Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Margaret Sanger

On Tuesday (January 22, 2008), to commemorate the 35th Anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade, Bob dedicated most of the show to abortion. Of course, Bob served up a generous helping of lies, half-truths, misinformation, and irrelevancies.

Case in point is Bob's opening screed against Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood. It's interesting that Bob would start off a discussion about abortion with Mrs. Sanger since she wasn't an advocate for abortion. Instead, she was a fervent advocate for birth control. Last time I checked, birth control wasn't the same as abortion, but Bob probably wouldn't agree since he wants to outlaw certain forms of birth control as well.

In actuality, Sanger wrote a whole chapter in her book, Woman and the New Race, specifically arguing that women should utilize birth control instead of abortion. In fact, she wrote, on page 126, that the "hundreds of thousands of abortions performed in America each year are a disgrace to civilization." (my emphasis) So given this knowledge, why would Bob start off an abortion discussion with a demonization of Margaret Sanger? Your guess is as good as mine!

Bob starts off by calling Mrs. Sanger "a eugenicist and a racist." (his emphasis) Let's take a look at his arguments, which he mistakenly calls "facts" and "evidence."
1) "She was a member of the American Eugenics Society until the day of her death."
That's probably true, but so what? Bob never explains that eugenics, which is now objectionable to most people, was an extremely popular social theory in the first half of the 20th century. And Bob never delves into Mrs. Sanger's actual beliefs, including the any disagreements she had with other eugenicists (and she had plenty of disagreements). Bob is simply trying to create some sort of causal connection where none exists. Bug there is simply no reason to discount the life work of Margaret Sanger because she was a eugenicist. After all, most people wouldn't discount the life work of Thomas Jefferson because he owned slaves. By following Bob's logic, we must also question the work of others simply because they believed in eugenics. Accordingly, we would also have to question the contributions to society of inventor Alexander Graham Bell, President Woodrow Wilson, and author H.G. Wells. (I certainly haven't heard Bob say we shouldn't use our telephones simply because its inventor was a eugenecist!)
2) "She's quoted as praising Adolf Hitler's eugenics program."
What "program" is Bob talking about? What's the statement that Sanger allegedly made? Bob doesn't say. But, it's obvious that Bob is implying that Sanger agreed with the mass extermination of Jews by the Nazis. That is clearly not true and its disingenuous for Bob to make that implication.
3) "She spoke as the keynote speaker at a KKK rally in Silverlake, New Jersey in 1926."
Nope, wrong again, Bob. Bob would have us believe that Sanger spoke at a Ku Klux Klan rally because she a racist who hated Blacks just like the Klan did. But, as usual, reality is different from Bob's imagination. As stated above, Sanger was an advocate for access to birth control and would lecture on birth control to just about any group that asked. With that in mind, let's read from Sanger's autobiography:
"Always to me any aroused group was a good group, and therefore I accepted an invitation to talk to the women's branch of the Ku Klux Klan at Silver Lake, New Jersey, one of the weirdest experiences I had in lecturing. . . Never before had I looked into a sea of faces like these. I was sure that if I uttered one word, such as abortion, outside the usual vocabulary of these women they would go off into hysteria. And so my address that night had to be in the most elementary terms, as though I were trying to make children understand. In the end, through simple illustrations I believed I had accomplished my purpose." (my emphasis)
You see, Sanger wasn't a "keynote speaker" at a Klan "rally" like Bob suggests. Instead, she was addressing the wives of the Klan members to teach them how to not get pregnant! She clearly wasn't advocating the positions of the KKK. Therefore, this is not in any way, shape, or form, "evidence" that Sanger was racist.

But, of course, Bob saved the biggest set of lies for last...
4a) "She incorporated something called 'the Negro project' ... designed to sterilize Blacks and reduce the number of Black children being born ... to promote sterilization through the Black communities because she wanted less Black people."
Well, Sanger's organization, the Birth Control Foundation of America did promote a project to educate southern Blacks about birth control in order to reduce poverty by reducing birth rate. But there's absolutely no evidence that Sanger wanted to "sterilize Blacks" or "promote sterilization through the Black communities." As far as wanting "less Black people," wouldn't it also be true to say she wanted less white people, since she also advocated birth control to white women, e.g., the Klansman's wives?
4b) "She referred to Black people as 'human waste' [and] 'human weeds'."
No, she didn't. This is just a flat-out lie.

4c) "And she even used influential Black ministers to try to tell [that] we're trying to help the Black community... but in secret what she was really doing was trying to exterminate the Black race. She wrote a letter on October 19th, 1939 to Clarence Gamble, and here's what she said in that letter to him, quote, 'We propose to hire three or four colored ministers, preferably with social service backgrounds, and with engaging personalities. The most successful educational approach to the Negro is through a religious appeal and we do not want word to get out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.' End-quote. She flat-out admitted in a private letter that she did not intend to eventually be made public that, let's use some Black ministers because they can dispel any notions and ideas if they ever figure out that what we're really trying to do is exterminate the Black population."
First, it looks like Dutko, or the crazy source that he's cribbed from, mangled the Sanger quote from the letter. But, let's take a look at the substance of his argument anyway.

Bob is purporting that when Sanger says, "we do not want word to get out that we want to exterminate the Negro population," that she actually wanted to exterminate Blacks. Obviously, Bob is ignoring the fact that this line could be construed to mean that she didn't want a false perception to be conveyed. You can read more of the letter presented in context on Planned Parenthood's website (they're obviously not embarrassed by it!).

But even if you think that Sanger really wanted to "exterminate the Black population," then, pray tell, what was her plan to accomplish this? Gas chambers ala the Nazis? Forced sterilization of every Black citizen which would result in the eventual extermination of all Blacks? Or did Sanger think that if they handed out enough condoms and pamphlets that the Black population would exterminate itself by never voluntarily reproducing? As you can see, Bob's interpretation of Sanger's line is obviously wrong.

Still think that Margaret Sanger was a racist? Well, Martin Luther King, Jr., obviously didn't think so. Here's some of his speech to Planned Parenthood while accepting the Margaret Sanger Award:
There is a striking kinship between our movement and Margaret Sanger's early efforts. She, like we, saw the horrifying conditions of ghetto life. Like we, she knew that all of society is poisoned by cancerous slums. Like we, she was a direct actionist — a nonviolent resister. She was willing to accept scorn and abuse until the truth she saw was revealed to the millions. At the turn of the century she went into the slums and set up a birth control clinic, and for this deed she went to jail because she was violating an unjust law. Yet the years have justified her actions. She launched a movement which is obeying a higher law to preserve human life under humane conditions. Margaret Sanger had to commit what was then called a crime in order to enrich humanity, and today we honor her courage and vision; for without them there would have been no beginning. Our sure beginning in the struggle for equality by nonviolent direct action may not have been so resolute without the tradition established by Margaret Sanger and people like her. Negroes have no mere academic nor ordinary interest in family planning. They have a special and urgent concern.
It sure doesn't sound like King thought Sanger was a racist. But who are we to believe? (1) A cherished leader of the civil rights movement who has his own holiday or (2) a crazy radio hack who clearly can't engage in the simplest of research? I'm gonna go with the prior.

I'll conclude by reminding Bob and his listeners that Margaret Sanger died in 1966, which was over 40 years ago. In my humble opinion, it doesn't take a lot of courage to attack the life of a dead person who, obviously, can't defend oneself. And besides, what's the point of Bob's attack? I think Bob is just trying to cast a black cloud over Planned Parenthood because they perform abortions in addition to their numerous other reproductive health services. It does nothing to address the moral and/or legal issues surrounding abortion. It's just more B.S. from Dutko, which is all I've come to expect at this point.

No comments: