Thursday, February 24, 2011
So as I was making my way downtown in NYC 2 days ago, I came across this very billboard. I was literally sitting in traffic with my mouth open with shock.
A 3-story-tall-billboard strategically placed at the busy intersection of Watts and 6th Ave. in Soho is causing a sh*tstorm of controversy across the nation. And today it's hitting the fan. Check out the "right-to-life" extremist's newest antic to get attention via shock value...at black children's expense...when you read on...
The arguments against this ad even being allowed to be put up in New York state that this is purely irresponsible, regardless of the message's meaning. Children who view the ad cannot process complicated issues or underlying messages the way adults can, so this runs the very high risk of scaring and/or humiliating the child reading it.
Here's the run-down of the who and what and why people are so up in arms this week:
"The most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb," reads the inflammatory ad sponsored by the Dallas-based pro-life group "Life Always."
The three-story billboard at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Watts Street features an elementary-school aged African-American girl looking out at viewers with a plaintive expression, wearing a bow in her hair and a sleeveless pink jumper dress. The ad directs passersby to the group's website, thatsabortion.com.
Life Always leader, Pastor Stephen Broden, who is African-American, said that his group intentionally released a billboard that would elicit a reaction.
"The black community is oblivious to what is going on with this practice," Broden, 58, said about abortion rates in the African-American community.
"This is far from hyperbole, these are facts and statistically back up that abortion is having an impact on the demography of African-Americans," he said.
According to New York City's latest Vital Statistics report with data from 2009, two out of five pregnancies in New York City end in an abortion, giving the city an overall abortion rate of 41 percent.
Among black women in New York City, the abortion rate is reportedly 59.8 percent, while the abortion rate for Hispanic women is 41.3 percent and the rate for white women is 20.4 percent. The rate for abortions among Asian women in New York is 22.7 percent.
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn both criticized the ad, with de Blasio calling for it to come down.
"To refer to a woman's legal right to an abortion as a 'genocidal plot' is not only absurd, but it is offensive to women and to communities of color," Quinn wrote in a statement of Broden's claim that the high abortion rates among minority women amounted to genocide.
Mae Collazo, 38, who works across the street from the billboard, said she found the billboard incredibly offensive.
"I don't like it all, what is that supposed to mean?" said Collazo, who is African American, "It makes it sound like all we do is abort our children."
Collazo added that she didn't think the higher percentage of abortions registered for African American women in New York necessarily reflect what is actually going on in the community, and questioned the source of the statistics and whether abortions conducted at private clinics are included in the statistics.
But some passersby agreed with the ad.
Patti D'Agostini, 48, who works at the Door Youth Center on Broome Street, said she works with many teen mothers.
"I don't believe in abortion," D'Agostini said. "Kids shouldn't be having sex until they're 18 anyways."
Broden said his organization will remain in the city for another three weeks before kicking off similar ad campaigns in six other cities around the country.
Also, people believe it is unnecessarily targeting black women--making this an extremely racist and humiliating and disgusting "ad".
But, as usual, the folks behind the ad (the leader is a black pastor from Dallas named Stephen Broden of the Life Always organization) defend their actions saying they put the ad in a majority white neighborhood in order to get attention. And they say the ad is actually for the greater good of showing the bad side of abortions, especially for black women, so people will be less likely to get them.
I have my own views on this topic and this specific billboard itself, and the fact that essentially this "pastor" is saying he's willing to exploit and humiliate black women at the "bigger" price of publicity, but I digress. Living in the south and also doing my undergrad years in Texas made me privy to these very issues and types of people on almost a daily basis. So I'm shocked, but I shouldn't be.
But how do you feel about this o fab ones? And what measures, if any, should be taken now that this advertisement has permeated the nation.