Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty

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by Dorothy Roberts

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780679758693
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/28/1998
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 121,597
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.99(h) x 0.82(d)

About the Author

Dorothy Roberts is the George A. Weiss University Professorof Law and Sociology and the Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professor of Civil Rights at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of three books of nonfiction, Killing the Black Body, Shattered Bonds, and Fatal Invention, and has coedited six works on constitutional law and gender. She lives in Philadelphia.

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Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
araridan on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This book is a comprehensive argument at how historically and currently black women have been denied autonomy over their procreative decisions. Starting with slavery where black female slaves were either impregnated by their white masters or other male black slaves, usually not of their choosing, in order to create a larger labor force and increased wealth for white plantation owners. We also see how the eugenics movement, the feminist movement, the antiabortion movement, and even political liberals have all served to deny black women control over their own bodies. The dominant position now is to limit the number of children born to poor and/or black mothers through forced birth control or denying social services. Basically a really smart informative book spelling out yet another way the black community continues to be oppressed.
nbmars on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Dorothy Roberts, a graduate of Yale College and Harvard Law School, documents the historical usurpation of black women¿s reproductive freedom by systematic, institutionalized decisions based on a confluence of race and gender discrimination. She reviews the process that started with slave masters¿ use of black women¿s bodies to increase their slave holdings, to racist eugenics policies that resulted in the surreptitious sterilization of thousands of black women, to attempts to restrict the fertility of black women on the grounds that they are inflating the welfare roles. She charges that the dominant idea of reproductive liberty is primarily concerned with the interests of white, middle-class women and is focused on the right to abortion. She points out that reproductive freedom is not only a matter of an individual woman¿s right to choose, but it also is woven into a larger social context, so that economic exigencies (including access to health care, jobs, child care, medical information, and medical technology) as well as systemic racism (e.g., residential segregation which restricts access to better jobs) play a deterministic role. Roberts points to many policy proposals holding that ¿the key to solving America¿s social problems is to curtail Black women¿s birth rates.¿ American society, she maintains, is still affected by thought patterns that either consciously or unconsciously imbue whites with positive characteristics (¿industrious, intelligent, responsible¿), while Blacks are associated with the opposite, negative qualities (¿lazy, ignorant, shiftless¿). In fact, a study in 1990 found that ¿78 percent of white Americans thought that Blacks preferred to live on welfare.¿ Many whites seem unaware of, or unaffected by, the fact that whites make up the greater number of welfare recipients, although the percentage of black recipients is higher.) Since 1990 attitudes have not changed much. Most whites are even uncognizant of the passage in 1996 of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunities Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) which replaced AFDC. This Act mandates that single mothers who receive welfare find paid work; it encourages them to marry; and it limits their time on aid to a lifetime maximum of five years. Some states have even shorter time limits. PRWORA in effect treats the inability to work as a personal, moral failing and insists that women are better off with men. Thus poor black women must somehow cope with the distances they must travel from their segregated living areas to find work, the lack of child care (so that they must often pull older children out of school to help), and the bottom-of-the-barrel wages they will receive for unskilled work. A concern for helping the Black community escape the spiral of poverty has never been a priority. On the contrary, according to Roberts, it is ¿the huge cost these children impose on taxpayers.¿ Indeed, the general adherence to a preference for ¿non-government intervention¿ by those against ¿the welfare state¿ (or as we might say nowadays, ¿socialism¿) gainsays the fact that ¿negative¿ liberty only benefits those who already hold money and power. The so-called ¿neutral¿ principles adopted by the courts and the government that call for leaving things as they are and letting market forces take over is not neutral at all. It rewards those with the economic positions to take advantage of opportunities to better themselves even more. The fact is that many people, because of unequal social and economic positions, are not actually free to make decisions or take choices that the government claims to be protecting by ¿non-interference.¿ Roberts does an excellent job of detailing the violations committed toward black women over the years. I would take issue with her on the omission of two issues. One is the role black men have played in this racially-tinged misogynist drama. Although attitudes of both white men and white women are discussed, those of black men
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Guest More than 1 year ago
The ultimate fact that most African American women have no knowledge of the enduring and painful legacy our foremothers bore for us is for me most devastating! However, today there is the necessity to have a keen awareness and sincere and working knowledge of the injustices we have and continue to face is to our life benefit. We simply need to know! Thanks to Dorothy Roberts for providing this book and its thoughtful and awe provoking information. I am forever grateful to her for providing this huge wealth of research and knowledge. Kudos to her and the ancestors for giving her the strength and courage to complete this project!