Friday, May 28, 2010

A mother caught in the system (by Suzie)

It's the perfect storm for bigots: A black woman with 15 children lashes out at the state for not helping her enough. Read the hateful comments on the latest episode. I just reported some for calling her a whore or hoping she would die.

Of course, it's fodder for racists. But gender and class play a large role, too. The readers who dominate the comments are mostly conservative white men who love eugenics, whether or not they know the term. Whenever someone with little or no money gets accused of wrongdoing, these readers jump in to say the person is worthless. If the subject is a woman, she is put down for her presumed sexuality, unless she happens to be young and gorgeous, and then the men talk about how they'd like to do her. Generally, I don't read comments.

Searching for other views, I Googled the mother's name and "racism" and then "feminist," only to get racist & sexist sites. I did find Cris D'Angelo, however, who notes "Angel Adams didn't construct the ridiculous system we now have that pays so many workers poverty wages ..." Read more at the Rabblewriter blog.

Others might say Adams has been penalized for being an angry black woman who refuses to stay "in her place," who won't bow down to people in power. They might discuss reproductive justice, which SisterSong says has these core principles:
Every woman has the human right to:
• Decide if and when she will have a baby and the conditions under which she will give birth
• Decide if she will not have a baby and her options for preventing or ending a pregnancy
• Parent the children she already has with the necessary social supports in safe environments and healthy communities, and without fear of violence from individuals, corporations or the government.
Adams would disagree with the second principle: She opposes abortion. Although some critics call her a welfare queen, she didn't seek government assistance until 2008, when her partner was arrested for dealing drugs. Before then, the fathers of her kids and her own large family helped her. One of her brothers would give the children a home again, with state assistance. Read this article for more details of her life.

Whenever I read an installment of this sad story, I think of one of my sisters who has spent much more of her life in poverty than I have. Sometimes I take the naive view: Let's report this and get more help!!! She gives me a sideways look and repeats her aphorism: "The system is not your friend." By this, she means: The system will intervene in ways that you may not want.

My sister, who works in an ER, has another saying that applies: "Don't anger people who can hurt you." This occurred to her while watching patients berate nurses who were trying to find a vein for an IV or put in a catheter or perform some other procedure with the potential for "a little discomfort."

That's why both of us would ask Adams: "What were you thinking?"

I support women's rights, including reproductive rights. I've gotten in trouble for speaking up or taking action. Still, sometimes, I want to say: Choose your battles. Use common sense. Don't yell and curse at people who can take away your rights to see your kids. If you want assistance, assume that the people giving it may want something in return, whether it's gratitude or a say in your life. This may sound insulting, but it's the way of the world until we change it.