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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What if Pregnant Teen Bristol Palin Were Black?

Young black women in Chicago address the racial double standard surrounding teen pregnancy. Global Girls, a group for promoting young black women's self-esteem, makes performance art out of this particularly painful more-than-a-bit of racism:

"Oh, let my black momma be the candidate for VP And the unwed teen be a nappy head girl like me Wonder how the headlines would have read then Another at-risk child about to begin and another year the party won’t win"

Writer Jessica Young muses whether right to lifers would be so quick to make a "poster child" of Bristol Palin if she were African American.

These are all excellent points, especially considering the dearth of people of color in the prolife movement as such. A single-issue focus on opposing abortion, detached from a comprehensive vision for affirming life after as well as before birth, apparently does not resonate with many people of color. Not that the prochoice movement resonates much, either, from what I can see.

And there is another matter I wonder about that I haven't heard anyone discuss yet (though maybe I'm not listening in the proper places). Through her father's side, Bristol Palin, and thus her unborn child, are part Yupik (a Native Alaskan group). I don't know how much or little, and I have no idea how she self-identifies. But technically, even by some definitions that come from within communities of color instead of being imposed on them, they are people of color. Yet they are perceived as white. Once again in America, the full, complex story of multiracial identity goes underground.


Anonymous said...

I think the double-standard is based on politics, not race. Consider the traetment that Brittney Spears' sister got.

Also a minor correction: Bristol Palin is part Yupik, NOT Inuit.

Marysia said...

Sure, pregnant teens in the US, whatever their race, get ill treatment.

But teens of African descent really do get *more* and particularly ugly forms of ill treatment heaped upon them, as the young women mentioned in this post make clear. This society needs to listen seriously and carefully to their voices.

I think that in certain cases and circles, white teens who get pregnant are seen as "forgivable" because they are believed to be at heart "good girls" who may have made one mistake.

However, black girls and women are widely viewed, whether consciously or not, as sexually and reproductively "bad" and "irredeemable." According to this stereotype goes, they can't do anything "right," by dogmatic definition!

In response to your correction, I have done a bit of research on the Palin family's Native identity. Never having lived in or visited Alaska, I really do not know a lot about the various groups of Native Alaskans, and for my ignorance I apologize greatly.

While writing the above post, I got confused into thinking that Yupik are Inuit because they are sometimes called "Yupik Eskimos," and "Eskimos" is a word formerly applied to Inuit peoples.

Your correction, as it turns out, is not a minor one. Yupik see themselves as distinct from Inuit. So I stand duly corrected, and I have changed this within the post above. With apologies to any Yupik I may have offended...from a Euro descended woman who is still learning...