#364: Leaving America To Escape Racism
Essays on resisting racism and fighting for reproductive rights
Happy October, loyal readers. This week’s issue includes four outstanding articles exploring two important topics: resisting racism and reproductive rights. The first pairing – “Leaving America to Escape Racism” and “How to Hit Back” – discuss how a Black woman and an Asian woman, respectively, have made decisions on how best to respond to racism and violence against their communities. The second pairing — “A Better Birth Is Possible” and “The Right To Not Be Pregnant” — examine two ways to subvert our medical and constitutional systems, respectively, in order to support women and pregnant people. Please enjoy!
This month at Article Club, we’re discussing “Looking for Clarence Thomas,” by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Mitchell S. Jackson. I can’t get enough of Mr. Jackson’s writing: it’s new, incisive, convention-breaking, genre-transforming, and beautiful. Fellow facilitator Sarai and I had the chance to speak with Mr. Jackson last weekend, and it’s safe to say that it was one of my favorite interviews yet. We’ll be publishing that conversation next Thursday, but in the meantime, I welcome you to sign up for our discussion on Sunday, Oct. 23. There’s an in-person gathering 11 am - 1 pm for paid subscribers and an online gathering 2 pm - 3:30 pm for everyone.
Not only is DeNeen L. Brown an esteemed professor and respected journalist, she is also a Black woman who has had enough. After the murder of George Floyd and the Insurrection of January 6, Prof. Brown visited Ghana and experienced a sense of liberation. “I want this kind of freedom: to live in a country where traffic stops end peacefully,” she writes. “I want the ability to move among people who look like me. I want to engage in intellectual debates without having to explain the history of this country’s racism.” In this thoughtful piece that combines reporting, memoir, and historical research, Prof. Brown argues that Black people should recognize that racism is intractable and therefore should follow in the footsteps of Marcus Garvey, James Baldwin, and Maya Angelou and leave the United States once and for all. (20 min)
Esther Wang: “I’ve spent the past few years walking around the city with a heightened awareness. I’ve read the impassioned op-eds written by other East Asian professionals with liberal, anti-racist politics pleading for people to truly see us. (Wasn’t being too seen part of the problem?) At one point last year, I bought a panic button and started wearing it on a lanyard around my neck, a tiny weight that I would rub absentmindedly to self-soothe. It was inevitable that questions of safety would be linked with those of policing and mass incarceration. In 2020, I had joined many of the protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, and the moral imperative of the call to defund the police was, to me, clear. I believed long-term safety meant reducing the need for police and prisons with well-funded public schools, a stronger social safety net, affordable housing, and a dismantling of the structures that determine, along racial lines, who gets to live a dignified life. If the roots of anti-Asian violence were foundational, only a total transformation would suffice. But these beliefs lived uneasily next to the day-to-day. People wanted, and deserved, to feel safer now.” (23 min)
When she was 23 years old, the summer before her senior year at Spelman College, professor Ruha Benjamin discovered she was pregnant. A hurtful visit to the student health clinic confirmed that “pregnancy, especially Black pregnancy, was a disorder that required medical intervention.” Untrusting of conventional medicine, Prof. Benjamin sought the counsel of Sarahn Henderson, a highly respected midwife, and appreciated the quality of care she received. Why then is unlicensed midwifery illegal in Georgia and many other states? It’s not safety, she found, especially for Black women. The answer has to do with white doctors, anti-Black racism, the power of American Medical Association, and the state’s interest to manage maternal health and childcare. (14 min)
“I’ve never wanted to be pregnant,” writes Charlotte Shane, “and I’ve been pregnant three times.” The reversal of Roe v. Wade requires a new way of thinking about reproductive freedom, Ms. Shane argues in this provocative essay. The “right to choose,” is too general and not strong enough. Similarly, the “right to privacy” is vague and unpersuasive constitutionally when balanced with the possibility of harm of a potential life. What needs to happen, Ms. Shane suggests, is to be clear and resolute: that “every impregnatable person has the right to not be pregnant.” Otherwise, as the state has historically drafted men for war, it will proceed to conscript women to sustain pregnancies and give birth against their will. (13 min)
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