Monday, March 19, 2007

Mothers of Color

I really did have my head buried in the sand over the last couple of weeks. I was horrified to come back and read news on some of my favorite blogs of the New Bedford, MA, raid, conducted by Immigration and Customs, that separated children and families. BfP has video here and asks again why feminists' definition of reproductive justice is based so narrowly on access to contraception and abortion. One question she asks:
I mean, does it not count as reproductive issues that a woman’s breasts become engorged and possibly infected with mastis because she stops breast feeding so quickly?
BfP also brings up the silence of mainstream (white) feminists blogs on the raid, a thread Sylvia and BlackAmazon pick up quite fiercely here and here.

The name of BfP's post is "Do Immigrant Women Count as Women?" My answer was an immediate no--not to the employers who insist on defining them solely as employees and an exploitable workforce; not to the government officials who think it is okay to rip them away from their children, not to the general U.S. public that think of them as lawbreakers out to rob the country--of what, I don't know. But it would seem that immigrant women may not even count as women to those whose politics and/or life work is supposedly centered around women!

That federal officials could do this, then defend their actions, I think, lies in the fact that women of color don't count as mothers, either. A discourse has developed in this country to support stealing our children away from us that attacks us as immoral, "illegal," or uneducated. I see this raid on a historical continuum with black children sold away from their mothers and Native children forced into "Indian schools" so they could be "properly" Christianized and Americanized. In fact, Americanizers of the late 19th/early 20th century spent inordinate amounts of time threatening to take immigrant children from their parents, telling immigrant mothers how their methods of child-rearing were substandard to those of more WASP-y Americans, probably as much time as 20th century welfare critics spent convincing themselves that poor black women did not really love or want their children--they only had them to get more out of the system--and as much time as 21st century anti-immigration proponents spend convincing themselves that Latinas don't really love or want their children--they just want anchor babies.

At the same time all these theories hurt our children, they hurt us, too. They justify the exploitation of our labor--it's okay if we work long hours in dangerous jobs; our children don't really need us. They justify the exploitation of our bodies--after all we're manipulative women not above using them for material gain. They justify the continual denial of the most basic rights to us. BfP is right--we should be angry.

The Mira Coalition on how to help.


Bijoy said...

it should be stoped. real harsh on immrigrant mothers they arealso mothers. kewl stuff you have it on your blog. like to visit more be in touch

regards Biby - Blog

brownfemipower said...

you got that right elle. and this almost complete and total silence on the part of the "feminist" blogosphere is astounding to me. Astounding, disheartening, morbid and infuriating.

I can't even speak about it, i am so fucking inarticulately angry.


Gwyneth Bolton said...

Thanks for sharing this information, Elle.


wwwmama said...

Yes, thank you. I can't imagine how those mothers and children must feel.

Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...