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."
In 1997, this groundbreaking book made a powerful entrance into the national conversation on race. In a media landscape dominated by racially biased images of welfare queens and crack babies, Killing the Black Body
exposed 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 pointed to the degradation of Black motherhood--and the exclusion of Black women's reproductive needs in mainstream feminist and civil rights agendas.
Now, some two decades later, Killing the Black Body has not only exerted profound influence, but also remains as crucial as ever--a rallying cry for education, awareness, and action on extending reproductive justice to all women.
Killing the Black Body remains a rallying cry for education, awareness, and action on extending reproductive justice to all women. It is as crucial as ever, even two decades after its original publication.
"Monumental. . . . An important contribution to the literature of civil rights, reproductive issues, racism and feminism." --San Francisco Chronicle
In 1997, this groundbreaking book made a powerful entrance into the national conversation on race. In a media landscape dominated by racially biased images of welfare queens and crack babies, Killing the Black Body exposed 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 pointed to the degradation of Black motherhood--and the exclusion of Black women's reproductive needs in mainstream feminist and civil rights agendas.
"Compelling. . . . Deftly shows how distorted and racist constructions of black motherhood have affected politics, law, and policy in the United States." --Ms.
Includes bibliographical references (p. -357) and index.