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.

“There’s a war going on outside:” Health Care and Women of Color (part 1) | The Feminist Wire

Credit: Favianna Rodriguez

“There’s a war going on outside:” Health Care and Women of Color (part 1)

April 20, 2012

By David J. Leonard

Anna Brown sought out the care of St. Mary’s Health Center in St. Louis, MO because she was not feeling well. Complaining of extreme pain, so intense that she was unable to stand, one doctor identified Brown as “healthy enough to be locked up.” She refused to leave and demanded treatment; the police who wrongly thought she was under the influence of drugs instead took her to jail.

Brown would later die as a result of blood clots that traveled from her legs into her lungs. The underlying health issue is not what killed Brown. But the suspicion that she aroused in both the doctor and the police who saw her as a criminal in need of incarceration rather than a sick patient in need of medical attention stopped these trained professionals from giving her the care she deserved.

The disrespect and disregard for her humanity has continued within a public that has been silent regarding the shameful incident. The absence of a sustained public discussion, whether in the media or from political leaders, embodies the value afforded to her as a homeless black women in America. On Medicaid, her pain was neither heard nor seen at St. Mary’s or the other two hospitals she sought care from on this fateful September day. Yet, the disregard for her life, and the dangers of being sick while black, extend beyond this moment as the value ascribed to her body and experience overdetermines her continued victimization.

Amid all the discussions of the “war on women” few have brought up the experience of Anna Brown or other women of color whose health, bodies, and humanity remain a dream deferred. Media accounts often chronicle the issue of health care through a partisan lens, in recent weeks talking about the “war on women” (as if this is new). The failure to provide universal health care, like the assault on Planned Parenthood, is particularly harmful to women of color. According to Britni Danielle, “As the Supreme Court deliberates about the fate of the Affordable Care Act, the death of 29-year-old Anna Brown reminds us why health coverage is so vital to all.” Universal access to health care represents a dream deferred for many women in the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health, over 17 million women between the ages of 18 and 64, that is 1 in 5, lack health insurance. One in 10 women who work lack health care; even those who are insured are often unable to secure needed care – 16 percent of women report being denied coverage or payment for needed health services. As noted by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) in 2005:

As earlier mentioned, while many women carry some form of health insurance, numerous policies do not cover the services most needed by women. According to the KFF, as health costs swell, 27 percent of non-elderly women (under age 65) and 67 percent of uninsured women report that they delayed or went without treatment because of the cost for that treatment. Additionally, uninsured women are far less likely to be screened for breast, cervical and colon cancer, cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis—all major maladies affecting women.

Reflecting a health care system based on employer-provided coverage, which because of gender inequality in the labor force leads to denied health care and sexism within the insurance industry, health care and affordable health care remain illusive for women. In other words, the opposition to health care reform and the refusal to institute a single-payer system constitutes a continued war on women. More specifically, it reflects a war on women of color, particularly those who are poor.

African Americans, Native Americans, and Latinos all face a society that seems either unaware of or unfazed by the lack of affordable and available health care. For example, as of 2009, 21 percent of African Americans lacked health insurance compared to 15 percent of white women – black women are twice as likely and Latinas are three times as likely to lack health insurance. This is evident at the national level and also at the state level where the inequalities are startling. In North Dakota, American Indian women are five times more likely to lack health insurance than white women, as are Alaska Native women. In the District of Columbia because of denied access, the lack of affordability, and denied health insurance, black and Latina women are three times less likely to receive prenatal care, which contributes to low birth weight, high infant mortality, and a myriad of other health problems.

Continue reading @ “There’s a war going on outside:” Health Care and Women of Color (part 1) | The Feminist Wire.