Before the election I was preoccupied with thinking about what four more years of President Bush would look like, how much worse things might be than under the other candidate. At this point, I am remembering that is useless to think that any candidate will ever undo the underlying oppression that this country has been built on. This country is built on slavery and the creation of “race” as a construct which is total bullshit. Scientifically there is less difference between two people of different “races” than between two people with the same skin color. Yet, Americans are still convinced that skin color is the most important factor in determining our abilities. In December I read an article in a Philadelphia, PA based paper saying that “black people are worse in math than whites”. In the area of reproductive rights, I have heard pro-choice activists argue that black women are inherently worse mothers than whites. These myths of inherent genetic difference were all fallacies which were created during slavery in order to justify treating African peoples like animals.
Right now we have to revisit our organizing strategies, we have to learn from history and in all of our organizations we need to focus on how our race, class, and gender significantly affect our relationship to EVERY issue in this country. Environmental pollution disproportionately affects communities of color and low-income neighborhoods. Health care is disproportionately inaccessible to people of color, low-income people, and trans-people than heterosexual white middle class people. In reproductive rights, abortion is financially less accessible to people of color than white women. Sterilization coercion from groups like Project Prevention (formerly CRACK) is disproportionately affecting low-income people, substance users, and women of color. Historically in America the Right Wing has been able to organize successfully because of its ability to maintain a large, general conservative message that does not alienate large groups of it’s constituency. However, many left wing organizations consistently have failed to address race and class in their mission statements and organizing strategies and have therefore alienated the numerous organizations founded by people of color.
In the 1980s President Ronald Reagan, Jerry Fallwell, and other right wing leaders pushed for a “moral majority” agenda in order to bring a return to “traditional” sex roles of patriarchy. President Reagan attempted to add a Constitutional Amendment called the Human Life Amendment which would have given priority of rights to a fetus rather than the pregnant mother. The strategies are identical to what George W. Bush is doing, with, for one, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which has passed. The right wing media is currently trying to convince the American people, quite successfully, that “moral values” is what made Bush win a second term. Instead of accepting the lies that are being pushed forward, we must remember that more than half of the people in this country of voting age did not vote, including the so- called “red states”. The voices in most of America are not being heard. Nor does a vote for the presidency reveal true and complex values and beliefs of people. The tactic of dividing the country into red and blue states is simply being used to try and convince us that everyone in “middle America” and the South are full heartedly behind the Right Wing Agenda. This is a historic tactic used to keep the masses divided in infighting instead of organizing against the true forces of power.
It is also important to remember that President Bill Clinton was not a champion in the matters of race and class either. Throughout the 1990s fertility control of low income women was pushed forward with laws such as Clinton’s 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, which denied additional benefits for women who had another child while receiving public assistance. The government has always been highly interested in determining how many children women in this country have, and under what “appropriate” circumstances women should conceive. In the area of Reproductive Justice, we must fight for and demand free contraceptives, affordable and accessible abortion, an end to sterilization abuse and coercion of low-income women to use long acting and dangerous contraceptives, affordable pre-natal care, a de-criminalization of pregnant women who test positive for substance use, an end to abuse of incarcerate women’s reproductive rights, access to HIV/AIDS/STD prevention and care, teen sex education programs that are not just “abstinence only”, just to name a few. Those of us who are white need to actively work on our own racism and internalized racial superiority and organize with broad based concerns or we will have another four years losing piece by piece to the better organized Right wing.