pregnant, and they are materially affected by attacks on reproductive health. Of course, such attacks are gendered in their ideology, and in this sense they are attacks on women, which necessarily impact trans women. Therefore, when referring to the logic of limiting reproductive choice, I will use “women”; when referring to actual initiatives to limit reproductive choice, I will use “people who can become pregnant.”

U.S. eugenics are at least as old as Mendel’s laws of heredity, but the pretext of unsustainable population growth for right-wing vilification of women of color’s fertility can be traced back to the emergence of a “new Malthusianism” that gained traction under President Nixon. In 1968, Paul Ehrlich sounded the alarm with his book The Population Bomb (coauthored without attribution by his wife), which argued that the earth was approaching its carrying capacity, and rising population growth would be catastrophic for humans and the environment. Coupled with Cold War anxieties that growing populations would cause resource scarcity, which would give rise to Communism, the Ehrlichs’ arguments helped generate bipartisan support for the suppression and stabilization of population growth. The conflation of the “population problem” and the implicitly racialized “urban crisis” of the mid-1960s further strengthened this support. Derek Hoff writes, “The purported connection between population growth and the urban crisis…injected a fresh dose of racial politics into a population discussion already tainted and racialized via the unfortunate legacy of eugenics” (31).

Right-wing enthusiasm for population control began to wane precipitously, however, when zero-growth efforts became associated with the pro-choice movement (giving way to right-wing resistance from groups like the Population Research Institute and the World Council of Families, which I discussed previously). Additionally, libertarian groups embraced population growth as integral to populist efforts, and the rise of neoliberalism thrust regulation to the political margins. Nonetheless, certain right-wing elements of the zero population growth movement remained.

One such element was the right-wing nativist contingent. 1979 saw the inception of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a virulently nativist organization that began by couching its racist agenda in unscientific environmentalist arguments for shrinking the immigrant population in the United States. According to Priscilla Huang of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), a number of FAIR’s highest positions are held by people with “ties to white supremacist groups,” and the organization has been the recipient of more than $1 million from the Pioneer Fund, whose other grantees include groups that perform “research in eugenics and ‘race science’” (394). FAIR’s founder, John Tanton, has openly embraced eugenics. (Tanton also played an integral role in founding NumbersUSA and the Center for Immigration Studies, which both advance nativist efforts to restrict immigration.) The Southern Poverty Law Center has named FAIR a hate group.

FAIR is not alone in exploiting fears of climate change and resource scarcity to foster anti-immigrant sentiment and shape anti-immigrant legislation, but it is spearheading the charge. FAIR is the largest anti-immigrant organization in the U.S., and probably the most influential. With ample congressional influence and a reported 250,000 members, FAIR cannot be dismissed as merely a fringe group.

Nativist advocates of population control have attempted to square their agenda with the anti-choice philosophies of the Right by claiming, as former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) did in 2007, “If we had those 40 million children that were killed over the last 30 years, we wouldn’t need illegal immigrants to fill the jobs that they are doing today” (Huang, 403). The subtext of this ludicrous assertion is that abortion (that evil of evils) is killing the good children: the White ones.

DeLay’s line of reasoning also smooths over another major break between the anti-choice Right and the population control movement. To right-wing libertarians who seek to shrink government, DeLay (along with those who have made similar arguments) suggests that curtailing immigration and immigrant populations will preserve the integrity of a U.S. libertarian movement by restoring power to the right (read: White) people.

In a memo titled “Latin Onslaught,” John Tanton says that White people’s “power and control over their lives [is] declining” as “a group that is simply more fertile” procreates itself to majority status (Sánchez, 2). As Tanton would have it, big government and a growing Latino voting base are co-conspirators in the effort to rob “real” Americans of the autonomy and supremacy they are due. (“More fertile,” of course, implies more promiscuous, more sexual, more irresponsible—all stereotypes with which women of color are branded. In true eugenic fashion, it also implies innate bodily difference from white women.)

Historically, nativist efforts to quell the perceived threat of Latina women’s fertility have gone far beyond altering immigration patterns. An article by Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas and Taja Lindley at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health explains that coercive sterilizations of Latina/o people who could become pregnant were widespread in the 1960s and 1970s. This abuse, the authors say, was motivated by “[f]ears about over-population, welfare dependency, increased spending for public services, and illegitimate childbearing,” which “fueled stereotypes about both women of color and immigrant women, and led health professionals and State policymakers to intimidate ‘undesirable’ women into agreeing to surgical sterilization.”

In 1978, ten Chicana women who were coercively sterilized at a Los Angeles County hospital (whose obstetric residents had a quota for tubal ligations) over a four-year period went to court seeking justice. While Madrigal v. Quilligan ultimately led to the enactment of important regulations for obstetricians, the ruling favored the doctors who had performed the surgeries, affirming the stereotype that Mexican women tend to have excessive numbers of children and determining that “it was not objectionable for an obstetrician to think that a tubal ligation could improve a perceived overpopulation problem,” or to perform the procedure in compliance with this racialized and politicized theory. (Read Alexandra Minna Stern’s thorough analysis of the politics of Madrigal here.) Latina organizers, including those who bravely went before the court in Madrigal, worked tirelessly to abolish tubal ligations performed under coercion or without informed consent.

Yet Latina women’s fertility remains a target of right-wing attacks. FAIR and its allies continue to argue (falsely) that hyper-fecund Latina women come to the United States in droves to give birth so that their children—derisively referred to as “anchor-babies”—can reap the benefits of big government’s welfare policies. To mitigate this problem, they propose amending the U.S. Constitution to deny citizenship for children born in the United States to undocumented parents, which is currently guaranteed by the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Huang points out that this project, if realized, would create a subjugable second class of “U.S.-born ‘alien’ children…a classification that would apply only to the offspring of immigrant women, the majority of whom are women of color” (401).

The institutionalization of such a racialized classification system would be utterly deplorable. It would undoubtedly visit unspeakable harm on many of the most vulnerable families in the United States; it would erect enormous barriers to access and gut protections for people already deprived of their rights and of recourse. But it would not be unique.

In the next part of this series, I endeavor to problematize the very notion of immigrants to the U.S., which is manifestly premised on racism and exclusion. This installment will discuss U.S. culpability in promoting sterilization as part of the ongoing genocide of Native American people.

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From Europe to the United States: Ultra Right Ideology Continues to Gain Ground

Almost a decade ago, in the Spring 2005 issue of The Public Eye magazine, Jérôme Jamin examined the role of the Extreme Right in European politics (It’s worth noting that PRA no longer uses the term “Extreme Right,” as it has become so casually applied in the political discourse. We now generally use “Far Right” or “Ultra Right”). Jamin observed, that “as yesterday’s fascists [had] entered government,” it had become more difficult to identify them as such. With many of these parties participating in ruling coalitions, their public actions did not necessarily reflect their political rhetoric, restricted by coalition partners and, more broadly, by the European Union.

From May 22nd to the 25th this year, European parliamentary elections were held across Europe, and the same troubling questions came back to the fore. Parties of the Right with strong anti-immigrant and anti-Europe policies have flourished across Europe. Some of these parties have direct ties to the Nazi party, and many more use the same imagery. The Front National and the Danish People’s Party won the largest share of the vote in France and Denmark, respectively, by seeking to present themselves as mainstream. This mainstreaming has parallels in the U.S., with individuals and organizations with racist, sexist, and homophobic views seeking—and often gaining—mainstream credibility.

Marine Le Pen

Marine Le Pen, the new leader of Front National

Thanks to the new leadership of Marine Le Pen (daughter of former Party leader Jean-Marie Le Pen), Front National has been pulling off major upsets in French politics. The change in leadership from father to daughter allowed the party to distance itself from the controversial views of Jean-Marie, a man with a history of Holocaust denial, antisemitism, and racism, and who recently suggested that ebola could be the solution to population control and European immigration. Despite all this, the party now presents itself as moderate, having been through a process of “detoxification.” (Marine Le Pen took a political rival to court for calling her a fascist.) Success in the elections will only further the Front National’s move toward the mainstream. Having won 25 percent of the vote, they are now the largest French party in the European Parliament.

Winning an even higher percentage of their country’s vote, the Danish People’s Party became the largest Danish party in the European Parliament, doubling its number of seats. Its campaign relied on anti-immigration policies and racist statements, largely directed against Muslims. Party candidates have specifically argued against Muslim immigration, going so far as to suggest a ban on immigration from Islamic countries.

Among the other parties, Golden Dawn and Jobbik (of Greece and Hungary, respectively), stand out as examples of the Far Right’s rise in Europe. While it hasn’t achieved the electoral success of some of the other groups, Golden Dawn’s rise, in particular, shows that even clearly Nazi-inspired symbolism can win votes. From violent attacks on immigrants by likely supporters, to racially discriminatory welfare programs, and even to readings of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion in the Greek parliament, you don’t even need to see their clearly Nazi-inspired rallies, logo, and flag to recognize the worrying similarities to Nazism. Golden Dawn only received 9.4 percent of the vote, but the party is now the third largest Greek party in the European Parliament.

A similar party in Hungary, called Jobbik, did not gain new seats in the elections; having received 14.7 percent of the vote, however, it’s certainly not on the decline. The party is clearly anti-Semitic (at one point asking to “tally up people of Jewish ancestry”), anti-Roma (suggesting Roma individuals be forced into camps, possibly for life), and anti-LGBTQ (proposing a similar “gay propaganda” law to the one recently passed in Russia).

There were many more smaller parties on the Ultra Right that won their first seats, including the National Democratic Party of Germany, a neo-Nazi party, whose new Member of the European Parliament has a laundry list of offensive comments, including calling Hitler “a great man.”

In the nine years since Jamin’s article, the Ultra Right has succeeded and thrived in becoming a considerable force in European elections, but it is still suffering from a self-imposed identity crisis. A recent Guardian article asked when it is appropriate to describe these parties and individuals as fascists. Controversial comments by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, referring to the Front National as a fascist party, have only added to the confusion over identifying the Ultra Right as such, especially when the parties in question are appealing to a quarter of voters, and whose policies don’t always reflect their racist ideology as much as they used to (at least explicitly).

To a certain extent, the two- party system in the U.S. has prevented Ultra Right groups from gaining traction here. Nevertheless, there are links between the Ultra Right in Europe and organizations on the Ultra Right in the U.S.  Moreover, strategies aimed at mainstreaming these dangerous ideologies should be cause for concern here, as well.

For example, National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown traveled with a group of French activists, including an ex-Front National candidate, and a top adviser to Marine Le Pen. The British National Party has clear links with the American Third Position (now the American Freedom Party), a group listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a White Nationalist group.

Pat Buchanan

Pat Buchanan

Other U.S. groups have been broadly supportive of the Ultra Right in Europe. David Duke, the former KKK Grand Wizard, celebrated the election victories of Ultra Right parties in Europe as “a small step forward to saving the world from Jewish supremacism.” Influential conservative leader and former White House communications director Pat Buchanan even wrote an article that broadly supported the election result, and has consistently either supported White Nationalist groups, or been supported by them.

Finally, White Nationalist ideologies have found their way into U.S.-based organizations (many of which try to brand themselves as “mainstream”).  From panelists at CPAC from a White Nationalist group, to a North Carolina congressperson appearing on a White Nationalist radio show, to Iowa congressman Steve King defending author Peter Brimelow (profiled by the SPLC as a White Nationalist), there is substantial overlap between the Right of the Republican party and elements of the Ultra Right, including White Nationalist movements. It should not come as a surprise, therefore, that elements of the White Nationalist movement are even demanding credit for the GOP’s similar strategies and policies.

The Ultra Right in Europe has gained ground, in many places displacing established parties by a considerable margin. Parties that were previously considered fascist, alongside younger parties with Islamophobic and racist immigration policies, have pushed their way toward success by seeking to mainstream their public reputation, if not their core ideology.  In the United States, the electoral system may be less likely to allow parties of the Ultra Right into formal power, but their ideologies still have currency within swaths of the GOP.

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Mass Shooters Have A Gender and a Race

A Closer Look at White Male Privilege

Although White males made up 69.2% of those arrested in 2011 for urban violence, Black men still account for the majority of the prison population, more than six times as likely to be incarcerated than White men. Black men are also subjected, according to Lawrence Grossman, former President of CBS News and PBS, to media stereotyping where TV newscasts “disproportionately show African Americans under arrest, living in slums, on welfare, and in need of help from the community.” However, men of color do not represent the majority of school shooters or mass murderers.

NRA-1-articleLarge

Recent studies reveal that most school shooters are White males, with 97 percent being male and 79 percent White. Over the last three decades, 90 percent of high school or elementary school shootings were the result of White, often-upper middle class, perpetrators. These shootings are a direct reflection of White male privilege and the consequences that occur when groups like the NRA control influential conservative leaders.

Before his May 23rd premeditated killing spree, Elliot Rodger posted a YouTube video saying his intention was to “slaughter every single spoiled stuck up blonde slut I see” inside a sorority house, because they “all would have rejected [him] and looked down upon [him] as an inferior man if [he] ever made a sexual advance towards them.” These chilling comments cannot be simply regarded as nonsense from a “madman,” because they actually represent the deeply entrenched manifestation of our misogynistic society. Furthermore, the case of Elliot Rodger exposes the prevailing intersection between gender and race of gun violence.

There is a pattern in these school shootings that has been coined as “suicide-by-mass-murder,” and seems to be an almost-exclusively young-White-male phenomenon. Michael Kimmel, a Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Stony Brook University and founder of the academic journal Men and Masculinity, has been conducting research on the intersection between race and gender of American school shooters, and observed that “victims of [young men of color] are usually those whom the shooter believes have wronged him. And it rarely ends with his suicide. .. White men, on the other hand, have a somewhat more grandiose purpose…’If I’m going to die, then so is everybody else,’ they seem to say. Yes, of course, this is mental illness speaking: but it is mental illness speaking with a voice that has a race and a gender.”

This “suicide-by-mass-murder” is a reflection of a combination of both White and male privilege—the ideology that White males have social, economic, and political advantages granted to them solely on the basis of their sex and race. In Elliot’s case, he believed he, as a White heterosexual male, was entitled to women and sex, and that their disinterest was “an injustice, a crime.” Misogyny is still alive and well in American society, provoking many men to still believe that women owe them obedience and adoration. Manhood and masculinity are defined and shaped from the early years of when a father or sports coach tells a boy to stop crying and “Man up, you sissy!” Boys become ‘men’ and gain respect from their peers when they lose their virginity or win their first fist-fight. Pop culture and movies drive home these not-so-subtle themes to young male audiences, teaching them that masculinity revolves around having a nice car, violently punching the bad guy, and saving the girl who would be nothing without their hero.

On top of all of this is the additional element of White privilege, furthering the notion that White males, as society tells them, are the alphas. These two elements combined invoke a sense of entitlement to jobs, education, power, and women. This embedded privilege within White American men becomes dangerous when they don’t get from women what they’ve been told they deserve or are entitled to. In many cases, this leads to incidents of domestic violence or rape. In cases where the man also suffers from mental illness, as was the case with Rodger, the feelings of worthlessness and suicidal thoughts drive a desire to reassert his presence and power above women before dying, by doing something catastrophic that will garner media attention.

White male privilege is evident, but it is not something that is often pointed out or discussed. Perhaps it is easier to notice the disadvantages of racial minorities or females rather than the advantages of White males. Perhaps it is because they are taught not to recognize it because of the guilt or consequent self-doubt that comes with societal privilege. Nevertheless, as a result, school shootings are increasingly frequent and studies continue to reveal the correlation between guns and race and gender.

In the wake of the Elliot Rodger shooting, in which he allegedly exacted retribution against women for paying him no romantic interest, Congress passed a bill on May 29th that aims to increase funding for criminal background checks in a 260-145 vote. This is the only gun control legislation that has been considered since the 2011 Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, after powerful lobbyist organizations like the NRA cast any opposition to gun violence as opposition to gun ownership and successfully lobbied against gun control laws. In fact, at the behest of the NRA, Congressional Republicans passed a law in 1996 that prevents the Center for Disease Control and Prevention from using federal funding to research the effect of guns. Republicans are now targeting the National Institutes for Health for funding research on public health issues of guns.

If change is to come about, schools and parents should start facilitating conversations about race and gender in the 21st century, because our society is not past racism or sexism yet. Or perhaps we should start with illuminating how the NRA, with 5 million predominantly White male members and $205 million in annual revenue, blocks most of the attempts for gun control legislation for their own agenda purposes. 47 percent of males and 33 percent of Whites in America own guns, while only 18 percent of non-White Americans possess firearms. Rick Ector, a NRA-credentialed Firearms Trainer, readily admitted that “the NRA has not made any significant progress or inroads towards increasing the number of black people in the organization and its annual conventions. By my own personal accounting, I met twelve black persons in attendance at the conference in St Louis.” There were 86,000 total attendees at the conference and they were primarily older white men, “the gun-loving sector of American society,” as The Economist describes. 

The NRA’s lobbying efforts to support gun ownership truthfully supports White male privilege in America as well. It’s not enough that economic, social, and political inequalities exist in society. It’s not enough that Congress, as it did on April 9th, block the Paycheck Fairness Act for the third time so that women can continue to receive a lower wage than men. Americans must also own guns so that people can protect their White male privileges and, consequently, allow for anyone to wield these weapons and punish others when these men do not get what they are promised by society.

Please refer to Guns and Racism: The Critical Issue We’re Not Allowed To Discuss for further information.

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