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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Saturday Night Card Game (Card, Counter-Card)

This is the latest in a series on the use of the race card for political gain:

This is the first post in this series to focus on the use of the race card by both sides of a dispute, call it "race card v. counter-race card."

The topic is abortion in the black community. First, the facts as reported yesterday in The NY Times:

Data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that black women get almost 40 percent of the country’s abortions, even though blacks make up only 13 percent of the population. Nearly 40 percent of black pregnancies end in induced abortion, a rate far higher than for white or Hispanic women.
Now the race card, played by those opposed to abortion.

The high abortion rates in the black community are part of an advertising and outreach campaign designed to portray Planned Parenthood and other pro-choice groups as part of a conspiracy to commit genocide on the black community.

Part of this campaign is based on the historical fact that the founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger, was part of the early 20th Century eugenics movement. Part is based on the now-famous tape made by James O'Keefe (of ACORN tape fame), in which a Planned Parenthood employee gladly accepted a donation so long as the funds were used for abortions by black women; and other alleged targeting of the black community by Planned Parenthood.

But at its core, the campaign claiming genocide against black children is just using the race card, by seeking to ascribe racist motivations to abortion providers and pro-choice advocates when there is no substantial evidence of such motivations. The case can be made against abortion, and the devastating effects on the black community can be demonstrated, without using the language of the race card.

Then comes the counter-race card, based on a sentence uttered by Trent Franks (R-AZ) during an almost 10-minute interview. (Listen to the entire interview for context.)

Franks used the high rate of abortion in the black community to assert that these abortions were more devastating to the black community than slavery. The statement was picked up by Think Progress[*], under the headline "Rep. Trent Franks: African-Americans were better off under slavery, quoting Franks as follows (emphasis in TP post):
FRANK: In this country, we had slavery for God knows how long. And now we look back on it and we say “How brave were they? What was the matter with them? You know, I can’t believe, you know, four million slaves. This is incredible.” And we’re right, we’re right. We should look back on that with criticism. It is a crushing mark on America’s soul. And yet today, half of all black children are aborted. Half of all black children are aborted. Far more of the African-American community is being devastated by the policies of today than were being devastated by policies of slavery. And I think, What does it take to get us to wake up?
You know the rest of the story. Franks' stupid attempt to play the race card by comparing abortion and slavery has allowed others to portray him as a racist for having said that blacks "were better off" under slavery, even though that is not what he said. Condemning two circumstances (the history of slavery and the high abortion rate in the black community) and then stating that one was worse than the other does not equate to an endorsement of the least worse alternative.

But there's no doubt it was a stupid comparison for Franks to make. I agree with this (part of this) assessment:
I think the most charitable interpretation holds that Franks isn't endorsing slavery, as much as he's.... This is just stupid on all conceivable levels.
If all there were were criticism of Franks' statement, I would be on board because the analogy he used between slavery and high abortion rates was a false analogy. One has nothing to do with the other; while slavery clearly was a reflection of racism, the high rate of abortion in the black community is not the result of racial hatred by Planned Parenthood or others.

Yet Franks' statement is being used to portray him as a racist not primarily because anyone cares what Trent Franks thinks (I had never heard of him before), but because the condemnation serves the political purpose of attacking the anti-abortion campaign targeting the black community. Think Progress made this purpose clear in its post:

Franks’ comments are reminiscent of a new anti-choice campaign which seeks to put up 80 billboards in “urban areas where blacks reside” with the message, “Black children are an endangered species.”
So here we have the vicious race card circle.

The race card was used to smear the pro-choice movement as racist; that smear was picked up by Trent Franks to make a completely false and illogical comparison to slavery; Franks' statement then was used by the pro-choice movement to smear the pro-life movement as racist.

So apparently everyone is racist. As if the abortion issue were not contentious enough.

*Update: Media Matters Action Network was the first to run with the "better off" theme, which was then picked by Matthew Yglesias at Think Progress, then by Think Progress itself (see link above), then down the line. Very typical of how effective Media Matters can be at framing an issue with the help of like-minded bloggers.

Related Posts:
Saturday Night Card Game Series

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  1. Knowing the history of Planned Parenthood and the fact that Margaret Sangers beliefs stemmed from the Father of Eugenics Sir Francis Galton in that a way to weed out "undesirables" is to breed them out of existence, forced sterilization, and euthanasia. Or how about the fact that many of the Nations PP clinics are in minority communities.

    I wouldn't call that playing the race card, I would call it getting the truth out to people that may not know the history of the racist abortion movement.

  2. I went to pro-life rallies in the late 1980's.

    There were plenty of counter-demonstrators, and they chanted the following at us:

    "Racists, sexists, born-again bigots".

    I didn't understand the logic then. Do you?

    Another one was,

    "You can't make us pro-create".

    We looked at each other and said, "Good! We hope they don't!"

  3. Speaking out against blatant racism is not playing a card.

  4. I'm for whatever it takes to win this argument, logic, emotion, race cards, kitchen sinks, throw them all at pro-abortionists, maybe something will stick.

  5. Margaret Sanger was racist. If you read what she wrote, she intended for all "undesirables," especially the black community, to eventually become extinct - using birth control and abortion. She may not be here today, but her legacy continues.

    Those who say that Planned Parenthood is a racist organization are correct; the historical record shows this. Their "breakthrough" moment was Roe v. Wade. As noted by knittinmom, getting the truth to sunlight is not "playing the race card." This week, a woman - an African-American - had to defend the billboard campaign against an Al Sharpton supporter, who kept using the non-argument of personal attack rather than discuss the issues she raised.

    Martin Luther King Jr.'s daughter has stood out as another woman who proclaims that Planned Parenthood and the abortion movement is targeting black communities, and is devastating the black population. She is not "playing the race card" but is bringing sunlight to the facts.

    Is it wrong to state the truth? Even if it is related to race? Is it wrong to point out racism in a publicly-funded organization? Especially when the statistics are so high? Is it wrong to let people know that there is more to explore, more to learn about this so-called "right to choose"?

    Let the sunshine in.

  6. "While slavery clearly was a reflection of racism"

    Sowell and other have argued, and I think persuasively, that racism came about after slavery. They base their arguments on the idea that even up to the time of black enslavement, nations of the world were enslaving people of their own "race" as conquerors. Many (all?) black slaves brought to America were purchased from coastal tribes who "owned" these slaves as a result of conquering inland tribes.

  7. On first reading of Rep. Franks comment, I totally got what he was saying. IMHO, I felt he was making a comparision between the suffering of slavery to the suffering caused by elective genocide of millions of past(40yrs)and future unborn African Americans through abortion. Overcoming slavery for African Americans was hard won with many sacrificed. Why make the whole thing pointless by turning around and aborting, according to the statistics, generations of children. They are now supressing and enslaving themselves. Drugs, alcohol and govt handouts take whatever freedoms left.

    One thing I know for sure, my hard earned tax money hasn't helped these social problems one bit in the 32 yrs. I've been paying them. Every single program has failed since the 60's and we just keeping pouring money into them. It's up to them to break the chains of the Democrats. I hope to see it in my lifetime.

  8. I don't think anyone is claiming that abortion providers are in that business in order to practice genocide against black people. On the other hand, I have heard at least casual supporters of abortion make the argument that abortion serves a useful social purpose in reducing the future population of poor, inner-city welfare recipients . . . you know the rest. So, yes, the eugenics angle is still part of the conversation, in a slightly sanitized form, 90 years after Margaret Sanger.

    I just cannot see how pointing out the "disproportionate impact" abortion has on the black community either is somehow racist or amounts to playing the race card. If I said that gun violence was hurting the black community disproportionately, is that also "playing the race card"? If I said the poll tax affected black people disproportionately, is that "playing the race card"?

  9. Great post, professor. Sanger had many thoughts and progressive ideas; some do not pass the rigors of hindsight and time. Planned Parenthood is hardly racist, and what that politician said was just plain unfortunate, not racist. Many black people seek Planned Parenthood because it is the only voice in the community. What no choice folks need to do is to go to these neighborhoods and present a non-judgmental attitude and offer ideas, hope, and an alternatives. That would help in reducing the abortion rate.