Stephen Broden Gives Good Sound Bite. But There's More to the Man Than Meets the Ear.
In an interview today with Bill Zeeble of KERA-FM (90.1), Republican congressional candidate Stephen Broden trots out his belief that Roe v. Wade -- the Supreme Court decision affirming a woman's right to abortion - was "passed" as part of a racist elitist plot of genocide against black people. Broden, supposedly quoting Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, tells Zeeble:
"She said we passed Roe v. Wade in order to control certain people group. The woman is a eugenicist, and eugenicists believe that there are certain races that have privileges and are more evolved and developed than others. The African American community and our people, in the eyes of eugenicists, are not as evolved or intelligent as others."
This gets into an entire area of discussion that I had to cut due to space constraints from my profile of Broden in the new issue of the paper version of Unfair Park. Before we jump, here is the portion of my story that had to be cut:
But in defending his view, Broden sometimes repeats various Internet canards and urban mythology as if they were undisputed fact.
For example, standing on the parking lot outside his church one afternoon he recited for a reporter the story that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg once inadvertently confessed to a New York Times reporter that she wanted to use abortion as a tool for anti-black genocide.
"Chief Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in an interview said that Roe v. Wade was passed to get rid of certain people groups," Broden said, "and she wasn't referring to white folks"
It's a tale repeated often on anti-abortion web sites. But the original basis for the anecdote, a July 12, 2009, New York Times Sunday Magazine story, actually has Ginsburg saying precisely the opposite: "The basic thing," Ginsburg is quoted as saying, "is that the government has no business making that choice for a woman."
The part of the story used to fuel the urban myth is a partial quote, taken wildly out of context, in which Ginsburg discusses reservations she once entertained but then rejected about aspects of the Roe decision.
But, wait. There is another part of my story that also bit the dust because, as usual, I had written a book instead of an article.
In it, I discussed the historical basis for the belief of Broden and others on the anti-choice right that abortion and birth control are elements of a long campaign of genocide against black people. This view, presented in a documentary film called Maafa 21 - Black Genocide in the 21st Century, cannot be dismissed out of hand, I believe, as pure nutcase wingdingism. Fifty percent wingdingism, O.K., but there are elements of the argument that people on the other side need to listen to and consider carefully.
The argument begins with the assertion that the American Progressive Movement of the early 20th Century was a lot more racist than anybody wants to remember now and a lot more casual about racist programmatic extinguishing of human life. By the way, there's all kinds of false made-up crap about this on the Internet masquerading as fact -- TRUST NOTHING ON THE NET!! -- so I went to the SMU Fondren Library and dug into the microfilm. Here's the part of my story that was cut, dealing with Progressive Movement pioneer Margaret Sanger:
Sanger, who lived from 1879 to 1966, was a pioneer of what is usually called "family planning,"an umbrella term covering many means and techniques for reducing the number of babies born. She is also considered a seminal thinker and activist in the modern American Progressive Movement.
Especially in her early years, Sanger was associated with the American eugenics movement, which promoted ideas about selective breeding of human beings at a time when the science of human genetics was still in its infancy. Since then almost all of those ideas, based on primitive and bad science, have been broadly repudiated by scientists and moral thinkers alike.
But in the 1930s some writings of the American eugenics movement were seized on, borrowed and corrupted by the German Nazi movement, which used them as theoretical pretexts for the Holocaust, leaving an indelible scar on the movement and the names of its more enthusiastic adherents.
Defenders of Sanger say she was an ardent anti-racist whose mission in life was to improve the lives of poor women, in part by freeing them from unwanted pregnancies. But some of her ideas, available in publications on microfilm, include passages still difficult today to dismiss as mere anachronism:
In "A Plan for Peace," an article she wrote for a journal called Birth Control Review in 1932, Sanger said America should "apply a stern and rigid policy of sterilization and segregation to that grade of population whose progeny is already tainted, or whose inheritance is such that objectionable traits may be transmitted to offspring."
Her definition of "dysgenic" persons varied broadly and loosely across her writings, often including terms such as "feeble-minded, idiots, morons, insane, syphilitic, epileptic, criminal, professional prostitutes." The documentary, Maafa 21, offers substantial evidence to show that these terms historically wound up applied to black persons much more readily, easily and broadly than to people deemed white.
Here's a little more vintage Sanger that did not make the piece, just to give you the full flavor. One bullet point in her "Plan for Peace" was this:
"To give certain dysgenic groups in our population their choice of segregation or sterilization."
"To apportion farm lands and homesteads for these segregated persons where they would be taught to work under competent instructors for the period of their entire lives."
The phrase that gives me the chills there is "for the period of their entire lives." I guess your graduation ceremony at that school would be a pine box. Or, as Maafa 21 suggests, a machine-gun and a ditch.
The documentary presents strong evidence that these ideas were especially popular with the Nazis, who read them closely and may even have based their death camps on them. Look. Please don't give me the argument that Sanger was just expressing the values of her times. How much credence did we give that defense at Nuremberg?
I am adamantly pro-choice. But I have to admit that getting to know Broden and listening to him was thought-provoking. I challenged myself with this question: If I regarded the birth of every single human baby as equally miraculous with the birth of my own son, would I feel more urgent about getting out into the world and improving the lives of babies born into poverty and want, rather than facilitating their non-birth?
By the way, I did find and I do quote in this week's cover story a every knowledgeable and authoritative person on the subject of black birth control who says it's nonsense to assert that black women get abortions because white people tell them to.
So, bottom line? WFAA has posted the full interview with Broden, from which excerpts were taken in the Brad Watson story in which Broden was quoted as saying violent uprising is "on the table." And, look, I don't agree with Broden on much of anything. But I do believe it's worth going to this site and listening to the full version of what Broden says. There is a whole hell of a lot more to Stephen Broden than the sound bites.
And now this post is fully one third as long as my story tomorrow, so I must practice that other important right and duty: word control.
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