NewBlackMan (in Exile): Women of Color and the Political Economy of Sympathy

Women of Color and the Political Economy of Sympathy

by Stephanie Troutman and David J. Leonard |

NewBlackMan (in Exile)

“Given the racist and patriarchal patterns of the state, it is difficult to envision the state as the holder of solutions to the problem of violence against women of color. However, as the anti-violence movement has been institutionalized and professionalized, the state plays an increasingly dominant role in how we conceptualize and create strategies to minimize violence against women—Angela Davis.

Words sadly ring true given the daily realities of state violence, and the limited care and concern for the daily realities of violence in our country. What is wrong with us/U.S.? The endless examples (in a long, sad history of violent acts) act of violence against a woman of color to NOT make headlines is beyond devastating. It is pedagogical in pointing to the material consequences of the intersections of race and gender.

This has been all too clear with reports about the horrific circumstances of Glenda Moore, a Black mother who lost her two young sons during Hurricane Sandy. According to The Daily News Moore was “holding onto them, and the waves just kept coming and crashing and they were under,” the mother’s sister told the Daily News at her home. “It went over their heads … She had them in her arms, and a wave came and swept them out of her arms.” In the midst of the storm, Moore knocked on doors searching for help to no avail. As Moore’s sister recounted to The Daily News “They answered the door and said, ‘I don’t know you. I’m not going to help you,’”…”My sister’s like 5-foot-3, 130 pounds. She looks like a little girl. She’s going to come to you and you’re going to slam the door in her face and say, ‘I don’t know you, I can’t help you’?’”

Although there seems to be reticence and an unwillingness to talk about racism and sexism – implicit biases – in this case, the limited (yes there has been some media attention) concern and national mourning for the death of these children, and the pain endured by Moore is telling. While people came together to raise over $313,000 dollars for a tormented school bus monitor, the Moore family is fighting just to raise enough money to bury their children (as of today, there is just short of $11,000 dollars). It is yet another reminder that not all pain, not all suffering is created equal.

While the reports surrounding Sharmeeka Moffitt, who accused several men of attacking her because she wore an Obama t-shirt, proved unsubstantiated, her experiences point to how racism and misogyny is operationalized within contemporary culture. Yet another reminder of the violence besieging the United States and the media’s silence (and complicity) on the violence experienced by women of color; the fact that Sharmeka Moffitt’s name did not initially warrant front-page news, a lead story on the national news, or national conversation is telling. The fact that people required more evidence in this stance is revealing. The fact that people dismissed the initial reports by noting “We don’t know what happened;” “we don’t know the specifics;” “we don’t know if it is a hate crime” is not without consequence.

Continue reading @ NewBlackMan (in Exile): Women of Color and the Political Economy of Sympathy.

“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.