This is the latest in a series on the use of the race card for political gain:
This is the first post in this series to focus on the use of the race card by both sides of a dispute, call it “race card v. counter-race card.”
The topic is abortion in the black community. First, the facts as reported yesterday in The NY Times:
Data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that black women get almost 40 percent of the country’s abortions, even though blacks make up only 13 percent of the population. Nearly 40 percent of black pregnancies end in induced abortion, a rate far higher than for white or Hispanic women.
Now the race card, played by those opposed to abortion.
The high abortion rates in the black community are part of an advertising and outreach campaign designed to portray Planned Parenthood and other pro-choice groups as part of a conspiracy to commit genocide on the black community.
Part of this campaign is based on the historical fact that the founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger, was part of the early 20th Century eugenics movement. Part is based on the now-famous tape made by James O’Keefe (of ACORN tape fame), in which a Planned Parenthood employee gladly accepted a donation so long as the funds were used for abortions by black women; and other alleged targeting of the black community by Planned Parenthood.
But at its core, the campaign claiming genocide against black children is just using the race card, by seeking to ascribe racist motivations to abortion providers and pro-choice advocates when there is no substantial evidence of such motivations. The case can be made against abortion, and the devastating effects on the black community can be demonstrated, without using the language of the race card.
Then comes the counter-race card, based on a sentence uttered by Trent Franks (R-AZ) during an almost 10-minute interview. (Listen to the entire interview for context.)
Franks used the high rate of abortion in the black community to assert that these abortions were more devastating to the black community than slavery. The statement was picked up by Think Progress[*], under the headline “Rep. Trent Franks: African-Americans were better off under slavery, quoting Franks as follows (emphasis in TP post):
FRANK: In this country, we had slavery for God knows how long. And now we look back on it and we say “How brave were they? What was the matter with them? You know, I can’t believe, you know, four million slaves. This is incredible.” And we’re right, we’re right. We should look back on that with criticism. It is a crushing mark on America’s soul. And yet today, half of all black children are aborted. Half of all black children are aborted. Far more of the African-American community is being devastated by the policies of today than were being devastated by policies of slavery. And I think, What does it take to get us to wake up?
You know the rest of the story. Franks’ stupid attempt to play the race card by comparing abortion and slavery has allowed others to portray him as a racist for having said that blacks “were better off” under slavery, even though that is not what he said. Condemning two circumstances (the history of slavery and the high abortion rate in the black community) and then stating that one was worse than the other does not equate to an endorsement of the least worse alternative.
But there’s no doubt it was a stupid comparison for Franks to make. I agree with this (part of this) assessment:
I think the most charitable interpretation holds that Franks isn’t endorsing slavery, as much as he’s…. This is just stupid on all conceivable levels.
If all there were were criticism of Franks’ statement, I would be on board because the analogy he used between slavery and high abortion rates was a false analogy. One has nothing to do with the other; while slavery clearly was a reflection of racism, the high rate of abortion in the black community is not the result of racial hatred by Planned Parenthood or others.
Yet Franks’ statement is being used to portray him as a racist not primarily because anyone cares what Trent Franks thinks (I had never heard of him before), but because the condemnation serves the political purpose of attacking the anti-abortion campaign targeting the black community. Think Progress made this purpose clear in its post:
So here we have the vicious race card circle.
The race card was used to smear the pro-choice movement as racist; that smear was picked up by Trent Franks to make a completely false and illogical comparison to slavery; Franks’ statement then was used by the pro-choice movement to smear the pro-life movement as racist.
So apparently everyone is racist. As if the abortion issue were not contentious enough.
*Update: Media Matters Action Network was the first to run with the “better off” theme, which was then picked by Matthew Yglesias at Think Progress, then by Think Progress itself (see link above), then down the line. Very typical of how effective Media Matters can be at framing an issue with the help of like-minded bloggers.
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