History, race, and birth control: Why aren’t we talking about this?
This is an e-mail I received from a friend after she read my post on birth control over at the Good Men Project last month.
It is INCREDIBLE to me the things we don’t think about, and how clearly our views are shaped (aka privilege) by the color of our skin, the religion we practice, the people we choose to love, the amount of money we have, the able-ness of our bodies. Among many, many other things. And how different our experiences can be than someone different from us. The things we don’t have to think about or acknowledge.
And, yes, she’s a well educated Black woman.
From: [A friend]
Sent: Friday, March 19, 2012 11:18 AM
Subject: Re: had to.
Hi- I FINALLY got a chance to read this…
The following comment is NOT a dissenting opinion or meant to challenge your post in any way, but more my curiosity as a researcher…
I wonder what the demographics of women getting hormonal contraceptives from places that provide care for low-income women (like Planned Parenthood) actually are? In my observed experience, hormonal contraceptives have been a VERY white issue. For example, I knew many black (and a few Hispanic) mothers growing up who refused to even consider hormonal contraceptives for their children. My mother and aunt were in this group. I have heard an attitude of “you don’t know what is in that and shouldn’t put it in your body” even when these parents KNOW that their daughters are sexually active. From white parents who didn’t want their daughters on [birth control], I heard, “I don’t want to give her permission to have sex.” These are very different messages.
I actually took myself to [Planned Parenthood] to get birth control as soon as I turned 18, but I knew that my mother would disapprove for the reason above. As I got older I began to wonder where this attitude comes from. I have witnessed an extreme distrust of medical professionals in the black community. This is well-founded. After all, white folks (the ones in the medical field and making the laws) have been controlling black folks fertility since slavery. There is evidence that suggests that Margaret Sanger was a fan of race sterilization. There are numerous accounts of forced sterilization (the North Carolina forced ster. got a lot a press a couple of years ago) and uninformed (de)fertility treatments in US history. Black teens in inner-cities in the early 90s were encouraged to get Norplant without ever been fully informed of the side effects- there are still lawsuits pending. History has told poor blacks not to trust medical professionals with their fertility- and honestly, I understand why.
So, I guess I am interested in who is going to Planned Parenthood and why they are going there. And perhaps more importantly, is anyone going to include the women in the conversation who aren’t going to PP not because they don’t need the services but because they don’t trust the providers. Just thought that it seems ironic to have a concerted effort in getting men to care when there is a whole group of women who (I think) may not be on board.
My two cents.
Would I have ever ever in a million years had these kind of thoughts when discussing the birth control debates?
Are these conversations that we are even having?
What views and histories and narratives and fears are we still fucking missing?
How are our views still clouded?
What can we still learn from one another?
For me, this e-mail was astounding. Not just the content and the valid concerns, but the fact that I had never once thought about them, and never once heard this in the dialogue that goes viral.
That, in of itself, is absolutely telling.