In Killing the Black Body, author, lawyer, and professor Dorothy Roberts weaves a history of the formation of American law, beginning with slavery and taking us into present day. This book was published in 1998 on the tail of welfare reforms that further marginalized and abused already vulnerable people, ushered in by the stereotype of the black welfare queen, and Roberts skillfully expounds on how that stereotype, among others, is used to control and criminalize the reproductive freedom of black women today. She ends bringing into question the ability to ever be truly free without a government that recognizes your worth and the importance of the control over your own body.
Alarmingly relevant and topical for today's world, this is a must-read for anyone interested in social justice from a black feminist lens and an intersectional perspective. If The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander grabbed your attention, Killing the Black Body is a similarly haunting book. Recommended By Tehya R., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
This is a no-holds-barred response to the liberal and conservative retreat from an assertive, activist, and socially transformative civil rights agenda of recent years--using a black feminist lens and the issue of the impact of recent legislation, social policy, and welfare "reform" on black women's--especially poor black women's--control over their bodies' autonomy and their freedom to bear and raise children with respect and dignity in a society whose white mainstream is determined to demonize, even criminalize their lives. It gives its readers a cogent legal and historical argument for a radically new , and socially transformative, definition of "liberty" and "equality" for the American polity from a black feminist perspective.
The author is able to combine the most innovative and radical thinking on several fronts--racial theory, feminist, and legal--to produce a work that is at once history and political treatise. By using the history of how American law--beginning with slavery--has treated the issue of the state's right to interfere with the black woman's body, the author explosively and effectively makes the case for the legal redress to the racist implications of current policy with regards to 1) access to and coercive dispensing of birth control to poor black women 2) the criminalization of parenting by poor black women who have used drugs 3) the stigmatization and devaluation of poor black mothers under the new welfare provisions, and 4) the differential access to and disproportionate spending of social resources on the new reproductive technologies used by wealthy white couples to insure genetically related offspring.
The legal redress of the racism inherent in current American law and policy in these matters, the author argues in her last chapter, demands and should lead us to adopt a new standard and definition of the liberal theory of "liberty" and "equality" based on the need for, and the positive role of government in fostering, social as well as individual justice.
The image of the Welfare Queen still dominates white America s perceptions of Black women. It is an image that also continues to shape our government s policies concerning Black women s reproductive decisions. Proposed legislation to alleviate poverty focuses on plans to deny benefits to children born to welfare mothers and to require insertion of birth control implants as a condition of receiving aid. Meanwhile a booming fertility industry serves primarily infertile white couples.
In Killing the Black Body, Northwestern University professor Dorothy Roberts exposes America s systemic abuse of Black women s bodies, from slave masters economic stake in bonded women s fertility to government programs that coerced thousands of poor Black women into being sterilized as late as the 1970s. These abuses, Roberts argues, point not only to the degradation of Black motherhood but to the exclusion of Black women s reproductive needs from the feminist agenda. Groundbreaking, authoritative, and timely, Killing the Black Body is both a powerful legal argument and a valuable aid for teachers, activists, and policy makers in creating a vision of reproductive freedom that respects each and every American."
The image of the "Welfare Queen" continues to dominate white America's perceptions of black women and to shape our government's policies concerning black women's reproductive decisions. In Killing the Black Body, Dorothy Roberts explodes the myths about black sexuality that underlie widespread racist perceptions and policies, such as the proposed legislation to deny benefits to children born to welfare mothers. She exposes America's systematic abuse of black women's bodies, from the time of slavery through the 1970s, when government programs coerced thousands of poor black women into being sterilized.
Powerfully written, authoritative, and timely, Killing the Black Body will be read and debated for years to come.
Includes bibliographical references (p. -357) and index.