Dreams Deferred, Humanity Denied: The War on Women of Color (Part 2) | The Feminist Wire

Dreams Deferred, Humanity Denied: The War on Women of Color (Part 2)

April 21, 2012

By David J. Leonard


The vicious attacks on women of color are not unique to the health care system. This has been evident within the recent debate that followed Hilary Rosen’s comments about Ann Romney, stay-at-home moms, and work. Whereas the GOP has framed Rosen’s statements as part of the Democratic Party/secular Left’s contempt for the family—all straight from the Right’s historic demonization of feminism—it is the policies of the Republican Party that have continually damaged women, and particularly women of color, as mothers. Whether eliminating subsidies for childcare, requiring that women receiving welfare get a job to learn “the dignity of work,” and/or enacting policies that constrain or eliminate salaries, the choices available to women of color have long been overdetermined by the realities of racism and sexism. As noted by Laura Flanders,

For all the shameful sucking up to multimillionaire mom Ann Romney after Democratic pundit Hilary Rosen accused her of never having worked “a day in her life,” the reality is neither Republicans nor Democrats treat most parenting as work, and thousands of poor women are living in poverty today as living proof of that fact.

Do we need to state the obvious? Women of different classes are beaten with different rhetorical bats. For the college-educated and upwardly aspiring, there’s the “danger” of career ambitions. Ever since women started aspiring to have men’s jobs, backlashers have told those women that they’re enjoying their careers at the expense of their kids’ well being. They really can’t have it all. They’ll raise monsters, or worse, they’ll grow old on the shelf.… The media still love stories about stay-at-home moms and professional women are still punished for wanting to succeed. For the poor, though, it’s very different.

Poor women, particularly poor women of color, are simultaneously denied the “choice” of whether to work or stay-at-home (why aren’t men asked to choose?) and demonized as bad parents. The war on mommies is not a universal war, as evidenced by the Moynihan Report AND Gov. Mitt Romney requiring that mothers on welfare with children under the age of 2 go to work in an effort to teach them “the dignity of work.”

With the discourse on health care, working mothers, education, and criminal justice, we see the ways in which race and gender (nation, class, and sexuality) directly impact people’s lives, whose life matters and whose future is worthy of public concern and policy. To deny health care is yet another instance where women of color are stripped of humanity, denied rights as citizens and people. It is part of a larger history whereupon women of color have been subject to the violence of the state, stereotypes, and structures of inequality. “It’s just a long history of negative stereotypes of black women that have changed over time to suit the political circumstances, but that focus on our irresponsible childrearing and mothering,” noted Dorothy Roberts within a Colorlines piece “The thread that joins them is the idea of total sexual immorality and irresponsible reproductive responsibility on the part of black women, who become a burden on the state and also have no maternal bond with their own children.”

The violent disregard for Anna Brown’s life, and the benign neglect approach to health and welfare of women of color is clear with the history of forced sterilization faced by Native American and Puerto Rican women;

it is clear with the systemic incarceration of black and Latina women; it is clear with the stereotype of the Jezebel, the pregnant crack addict, and the “welfare queen”; the war on women of color is nothing new is evident with Kelley Williams-Bolar, Tanya McDowell, Raquel Nelson and countless more women of color whose rights and humanity have been stripped before a silent nation. The silence is telling as to whos

continue reading @ Dreams Deferred, Humanity Denied: The War on Women of Color (Part 2) | The Feminist Wire.

NO WAY OUT: Mother Jailed for ‘Stealing’ Child’s Education – News & Views – EBONY


Mother Jailed for ‘Stealing’ Child’s Education

The Tanya McDowell case is (yet another) heartbreaking example of the country’s failure to educate its youth

By David Leonard Writer

Tanya McDowell has joined the ranks of millions of people, mostly of color, facing incarceration. In April 2011, McDowell was arrested and charged with larceny for allegedly enrolling her 6-year old child in a Norwalk, Connecticut elementary school instead of the required Bridgeport school associated with her “residence” (she was reportedly homeless at the time).

Less than a year later, McDowell entered an Alford Plea, which is not an admission of guilt but rather an acceptance that the state has sufficient evidence to make its case. In exchange for her plea as well as a guilty plea stemming from a drug case, the court sentenced McDowell to 12 years in prison with the possibility of release after 5 years.

The media response has emphasized how her sentence reflects punishment for her “stealing of an education,” worth over 15,000 dollars as well as a consequence of the narcotics arrest. Subsequent to her arrest for educational larceny, McDowell allegedly sold drugs to an undercover officer on three separate occasions. While the timing of this arrest was questionable (her attorney at the time described the investigation that led to the drug charges as “‘retaliatory’ because the community was embarrassed by McDowell’s April 14 arrest for allegedly sending her son, A.J., to Norwalk’s Brookside Elementary School while they lived in Bridgeport), the efforts to paint her as a bad parent, as a criminal, as an unredeemable person is further revealing. Upon her arrest, Norwalk Mayor Richard Moccia scoffed at those who represented McDowell as a victim: “This is not a poor, picked-upon homeless person. This is an ex-con, and somehow the city of Norwalk is made into the ogre,” he noted. “She has a checkered past at best … This woman is not a victim.”

Her subsequent arrest has been used to further substantiate these claims, justifying the initial charges and the subsequent sentence of 12 years. The conflating of these cases (beyond their simultaneously adjudication) points to the ways that the drug case has obscured the horrible injustice of the wrongful enrollment arrest. It would be a mistake and a further miscarriage of justice to excuse the criminalization of her decision to enroll her child at a school that provided better services, a better education, and a better future for her child by referencing her drug arrest.

She was forced to choose between terrible schools and violating the law so that her child could receive a quality education. Fordham University professor Mark Naison says “If there were enough good schools around so that any school you chose would be acceptable, and if there were enough decent paying jobs to keep your head above water through legal work, that would be one thing. But what if NEITHER of those things were true. What are you supposed to do? Let your child go hungry to a terrible school.” Even so, she became the first person in the history of Connecticut to be prosecuted for enrolling a child out-of-district, even though experts claim it to be a common practice.

She was forced to choose between terrible schools and violating the law so that her child could receive a quality education.

McDowell isn’t the first Black woman to face criminal prosecution and jail for enrolling her children out-of district. In Akron, Kelley Williams-Bolar was charged and served 10 days in jail for enrolling her two daughters at a Copley Fairlawn school even though they should have attended an Akron school. Her decision was easy to understand given that Copley-Fairlawn School District met 26 out 26 standards set up the Ohio Department of Education, whereas Akron City School District met only 4 of these same standards. Graduation rates were equally disparate with almost 98% of students graduating from Copley-Fairlawn compared to 75% within Akron City. Williams-Bolar, like McDowell, sought to challenge the inequity and segregation that defines America’s school system, and thus faced the sanctions and condemnation from a system that mandated that she stay in her place.

McDowell’s incarceration on drug charges reflects a willingness to wage the war on drugs with the greatest force and consequence against communities of color. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, Latinas are 1.6 times and Black women are 3.8 more times more likely to be sent to prison than White women despite similar rates of usage and distribution. McDowell is indicative of the consequences of a racialized war on drugs. It reflects the pipeline from failed schools to prisons; it reflects an effort to incarcerate those who challenge this process.

Yet, the attempts, whether from the criminal justice system, the media, or the broader community to justify her criminalization and ultimate incarceration by linking the drug charges with the larceny charges is both troubling and without basis. The state prosecuted her before any drug charges so the injustice of her arrest cannot take cover from a subsequent arrest.

Continue reading @ NO WAY OUT: Mother Jailed for ‘Stealing’ Child’s Education – News & Views – EBONY.