A few years ago, singer Erykah Badu responded to critics after having 3 children by 3 different men. Her response letter resulted in internet gold when she vehemently proclaimed, “How dare you disrespect the queendom? I’ve never been so disgusted in all of my life… (You can) kiss my black placenta. Every relationship I’ve ever been in was because I loved the person dearly and was dedicated to us exclusively for a number of years.”
Now the issue of respectable
breeding reproduction has gone full-throttle as food justice activist Tanya Fields, spoke about her current state as a single mother. She is unmarried, pregnant with her 5th child, and had the children with 3 different fathers. She opened up about her current state at a forum featuring Melissa Harris-Perry and bell hooks. When she told her story, social media blew up.
She was clowned and bashed for “perpetuating stereotypes” and “bad choices.”
The shaming of Tanya Fields brings a few questions to light. Who has the right to reproduce? Who sanctions this right? And in what time-frame can people take up their right to reproduce? This shaming is rooted in the belief that the poor have less rights to reproduce and it screams of eugenics. There was a time in America where Black women went to the doctor, only to find out years later that they had been sterilized. In 2011, BBC News told the story of 60,000 people that were sterilized by the U.S. government during the 1970s for being “poor” or “mentally ill.” Many were Black women. The U.S. government and hospitals around the country had determined that poor Black women had not right to reproduce (outside of chattel slavery).
Beginning with Indiana in 1907, 32 states eventually passed laws allowing authorities to order the sterilisation of people deemed unfit to breed. The last programme ended in 1979.- BBC News
To put this into perspective, the Nazis used the same ideology.
Between 1933 and 1945, more than 400,000 Germans were sterilised under Nazi “racial hygiene” laws, according to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. - BBCNews
Critics of Tanya Fields, are missing two critical points.
First, they reinforce the notion that somehow Black life is less valuable or unnecessary when it’s not couched inside of a Cosby Show box of respectability.
Second, this shaming neglects how societal conditions construct the very circumstances that are being shamed. We should be questioning why upward mobility for the poor is nearly impossible with or without children. Furthermore, this is an opportunity to discuss reproductive justice and what that means for Black women. Sister Song, a leading reproductive justice organization for Black women states, “Reproductive Justice analyzes how the ability of any woman to determine her own reproductive destiny is linked directly to the conditions in her community—and these conditions are not just a matter of individual choice and access. Reproductive Justice addresses the social reality of inequality, specifically, the inequality of opportunities that we have to control our reproductive destiny.”
The U.S. is in the midst of a very real systematic creation of a permanent underclass; powered by unequal access to quality education, non-processed/GMO free food deprivation, the denial of heath care and some of the highest imprisonment rates in the world.
It’s easy to get caught up in stereotypes and the politics of respectability. However, none of these things matter when we neglect to target the real societal issues that make it hard for people to live and exert the most basic and inherent human right, which is the right to reproduce. And when we start deciding who is more acceptable for reproduction, then we begin reinforcing the same racist, classist and sexist ideology behind chattel slavery and eugenics.
There is a real problem here and it’s not Tanya Fields’ womb.