General Question

Earthgirl's avatar

What's your opinion on this billboard? Is it racist or not?

Asked by Earthgirl (11189points) February 24th, 2011

In today’s local paper they covered the story of an anti-abortion billboard targeting black Americans. the link is here.

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78 Answers

XOIIO's avatar

umm no.

I misread that part in te middle.

FUCK YES! wy the hell would they do this?

filmfann's avatar

Oh yeah it is.

Don’t they sell paint in Soho?

Joker94's avatar

That ad is about as subtle as a trainwreck…
EDIT- And yes, yes it is racist.

JilltheTooth's avatar

I think it is a grossly inappropriate venue to bring attention to the issue.

Seelix's avatar

Has it been proven that black women have more abortions than women of other ethnicities?

It might be an attempt to garner sympathy for fetuses using the idea of Africa = hunger… ? I don’t even know where to begin.

Jeruba's avatar

I think it’s in poor taste, but to me it does not seem to be racist.

6rant6's avatar

I don’t see it as racist. If it’s intended to attract the attention of black women, it’s perfectly appropriate. Who’s picture would you use?

Seelix's avatar

I don’t think it’s the picture so much as the copy: “The most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb”.

Earthgirl's avatar

Seelix Yes! I absolutely agree with you. Thank God, they are taking it down.

Blackberry's avatar

Omfg….LOL! That’s so racist, its funny. Who would get clearance for that?

Earthgirl's avatar

Blackberry Yes, what were they thinking? They were thinking it’s out of control. These abortions just have to stop! But never thinking of how the children were going to be supported after they were born. Maybe they should have just taken out a billboard advocating celibacy.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

The republican war on reproductive health has always been racist as many sexist things tend to be (it’s multiplicative), this is just the latest idiotic measure not so thinly veiled as concern for the ‘poor minority’ as if they really give a crap about black people or their babies.

JmacOroni's avatar

Wow, that was just bold. And distasteful. I’m kind of on the line about calling it “racist” but it is definitely obnoxious. As soon as I saw it my face kind of scrunched up in this disgusted look, and I just realised that it hasn’t relaxed yet. I also agree with @Seelix that what it says is really the shocking bit.

kevbo's avatar

50% of Maury Povich guests would dispute that assertion.

Not to hijack… but here is similar stupidity.

Joker94's avatar

Yup, I’m with @Seelix. I think they handled the topic very, very badly..

incendiary_dan's avatar

I know instinctively that it is, but I can’t quite describe how. Probably because I’m tired. @Simone_De_Beauvoir‘s analysis is pretty good. I feel like I have something to add.

SpatzieLover's avatar

Yes, it is.

Further, the mom of the little girl wants her daughter’s image removed. When she took her for modeling photos, she had no idea the photos were going to be used for this campaign.

6rant6's avatar

@Seelix I can understand that people would be upset that someone would identify a fetus as a woman. It can be offensive without being racist.

If they are trying to get the attention of black woman, and the copy is accurate and their agenda is to prevent abortions they should use a black child. Are you upset that they are marketing to black women? Or that they say black women have more abortions?

JmacOroni's avatar

@SpatzieLover now, that is just horrible. I would be furious.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@JmacOroni yes, and the modeling company said “you signed the release” but of course, there was no mention of an anti-abortion ad campaign that would feature her little girl’s likeness

Plone3000's avatar

A general rule of thumb is that if it is questionable, then it’s probably racist.

6rant6's avatar

@Plone3000 You reduce the power of the word racism if you attach it to anything that’s questionable. You should think before you use it.

wundayatta's avatar

Looks like they played it very well. Their whole idea was to shock people and get attention for the issue. Did anyone read the article? Even the people who put it up say it is too much, but they are happy about the attention. More people know about black abortion rates now than ever before. Anti-abortion people have gotten exactly what they wanted.

And this question only serves to help them more. They are very clever. They are using real data to prove a point. They are expressing it very shockingly. They are playing the race card, and yet, they are targeting people based on race. So it’s racist. Yet they believe they are going to save lives.

Remember, these are people who put pictures of aborted fetuses on billboards. They believe in shock tactics. It must work.

I don’t really know if it matters if it’s racist or not. What I think matters is what they are trying to do, and whether it is working. Clearly it is. That is unfortunate.

Pandora's avatar

I think it is racist and at the same time, meant to create shock and awe in order to bring attention to the situation of increase abortions among African Americans.
If the same billboard where written about Chinese children in China, I doubt it would have the same response. In all likely-hood, this was exactly what they were looking to do. People would pass along the billboard on the news and the computer so that the news is spread even wider and in the end, everyones attention is brought to the fact that African Americans maybe need more help or education on birth control so that abortions are not the only solution.
I bet if they had worded it a bit more carefully, the word would not had spread as wide or as quickly.
Its not the first time that advertisers have used shock to pass the word around and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

WasCy's avatar

It’s certainly not “correct”, because I think there are far worse places for many African Americans to be (such as walking to and from school, for example, or in school). But it’s not at all “racist”, just because it points out a race-based fact.

Would it be racist to point out that the highest concentrations of African American millionaires can be found on NBA teams? It’s race-based and factual, does that make it racist, or is it not ‘racist’ because it’s not ‘unpleasant’?

I believe in abortion rights for women, but to merely point out that the African American rate of abortion is 3x that for all other women in the USA is… unpleasantly true.

6rant6's avatar

@wundayatta How is it racist to market to a racial group? Is it sexist to market to women? Of course not! What if they were marketing to blacks to vote because that segment traditionally votes less often. Would that be racist? Of course not.

This is an incendiary issue. This is a provocative billboard. But this isn’t racism.

crazykookycat's avatar

Yup. But what does one expect? Judgmental pricks are judgmental.

Plone3000's avatar

@6rant6 Um, no I’m really not reduceing the word “racist”. If I say “Nazi” or “holocaust” then add the word “questionable” it still means the same thing.

6rant6's avatar

@Plone3000 Well I certainly can’t argue with that.

mostly because I can’t understand it

6rant6's avatar

Maybe this definition of racism will help:
“Racism is the belief that the genetic factors which constitute race, ethnicity, or nationality are a primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that ethnic differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.”

Nothing in this ad says that black people are predisposed to have more abortions, or to get pregnant. Only that they have more abortions. It’s not racist. The fact that it provokes or offends you doesn’t make it racist. “Manipulative,” “Divisive”, even “Awful” possibly; just not racist.

wundayatta's avatar

I think, @6rant6, that your point turns on the definition of racism. I doubt if this is the place to discuss that, because I think this is about knee-jerk reactions, not careful analysis.

It’s an interesting question about whether treating someone differently because they are different is an “ism” or not.

Plone3000's avatar

@6rant6 Okay so if it is not racist, then how is it offensive?

crazykookycat's avatar

@6rant6 Not to get too into it (because it is bedtime over here), but the billboard does not state any statistics that I see. It merely says that being the most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb. That suggests a belief (whether it was intended or not) that the race predisposes them to abortions. If they didn’t intend the message to be racist they should have stated it in another fashion. Things can be racist by accident. So, it’s possible that the people that created it had no racist intentions, but still made a racist sign.

kevbo's avatar

Does it matter that Reverend Derek McCoy, a board member of the organization that paid for the billboard, is African-American and speaks in favor of it in the article? (Also, one other of the four board members is African-American. Interestingly, the female board member was a director at Planned Parenthood.)

The only racism one might claim in this (which McCoy may be guilty of as well) is approaching this discussion from a (white) hegemonic POV, such as operating under the assumption that this statistic was created in a vacuum or in an equal opportunity environment.

The ad’s primary fault, I think, is its logic. If Chris Slattery (cited in the article) is going to be a stickler for “facts,” then is it not a fact that fetuses do not have legal status as African-American or citizen or person or any other status? While abortion rates may be highest among African-Americans as a cohort, does this statistic alone prove that the womb is the most dangerous place for an African-American? Where is the pie chart of most dangerous places?

crazykookycat's avatar

@Plone3000 Being offended and offensive are two different things (although I agree with you that it portrays a racist meaning)..

JmacOroni's avatar

I feel inclined to agree, at least in part, with @6rant6. It doesn’t jump out at me as racist.. just icky. It was done in poor taste, but to me “racism” is more about ignorance and/or hate. I don’t necessarily think that this billboard displays either of those things. Then again, I don’t know the statistics regarding race and abortions, so I could be mistaken.
It was just unnecessary, and it was clearly going to be controversial, and the people who designed it knew that.

6rant6's avatar

Well “Offensive” is more in the eye of the beholder. I think some people are offended any time black people are singled out. It’s kind of an old reflex from a time when they were only in copy to denigrate them. It’s not true now. Each use needs to be evaluated on its own.

I think the ad also implies a “wrongness” to abortions – an idea with which many people (myself included) do not agree. Some people would find that offensive. That and the size of the damn thing.

kevbo's avatar

… unless, of course, this is an oblique commentary on penis size, STDs and sex with minors(?), because that’s racist.

Plone3000's avatar

@6rant6 I will agree with you on that, racism is in the “eye of the beholder”. I personally think it’s racist, while you may not, and no one can tell us differently. One example of this is wrong use of the word “retarded”. The word retarded has a scientific meaning, and is in no way supposed to be bigotry. However, if you where to call someone a “retard” as an insult it becomes offensive because you are then looking down on that group of people, the same thing goes for the word “Jew” and so on…

6rant6's avatar

@Plone3000 Yag!!! I didn’t say that racism was in the eye of the beholder. I said that “Offensiveness” was in the eye of the beholder.

And yes, I can tell you differently, because I am looking at the definition of the word, racism. Can you tell me how you see that definition – or any published definition – applying to the billboard?

I’m not debating whether the thing is offensive. Clearly it’s offended a lot of people here. So bringing in “retarded” is no help. Yes, insulting anyone with any word is offensive. That’s the idea.

But just because someone is offended by the billboard, and the picture is a black girl, and the copy mentions black women, it’s not necessarily racist.

Here. Is this racist: same girl’s picture, and the copy says, “John Wayne Public killed thirteen black girls in Baltimore after drinking all night at Mayhew’s Bar. Write your congressman to close Mayhews.”

It’s wrongheaded, it’s exploitative, and it has the picture and talks about black people. But it’s not racist. It’s just offensive—and stupid.—

TexasDude's avatar

I completely disagree with the sentiment (I’m pro choice), but I don’t see how this is racist. My raving arch-liberal sociology professor last semester even gave us some statistics that said that African American women have more abortions than any other demographic group.

Pattijo's avatar

Yes I think they over did this billboard and if they wanted to open peoples eyes up , they sure did

Earthgirl's avatar

It may be a fact that black women have more abortions. Does anyone know why though? Is it from lack of adequate birth control? Is their decision to abort based partly on their lack of economic ability to support a child ? If the people who put up this billboard were really concerned about just reducing abortions, the race of the mother would not matter. They are “calling black women out ” about this. And I find that targeting offensive and counter to the supposed idealism of their goal. You have to be sensitive to the mother’s needs before you can save the child. They are sending the equivalent of a morality bashing. They aren’t just citing a simple statistic. They are trying to be inflammatory to attract attention as wundayatta and Pandora said.

Anemone's avatar

I’m also in the camp who sees it as disturbing, but not racist. It’s targeting African-Americans and uses an unpleasant fact (?) to make a point. I think the worst thing is that it points out that some people have less access to birth control than others, but that’s not the fault of the advertisers. I also don’t agree with the sentiment that people of any race need to stop having abortions. Instead, all people need the education and ability to prevent pregnancy in the first place.

6rant6's avatar

Here’s a twist: the ad is promoting a website. On that website is this text:

”...a part of a new national campaign to expose the truth about how Planned Parenthood targets minority neighborhoods as they perform over 300,000 abortions a year.”

So their position is that they are OPPOSING racism, I guess.

kevbo's avatar

oh… here’s the pie chart.

Something that wasn’t reported in the story but that is in the group’s press release. They assert that Planned Parenthood targets minority neighborhoods and is for all intents and purposes facilitating a genocide of sorts. So… (and this is just asking the question) is that the truth about what is racist in this discussion?

^^^seconds behind it seems

Earthgirl's avatar

6rant6 kevbo I understand your point about Planned Parenthood targeting black neighborhoods. But I would say it’s probably because those neighborhoods are more in need of their services in general. They have the need for low cost birth control for those who want to prevent pregnancy and avoid abortions. And they have the need for low cost pre-natal care for those women who choose to go forward with their pregnancies. I would not call abortion genocide because it is not being done against the mother’s will.

mattbrowne's avatar

I don’t like the billboard at all. Most pro-choice people like myself are aiming for zero abortions because of zero unwanted pregnancies, while many pro-life advocates don’t support better sex education, don’t support better access to contraceptives and above all don’t support better education in troubled neighborhoods paid for by taxpayer who can afford paying taxes. Usually they also ignore the potential risks associated with climate change which means they are not really worried about born life in the year 2050. And they don’t care whether a pregnant woman has got health insurance or not. The sign should actually read “The most dangerous place for low-income pregnant African Americans and their unborn children is a place called the United States of America run by the Tea Party.”

Now is this billboard racist? Maybe not. If statistics reveal that there are more unwanted pregnancies and more abortions among African Americans, it can make sense to target campaigns to a particular segment of the population. To fight AIDS it makes sense to target young people and promote the use of condoms. It’s a fact that older people are less careless in that respect. We can’t argue that creating ads for young people would discriminate them.

So I would change the content of this particular billboard into something like “Young people love life. Stop AIDS. Use condoms. Prevent unwanted pregnancies..”

stratman37's avatar

Regardless of how you feel about the abortion issue (because I’ve seen this same campaign used on a bumper sticker, just without the African American inserted), it’s no more racist than Ebony magazine using (almost only) African American models in their ads…

SABOTEUR's avatar

Poor taste, perhaps…ill advised, but I don’t see this as particularly racist.

Earthgirl's avatar

mattbrowne Very well said. I agree with you wholeheartedly!

crazykookycat's avatar

@mattbrowne “It’s a fact that older people are less careless in that respect.”

Actually, since Viagra it’s on the rise with the elderly. Maybe we’ll have a new champion… Gross.

iamthemob's avatar

I don’t think that the message is racist itself. However, after learning the underlying message of the website, I am being swayed to arguments that the billboard as a whole, not in a vacuum, may very well be racist in effect.

It seems that this is part of a general attack on Planned Parenthood, and abortion rights generally. I’m always ambivalent about abortion, but in the legal context will more than likely never get past the fact that the decision is a personal one for a woman, not one to be decided outright (in terms of whether or not any abortion can be had) by the legislature.

The accusation that Planned Parenthood targets minorities to encourage abortions neglects the fact that many clinics are in African American neighborhoods may be a result of institutional racism and not some insidious attempt to reduce the African American population. Are these also low-income neighborhoods? Unfortunately, more than likely. Are these also neighborhoods where most families are single-parent households? Unfortunately, more than likely.

And that’s where the racism comes in – many women in these areas don’t have, on a practical level, the sexual free choice that women in affluent areas do. Claiming that it’s dangerous because of Planned Parenthood is ignoring the fact that it’s dangerous because there’s a built-in racial inequality in education, opportunity, etc. That’s why I’m inclined to believe it’s racist – it misses the point.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

They are willfully misrepresenting racial statistics about abortion rates as proof of “genocidal plot”.

12Oaks's avatar

Not even a little.

6rant6's avatar

@iamthemob However you characterize the ad, it’s not racist in that it does not assert that differences in behavior or state are a result of inherent genetic differences.

If you can find a published definition of “Racism” that actually fits into what you are saying I would like to see it. Failing that, I assert that people are confusing “talk that mentions race and upsets me” with racism.

Don’t we all agree that there may be differences in the way different races live, if through nothing more than historic accident? Don’t we all agree that marketing to a racial group is permissible (for example, pointing out to black voters that they tend to be underrepresented)?

You know, if the question from OP had been, “Do you like this ad?” I would understand that people would jump all over it. But she just asked if it’s racist. Let’s actually use the definition of the word and not make stuff up.

6rant6's avatar

@iamthemob How does that apply to the ad? I can see a case for saying Planned Parenthood’s policies look like institutional racism. I can see a case for saying the circumstances the billboard the addresses are rooted in institutional racism. But that certainly isn’t the same thing as saying the billboard is racist.

iamthemob's avatar


It applies to the ad because the ad itself is an argument that PP is attempting to, in essence, “abortion out” African Americans when, in fact, abortions are perhaps sought more in certain areas as a result of institutional racism, but ignores that. It says that the attempt to influence a certain race to receive abortions is really an attempt to impose an agenda that is motivated by racism on a certain group instead of an effect of institutional racism on that group.

I’m not saying that the billboard is clearly racist – I’m saying that there is a good argument that it is but only if we’re talking about institutional racism – which is a form of racism that isn’t necessarily conscious but more promotes the effects of racism (e.g., the differences between races in terms of earnings) than works with a specific racist intent.

6rant6's avatar

@iamthemob The stated goal of the campaign is to address the disparity between abortion incidence in blacks and the general population. It is to address the disparity – not assert that it is an unavoidable consequence of their being black. Nor is is saying that there is nothing that can be done about it because it’s not intentional. Those would be respectively racism and institutionalized racism.

You can disagree with their premise, or their methods, but to call it racist or even “institutional racism” is just illogical.

iamthemob's avatar

@6rant6 – “The stated goal of the campaign” is exactly what I’m questioning. Something can be racist without having the intention of being so. That is the essence of institutional racism.

6rant6's avatar

Here’s the simple version: black women have more abortions. From that, one can infer that they have fewer options than other people. (This may in fact be true). That lack of other options as embodied in organizations is “institutionalized racism.” The group that erected the billboard seeks to redress that institutionalized racism by counseling women on the possibility of live birth. That is fighting racism – on their terms, yes, but that doesn’t change what it is.

Planned Parenthood is addressing the institutionalized racism that comes in the form of unequal access to birth control. That is fighting racism – again on their terms, within their world view.

I concede, institutionalized racism exists. This campaign – however offensive it may be – isn’t encouraging it, but fighting it.

iamthemob's avatar

@6rant6 – No – the problem is that PP is responding to a need (theoretically) and the billboard is accusing them of attempting to encourage what they’re claiming is racist propaganda.

That’s the problem that necessitates us separating out “racism” from “institutional racism.” The campaign is accusing those who are responding to institutional racism of racism themselves, arguably – and why the question is much more complex then it initially seems.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@6rant6 It’s racist because it’s an attempt to create a knee-jerk reaction in African Americans – not those who are impoverished, not all those in the neighborhood, not even all those who aren’t white – African Americans. Fighting racism would be “Hey, we think PP is trying to lessen the amount of blacks there are in the world via abortion, and you should really hear our position, think it over carefully, weigh your options and other arguments, and then make up your own mind.” This is not that, but rather an attempt to manipulate blacks into doing what the pro-lifers want without any real concern for their lives by saying “PP = Genocide”. Pointing out that the other side is discriminating against a group so that you can use that same group as a pawn in your game is still using that group as a pawn.

6rant6's avatar

@iamthemob Yes, everyone one who attempts to address institutionalized racism by actually treating people differently is accused of racism – as you are doing to this group.

My point is, that doesn’t make it so.

iamthemob's avatar

@6rant6 – That’s the simplest, simplest form of my argument.

Of course…it’s not my argument.

Officially: “Le sigh.”

6rant6's avatar

@MyNewtBoobs That’s just silly. Just because there are other ways of fighting racism – even better ways – doesn’t make this racism.

Your main argument is about pro-life – you hate this idea that abortion is being condemned. I’m with you, but not everyone is. Let them have another opinion – it doesn’t make them racist.

It’s okay to talk to “protected” groups by name. The people involved believe that they are doing them a service – not taking advantage of them. That you don’t like the outcome if they succeed – not the issue.

Regarding PP, do you really think that accusing someone else of racism is necessarily racist? I suspect they believe that PP is in fact trying to keep down the number of unwanted black babies. Do you not think so? Are you racist? This is a very slippery slope to accuse anyone who doesn’t agree with you of racist intent.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@6rant6 No, I hate the idea that a group is being talked down to and manipulated so gregariously. I see tons and tons of pro-life ads every week – most of them aren’t racist. And I’m not saying I’m the decider of all things racist – I’m saying when basically everyone (including the people who put it up…) think it’s racist, it probably is.

6rant6's avatar

@MyNewtBoobs They didn’t say they were racist. They said they were “over the edge”. and by contrast, PP was “over the top.” Not racist although clearly deserving of a WTF.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

Or, egregiously instead of gregariously. Like left being the other right…

6rant6's avatar

I kind of like “gregarious”. And I have to say… these people…I’m troubled that they think breeding is a good idea.

JustSaying's avatar

I am a young african american woman and to be honest, I don’t really feel offended by the bill board. I mean, yes it could have been worded better but at the end if the day this IS the harsh reality. I’m pro-life! And I don’t think any woman of any race should have an abortion unless she is absolutely physically unable to deliver. No father around? It’s a recession? WHO CARES?? That’s just a sad excuse. I’m sure your baby’s father didn’t become trash over night and I don’t think the millions in your account vanished into thin air. In fact, I’m sure you’re circumstances were the same BEFORE you gad sex. And even so, with all your excuses I’m sure there is a loving family who is more than capable of raising a
child! What’s wrong with adoption? Oh, you don’t wanna carry the child for a couple of months? Well in that case since its about wants, they don’t wanna be aborted. What’s wrong with abstinence or celibacy? Why can’t we wait until we’re able? If you feel like you just have to have it then you just have to deal with consequences and the comments and the statistics and the racial slurs and bill boards like this. Yeah, this bill board is GROSS but abortion is down right disgusting!!!

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@JustSaying So then since it’s on the same side as you are of the abortion debate, you don’t care if it uses dishonorable tactics?

6rant6's avatar

@MyNewtBoobs “Dishonorable?” Tad subjective you think? Kind of presupposes which side of the aisle you’re on, doesn’t it?

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@6rant6 Well, I did state my opinion above on how it was manipulation, and I’m pretty sure my thoughts on women’s rights are well documented on this site. But you don’t have to disagree with what side they’re on to find a tactic dishonorable – I’m against it when Planned Parenthood has people stand outside grocery stores and harass them until they sign a petition, even though I’m a big fan of most other aspects of PP.

mattbrowne's avatar

@crazykookycat – Condoms and Viagra have one thing in common: people need to plan ahead. I said older people are less careless when having sex. I didn’t say anything about the libido or potency. So targeting young people can make sense.

crazykookycat's avatar


lol. i was just making a joke.

Mantralantis's avatar

A horrible approach to an uneasy rights issue that strongly assumes rascism. With african-americans carving out only 35% of the total abortions in this country, it’s clearly rascist to me.

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