Author: Wanda Parham-Payne, Ph.D.

Mothers, Children, and Dollar Signs

A widely acknowledged fact is the exploitation of black women’s reproductive labor during slavery.  Enslaved black women were often raped in part to satisfy the sexual desires of slave owners, but it was also done, in large part, to create additional laborers for the support of the slave economy.

slavesale

Credit: National Humanities Center

 The children of enslaved black women were often separated from their mothers and sold off to work on plantations.  The ages at which children were sold off to work on other plantations often varied from plantation to plantation.  Needless to say, many mothers never saw their children again.  All for profit and material gain.

Fast forward to the 20th Century and the separation of black mothers and children continued to be a source of revenue generation.  With a renewed focus on welfare reform and a determination to significantly reduce what many perceived to be entitlements, federal legislation was enacted to terminate parental rights and expeditiously place children, who were determined to be in an unsafe environment, in foster care.  To be clear, such action was not a result of pure altruism on behalf of state and government entities.  Instead, the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 facilitated federal incentives to state agencies for the expedient removal, parental termination, and placement of children in foster care.  Unfortunately, the application of the legislation has not been exactly colorblind.  It has been documented and revealed that black children, in comparison to white children, are disproportionately removed from their homes.  This remains true even when white children experience the same issues as black children within their homes.  Simply put, efforts are made to keep white families united while black families are dissected – and dollars are pocketed. (more…)

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Heroin Hypocrisy

heroin-use-white-parents-drug-warRecent local news reports in the Washington, DC metropolitan area have focused on the current heroin epidemic within the suburban and rural areas. Notably, the stretch of highway leading from West Virginia to Baltimore, Maryland is where the greatest focus is directed. In fact, many have dubbed this stretch of highway the “Heroin Highway.” Law enforcement, public health, and other government officials have selected this label, as they allege that it is along this highway that many people often travel to Baltimore to purchase heroin and then return to their homes in the suburban and rural areas of Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.

It should be noted that the current focus on heroin usage in suburban and rural Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia is not exclusive to those areas. An editorial printed in the New York Times not too long ago also discussed the current increase in heroin usage. The editorial, however, particularly examined the change in the tone of the narrative surrounding heroin usage. Specifically, in the past, when heroin was perceived as a drug of the inner city, heroin dealers and users were often referred to and/or discussed in much harsher tones. (more…)

Post-9/11 Profit

Photo Credit: CBS

Photo Credit: CBS

Stereotypes in the media are about as new as the invention of the wheel. The news media’s framing of social events and issues has also become par for the course. Like news media, entertainment media often reflects or incorporates current events into its production. As I have noted before, the cultural production of entertainment media is often a subjectively creative replication or manifestation of hegemonic norms. For instance, in the 1990s, many box office films and television shows incorporated story lines displaying the crack epidemic of the time. In doing so, many African Americans, and African American males particularly, were frequently portrayed as ruthless drug dealers or users. In the same manner, Hispanic or Latino males are often cast as homicidal gang bangers with little to no empathy for human life. Of course, the perpetuation of media stereotypes has not excluded women of color, as women of color are often portrayed in a negative light as well (e.g., prostitute, crack abusing mother, etc.). (more…)

Bratton & The Black Family: Shall We All Go Into the 21st Century?

Bill BrattonEarlier this week, New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton spoke on the Morning Joe show about the increasing crime in New York City. In his explanatory analysis, Commissioner Bratton stated that a disintegration of family values is the origin of crime in urban areas such as New York City. In a move to invoke racial dynamics and justify his contention, he cited the widely-read Moynihan Report, a report approximately 50 years old. To place the report in an appropriately historical context, the report referred to Blacks and/or African-Americans, as “negroes.” Although the report has been cited many times within the sociological discipline in discussions referencing the American Black family, the report failed to address many of the structural factors that impacted the lived experiences of Black families residing in urban areas at that time. More importantly, time has passed. This is not to say that the American Black family does not presently face challenges, but it has experienced changes nonetheless. (more…)

(Un)Justifiable Homicide: Now What?

Source: ABC News

Source: ABC News

In recent months, social media has sounded and maintained the outcry that “Black Lives Matter” as a result of the murders of unarmed black children, teenagers, men, and women. While there surely have been others that have not obtained the same media attention, notable victims include, but are not limited to, Rekia Boyd, Michael Brown, Jordan Davis, Eric Garner, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Trayvon Martin, and Tamir Rice. In each of these cases, a schism often arose among public opinion that centered on the probable guilt or innocence of the victims and/or their associates. The innocence of the victims and/or their associates has often been a focal point of debate among persons, pundits, politicians, etc. in order to determine if the victims’ deaths were in fact justifiable.

Granted, one may contend, that from a legal standpoint, determining whether or not a homicide is justifiable is logical and a necessary component of the American legal system. Without it, many innocent people simply seeking to protect themselves and their families would probably go to jail – and for long periods of time. However, the subsequent legal processes related to the killings of the majority of the aforementioned also reveal the converse. A well-known example (and therefore one to which I have pointed before), is that of nine year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones. Aiyana, sleeping on the couch of her home, was shot and killed when police officers stormed the residence. Instead of being convicted of her murder, the officer responsible for her death was released after conflicting accounts of events provided by Aiyana’s family and police personnel resulted in a hung jury. The officer has since returned to active duty. In another example, the man responsible for killing unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin remains free after a jury found him not guilty due to what was deemed a lack of forensic evidence. In the case of Eric Garner, video evidence showed he was restrained to the point of death by police officers. Still, there were no indictments. (more…)

Well Into The 21st Century & The (Archetypal) Hero Remains the Same

Source: Good Morning America

Source: Good Morning America

The release of the most recent Avengers movie has been buzzed about with great frequency. In accordance with the usual media rounds that a soon-to-be released movie makes, the main actors of the upcoming Avengers made an appearance on the morning talk shows. Each one of the actors reflected the historically demographic standard of the American hero – white and male. Of course, this is by no means a new revelation, as others have noted the “white savior” theme that tends to dominate the media. Still, once again, one would think that, as the American citizenry diversifies, so would the superhero. (more…)