What is about the Civil Rights Movement and black Americans’ struggle for equality and first class citizenship that makes privileged bodies believe they can inaccurately appropriate to publicize their cause?
Personhood USA, the organization behind the failed attempt in Mississippi to declare a zygote a human, is obviously not deterred by the resounding rejection of their warped ideology. The organization released a video on Friday, outlining their objective in working to obtain full personhood status to zygotes and fetuses.
The video includes images of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and declares its fight as the “new Civil Rights Movement” of the 21st century. To add fuel to their misappropriation, Bryan Longworth, the head of Personhood USA’s Florida chapter, gave an interview to the Florida Independent explaining its revamped campaign:
“[Mississippi] definitely made more progress than any other state in the past,” says Longworth. “We’re not deterred by this loss. We’re following the William Wilberforce pattern. He didn’t win the first time, didn’t win the second time, the third time … but he kept trying.”
Longworth’s reference to Wilberforce (the leader of the movement to abolish the slave trade) is one of many allusions to slavery that anti-abortion activists often make. Longworth has no doubt that abortion, like slavery, will one day be outlawed.
“Abortion is an abhorrent practice involving the dismemberment of the bodies of pre-born children,” he says. “One day, we’re going to look back at abortion in a worse light than slavery. Abortion will end. Every time we present this case, we’re moving closer to ending it. It’s just a matter of when.”
Appropriation of the Civil Rights Movement and black Americans’ fight to be treated like human beings is nothing new. Some factions of the GLBTQ movement and even some women feel the need to compare their plight with that of the systemic racial and ethnic discrimination people of color face each day.
While many of these appropriation aren’t intended to offend people of color, they often are insults as the appropriation often minimizes and erases our experiences and replace their perspective as the one of authority. This superficial attempt at solidarity is offensive because the said appropriation typically trivializes how people of color continuously have to navigate and negotiate racism and oppression.
Comparing abortion to slavery and declaring your campaign to roll back the clock on women’s rights comparable to the Civil Rights Movement is a slap in the face to women and to those who lost blood, sweat and tears during the Civil Rights Movement. Zygotes and fetuses are not people and women have the constitutional right to seek an abortion. Period. End of story. Elevating the rights of zygotes in favor of restricting the rights of women is not a campaign this abortion rights advocate can or will ever get behind.
A woman’s womb is not a political football in which pro-life reactionaries can use to impose their anti-woman, anti-life ideals onto the American public. Anti-choice advocates are all too willing to trample on the backs of women to advance the rights of human cells.
It’s always cute to see mostly white-run not-for-profit organizations use token racial minorities or invoke the use of slavery and civil rights as a haphazard attempt to attract people to their campaign. As I’ve noted before (here, here and here), reactionary, pro-life activists could care less about the plight of minorities and their use of emotional race baiting has been the only tactic they can use to draw attention to their campaign.
Showing people, specifically people of color, that you are aware of the horrors and lasting legacy of slavery and later comparing your anti-woman campaign to the fight for racial equality demonstrates you pretty much have no respect for what the Civil Rights Movement means for African-Americans. Comparing your campaign to force women to use back-alley abortions, clothes hangers and other dangerous methods to end a pregnancy to black American’s fight to gain first class citizenship magnifies the subconscious disrespect you have for people of color and screams of unapologetic white privilege at its finest.
Personhood USA’s appropriation of the Civil Rights Movement is a prime example of reactionary, pro-life activists’ lack of deference to what
real people black Americans went through to be treated like humans and not like physical property.