Enduring A Little Bit of Racism is the Perfect White Feminism Argument
Removing Sanger’s Name is One Step in Transforming Our Relationship with Our Communities
By Merle McGee, Chief Equity and Engagement Officer, Planned Parenthood of Greater New York
When we announced last month that we were removing Margaret Sanger’s name from our health center, we took the first step in beginning to grapple with the totality of her legacy and working toward allowing our patients to access sexual and reproductive health care free from fear, stigma, or shame from those who oppose our mission.
Reproductive Justice advocates and leaders laud the move as a crucial step toward healing fractured relationships within Black, Indigenous, and Latinx communities harmed by Sanger’s beliefs. Others in the repro space, unfortunately, but not surprisingly, “took it a bit personally.”
Let’s be clear: Margaret Sanger did a lot of good. She also supported eugenics, pandered to the KKK, and absolved herself of the impact of eugenics proponents who co-opted her efforts once she wanted to go in a different direction.
Black women and people of color should not have to ignore the dark side of Sanger’s legacy to preserve the reproductive rights movement. No one should have to tolerate any amount of racism for “the greater good” — or when accessing health care.
This is the perfect white feminism argument and sadly, we’ve seen this again and again. We see it when we listen to our communities who asked us to remove Sanger’s name from our center, and we see it when Black staff speak up about racial inequity in reproductive rights spaces.
A ‘raceless’ analysis of the sexual and reproductive rights movement has historically disenfranchised people of color and that is what we are reckoning with. Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities should not be left to confront Sanger’s legacy alone.
White reproductive rights supporters must center and listen to Black, Indigenous, and Latinx communities who are the ones most impacted by Sanger’s legacy and who are directly targeted by anti-abortion extremists taking advantage of this harmful legacy.
Women of color, Black women in particular, have had to hold all the vitriol and shame of exercising their right to access health care as both the targeted and the pitied.
We are committed to listening, learning, and transforming our relationships with communities of color. Removing Sanger’s name from our health center is just one step. We look forward to continuing the work ahead.