I Grew up in Harlem, NY: Opinion

By Shelley Wynter 

Co-Host of Word on the Street 

Airing nightly on 95.5 FM WSB 

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I grew up in Harlem, NY. In Harlem at that time, gangsters and hardworking Black men and women lived side by side. It was the “corner boys” who once ran after a man who stole my grandfather’s Black Buick, caught him, and beat him at the red light while someone ran upstairs and got my grandfather. It was the neighborhood gangster who told a stick-up kid to leave me alone after school one day because “he is gonna be someone one day”. 

I grew up around Black men and women who made money in separate worlds but spent those dollars alongside one another. This brings me to where we are in our politics as Black men and women. 

Why can’t we live in a world where those of us who want Capitalism, small government and less regulations, live alongside those who want big government, more socialism, high taxes and more regulation? Why can’t I, a Black republican, vote differently than you, my Black neighbor? 

I am part Garveyite (less government), part Malcolm X (white liberals are bad) and part Toussiant L’Ouverture (burn the entire thing down). I think like those Black men and women in 1980s Harlem who knew that the hardworking people needed the gangsters, and the gangsters needed the honest working man. They co-existed as neighbors in mutual respect for decisions made in life. 

The vitriol visited upon people like me is one of the most fascinating things you will ever see. Take for instance, calling me and other Black Republicans “slaves on a plantation”. How can it be a plantation with a small number of Blacks? Shouldn’t the other group made up of 90% of Black people be the plantation?

[Editor’s Note: Almost 29 million African Americans registered to vote in the 2022 midterm elections. Of that number, almost 20 million said that they were more inclined to vote for Democratic candidates.] -Pew Research Center 

How is it that I can be accused of selling out, when Black democrats vote every election for the same party who ignores you between election cycles and only gives you cursory attention when they’re seeking your vote. And what exactly are we selling out? People? How is that even possible? I live in the metro Atlanta suburbs, in a working-class neighborhood. I have nothing in common with Black professionals who live in Buckhead or John’s Creek, nor do I have anything in common with Black families in Pittsburgh. Except skin color. And for me, skin color doesn’t make us alike. One of the funniest things I always hear is “all skin folk ain’t kin folk” well, duh. isn’t it obvious? 

I am a student of the Art of War by Sun Tzu. In this book, Sun says ” If you have a smaller army, spread it out and appear to be bigger than you are and attack from several different areas thus appearing to be bigger” 

Based on this age-old battle stratagem, doesn’t it make sense that we vote on both sides of a two-sided system?  

Oh, and by the way, the Gangsters in my analogy are the Democrats and the Hard-working people are the Republicans.  

During the Civil rights movement, every southern segregationist was a Democrat. And every civil rights hero and sheroe sat down and negotiated with these men. They talked to and negotiated with rabid racists to get what they needed. How is it that today many of us won’t even discuss, much less vote for people with whom we can negotiate our needs. We are acting like children who don’t get their way and threaten to take their marbles home. The real world dictates that “enemies” “frenemies” and allies all talk and negotiate to get what they want. Except US…

Going Backwards: The 2022 Overturning of Roe v. Wade

By Kim Green

If enslavement is defined as having one’s free will put in the hands of another who has the power to control one’s body, mind and destiny, then the overturning of Roe v Wade is in fact, The 21st century’s version of female enslavement.  

June 24, 2022 was a turning point. It signaled the need for overturning what’s not right about America. The overturning of  Roe v. Wade is one of the most distressing things that will impact women of all races, religions, socio-economic statuses and sexual/gender orientations. With this ruling; women’s ultimate freedom is being torn from our bodies, limb by limb.  There is not a woman on earth who has not experienced it or has helped someone through it. The toughest laws even implicate the innocent bystander. A witch hunt in the truest sense.  

  

In the early 80’s one of my best friends came to my college dorm room. The conversation was brief and absolute. She was emotional and in need of no judgement and the utmost support. She needed me to keep her strong and to help with what was to come, the hardest thing she would ever do. When she asked me to come with her, it was my honor. If this were to happen today, I could be arrested for going with her. In other words, I could be punished for being a good friend.  

  

The happy ending to her story is that she later went on to birth two healthy and beautiful daughters. She took this next step when her career was established, she was married, she was matured and prepared for the Herculean sacrifices that good parenting demands. Today, I mourn her two amazing daughters who dream of a life of full freedom, but will spend the best years of their youth marred with the anxiety of what if… 

  

Throughout history, women’s bodies and our voices have always been up for grabs. We’ve had to fight for our credibility in every aspect of our existence. At one point in our tattered history, women could not vote or work. Eventually, society needed us, and allowed us to work but only the kind of work that men disapproved of for themselves. We had to fight even for these small gains. Then, “they” said we could do all kinds of work, but when we did, we were underpaid for equal efforts and had to become accustomed to being sexually harassed, jeered at and locked in rooms for forced sexual advances. When we spoke up, we were ignored and dismissed. Sadly, we are still fighting.   

  

The Supreme Court’s regressive act of overturning Roe v. Wade will be our most significant fight yet. After all, it takes two to make a baby but only women will be criminalized for making a choice for their own lives. Many women make this decision because deep down, they know the truth; eventually they will be left alone to raise that child.  

  

Why is the fight so immense? Because we battle with a blind opponent: a broken Supreme Court that operates in a way that showcases ignorance and disconnection from the truth of a woman’s humanity. Even conservative women, if they are honest, know that women’s bodies have been raped and pillaged emotionally and physically since the beginning of time. Oppressing women’s autonomy somehow feeds the primal instincts of man. Throughout history men have been trained to believe that women are only good for a few things (raising children, keeping house and making them look good) which always benefits them more than us.  

  

49 years ago, in 1973, women won the legendary case of Roe v Wade which granted the choice of what to do when our bodies become impregnated. That ruling was even thoughtful enough to consider the not-so romantic but ever important complications that are a part of pregnancy: rape, incest or carrying a fetus that is not thought medically viable. Not to mention the actual trauma of the birthing process which can sometimes be deadly for a mother with underlying health issues. Even doctors sometimes recommend abortion for the safety of the mother.  

  

By banning abortion, women are being incarcerated within the walls of their own fertility. In the conservatives’ perfect world, this ruling would make it so there would be no way out of a pregnancy, anywhere. Wanting an abortion and not having access can taint the trajectory of a woman’s life, forever.  

  

Abortion bans are already in effect in the red states of Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, Arizona, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Indiana, West Virginia and Florida. Conversely, blue states like Washington, California, Colorado, Maryland New Jersey and Connecticut are busy expanding access. But reaching these places where abortion access is possible can be trying for those who are economically fragile.  

  

A woman who is forced into motherhood has the potential to wreak havoc on society. Walk down any urban street. You will recognize her; multiple children, angry scowl on her face and out-of-control, unkempt children. For the conservatives who often have trouble “reading the room” or are culturally and socially tone-deaf, I say to you that you may be looking at a woman who is irreversibly depressed, angry and resentful of the child she wasn’t ready for and the unreliable man who impregnated her. This type of resentment is palpable. It smells bad.  You can hear the pain in the way that she speaks to her children, how she violently disciplines them in public and the fear in the child’s eyes. If you look closely, you may even recognize the helplessness which hides behind her anger. Because she is supposed to be a “strong,” woman, if you ask her about her grief, she would deny it, vehemently. However, this soul-deep rage can’t help but bubble up at the most inconvenient times. Imagine a single mom working multiple jobs just to keep a roof over the unwanted child’s head. She can’t help but see her impoverishment as an obstacle to her freedom. She tells herself that she will never be able to pursue her own dreams or get a degree. These women wear these losses on their sleeve. It becomes ingrained into their public persona. 

  

The mother’s pain, however, is just part of the equation. For the unborn infant or new toddler, this level of negative emotion flowing through a woman’s body can’t help but seep into the psyche of the child who is already being cursed, hit and humiliated on a daily basis. This is often the fallout of internalized rage in the richest country in the world, which just happens to have a jaw-dropping number of poor, uneducated people of color. We live in a country that seems committed to keeping women and people of color hidden away in food desert communities, with limited amenities and subpar schools. These communities may have 12 churches in a three-mile radius, but no grocery store.  

It takes only a few years for this kind of environment to spread its wings. It manifests in the misbehavior of children who turn into equally desperate souls, turning to crime and drugs as their only outlets.  

These are the truths that have been overlooked by conservatives who argue that they are bringing “morality back to America.” What kind of morality are they referencing?  That of the older, white, wealthy, privileged and disconnected?  Or the boots-on-the-ground people of color, who spend their lives just trying to get by.  Although Clarence Thomas is African American, it is a truth that he has conveniently forgotten. The courts disastrous decision in Dobbs is not grounded in the truths of an unjust, lopsided, racist and economically disparate America. These transgressions lie at the heart of the abortion debate. It is impossible that they cannot.  

Even a Christian woman studying theology got pregnant unexpectedly in college. Although she didn’t have an abortion, it adversely impacted her sense of self and hope for the future. She chronicled her experience in the New York Times. From this excerpt, her last sentence is the most poignant.  

 

I didn’t know. I didn’t know what I was doing, what I had done, what I would do. I had only recently, within those past few months, for the first time, come near the idea that the words of a woman could matter. I had only begun to see that they hadn’t, my whole life.”1 

  

  

This abortion ban is an all-out assault on women’s bodies and psyches.  I am amazed that a room full of highly-educated judges did not bother to consider the psychographics of the population that they are supposed to serve.  Although the abortion debate is all-inclusive for all women, fault lines do exist when it comes to white women and women of color. Recent statistics indicate that 24 out of 1000 Black women choose abortion, compared to 6 out of 1000 white women. When abortion bans are in effect, it is the Black and Brown women who will suffer abjectly. They will die. Not only will they not be able to easily afford the procedure, they can’t even fathom the cost of travel (flights, gas, hotels, rental cars) to nearby, or not so nearby, states that have expanded access. People of color are also more likely to have service and retail jobs that will not grant them time off for a procedure. This is a matter of life or death.    

  

An article recently published by the American Psychological Association, found that: Every year, worldwide, about 42 million women with unintended pregnancies choose abortion, and nearly half of these procedures, 20 million, are unsafe. Some 68,000 women die of unsafe abortion, annually, making it one of the leading causes of maternal mortality (13%). Of the women who survive unsafe abortion, 5 million will suffer long-term health complications. Unsafe abortion is thus a pressing issue.”2 

  

What is the value of a nation where “Dreams” and “Happiness” have always been promised and with this single ruling, that promise has forever been broken.   

The experiences described so far are a broad stroke. Admittedly, there are success stories of women who have gotten pregnant unexpectedly and managed to have the child and continue to pursue their dream. One powerful example is Roland Warren the CEO of Care Net, a Christian organization similar to Planned Parenthood where the “care” options do not include abortion. Their vision statement is: Care Net envisions a culture where women and men faced with pregnancy decisions are transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ and empowered to choose life for their unborn children and abundant life for their families.”   

In no culture should a man be a part of this deeply personal female decision, especially if they are not in the position to commit. On a positive note, the true power of this organization is its CEO, Roland Warren, a Princeton Medical School graduate who married his wife, also a Princeton medical school graduate.  They were both Christian but even they made mistakes. She became pregnant while in college, and they both graduated with two happy children. Roland’s testimony is powerful and it makes the organization feel valid and viable. But his experience is extremely rare is almost never the experience of women of color who experience and unplanned pregnancy.   

Another thing that many don’t understand is the prevalence of child molestation, rape and domestic abuse in communities of colors.  Firststar.org, a non-profit that works with older children in the foster care system contends,  “When we think of [the data’s] racial disparities, it’s not necessarily bias among Child Protective Services (CPS), but more about the large problems of social disparities. In many cases parents are overwhelmed and not receiving enough support. That’s a social and economic problem.” The article goes on to say that “overwhelmed parents of color are much less likely to have access to healthcare, lactation consultants, therapists, nannies, and the like.”3 

The National Center on Violence Against Women in the Black Community’s report on Black Women and Sexual Assault offered these chilling statistics: 

·      For every Black woman who reports rape, at least 15 do not report 

·      1 in 4 Black girls will be sexually abused before the age of 18 

·      35% of Black women experienced some form of contact sexual violence during their lifetime 

·      17%  of Black Women experienced sexual violence other that rape by an intimate partner during their lifetime. 4  

In his written opinion in Dobbs ruling, Justice Alito states: “the right to seek abortion is egregiously wrong” And, he writes that “there is no constitutional right to seek an abortion—not at any stage, in any pregnancy, or for any reason.”  Who is Judge Alito? A 72-year-old white man, born in 1950, who holds a lifetime seat on the court, while the world keeps growing past his antiquated view of the world that doesn’t take into consideration social obstacles and divergent perceptions.  

What makes this decision co-signed by Neil Gorsuch (a white 54-year-old conservative,) Brett Kavanaugh, ( a 57-year-old white conservative) and the anomaly, (74-year-old African American Clarence Thomas, also conservative), so perturbing is that this is simply biased patriarchy masked as religion. In reality, this ruling is actually baseless and Godless.  Although, the religious have taken up the habit of using God as their reason, He is certainly not their witness.  

Consider these compelling truths about the Supreme Court:  

  • Five of the justices sitting on the current Supreme Court were nominated by presidents who lost the popular vote. 
  • Four of the justices lied to Congress on whether or not they would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade
  • Three of the justice were appointed by a twice impeached President who led a violent insurrection against our government in an attempt to stay in office despite losing re-election. 
  • Two of the justices have been credibly accused of sexual assault and harassment, but were confirmed anyway. 
  • One justice refuses to recuse himself from cases related to that insurrection despite his wife’s direct involvement in pressuring lawmakers to pursue the attempted coup. 

   Not only does this decision not consider the safety of women, it ignores the obvious: that this is not a decision men should be making. This crucial strictly female decision was made by males who clearly don’t see our humanity and are using God as the reason.  

What confuses me is how could those who say they are pro-life, be pro-gun at the same time? How could those who say that women are equal, elect a President who speaks of assaulting women in public to entertain his pandering cronies. When will the pro-lifers realize that being a conservative is actually the opposite of pro-life. Those who believe in guns, which are synonymous with death and murder, can’t say that they are pro-life. They believe that AR-15s belong on city streets and it is reasonable that they are legally purchased by teenagers whose frontal lobes are not even developed yet. These pro-lifers blow up abortion clinics and they think that violence is a way to save themselves from “not being replaced.” 

The outrage concerning the Dobb’s decision is prompting conspiracy theorists to look at it from all angles. Some believe that this ruling is to make it the law of the land so that no more white babies will be lost to abortion. Even their radical backroom scheming has made its way to the mainstream.  Although it seems strange, to “celebrate” the overturning, Representative Mary Miller of Illinois called the ruling a “Victory for white life.” Her press secretary tried to correct the comment, but there’s no turning back from a Freudian slip. 

  

We Can Rage Against the Machine 

So, how did we as a nation that was once known for the pursuit of happiness and the famous American Dream regress to this place of hatred and confusion? There are countless reasons, all of which seem biased, racist and unfair. But no examination is complete without a balanced perspective and so in this writing I have tried to channel my own hurt, disappointment and confoundment into words that resonate with 60% of Americans who are pro-choice.  That should be enough.  

I want to present a balanced perspective about what women can do to fight back besides becoming more politically involved.   In all of this chaos and hatred that is swirling around our world, it is important to consider the whys of our own experience and how we can take responsibility for our own choices.  It’s impossible to ask women of color to be strong. We have been forced to be the strongest women on earth. Perhaps, I suggest the opposite; that we learn to be more vulnerable and honest about our pain. How can it be that for every 1 woman who reports a rape that 15 of us, suffer in silence? We must do better to have our pain seen, felt and articulated.  

  

Why are so many African American mothers, single? As women we have been forced to become strong in the absence of men. I hate to say it, but if you and your mate have visions that are too far apart (i.e. you are investing in real estate and he is still playing video games) he may not be a long-term partner.  Although he may be exciting to look at, or a masterful lover, you deserve more. How we choose our partners and what we are settling for ultimately lands some of us alone on the street corner cursing at our children. We have to believe in ourselves enough to say what’s true and reveal our inner turmoil. We can no longer give the world permission to abuse us, physically, emotionally and spiritually. 

Do not forget the unspoken power we have. What if 1 million women went on a sexual strike util Roe is restored? That would hit them where it hurts. 

  

Life begins with women.  We matter. 

  

   

Sources 

  

1.     New York Times, Merritt Tierce “The Abortion I Didn’t Get” 

  

2.     American Psychological Association 

Haddad LB, Nour NM. Unsafe abortion: unnecessary maternal mortality. Rev Obstet Gynecol. 2009 Spring;2(2):122-6. PMID: 19609407; PMCID: PMC2709326. 

  

3.     First Star.org 

  

4.     Ujimacommuunity.org