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Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty (Vintage) [Paperback]

Dorothy E Roberts
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Mar 2000 Vintage
This is a no-holds-barred response to the liberal and conservative retreat from an assertive, activist, and socially transformative civil rights agenda of recent years--using a black feminist lens and the issue of  the impact of recent legislation, social policy, and welfare "reform" on black women's--especially poor black women's--control over their bodies' autonomy and their freedom to bear and raise children with respect and dignity in a society whose white mainstream is determined to demonize, even criminalize their lives.   It gives its readers a cogent legal and historical argument for a radically new , and socially transformative, definition of  "liberty" and "equality" for the American polity from a black feminist perspective.

The author is able to combine the most innovative and radical thinking on several fronts--racial theory, feminist, and legal--to produce a work that is at once history and political treatise.  By using the history of how American law--beginning with slavery--has treated the issue of the state's right  to interfere with the black woman's body, the author explosively and effectively makes the case for the legal redress to the racist implications of current policy with regards to 1) access to and coercive dispensing of birth control to poor black women 2) the criminalization of parenting by poor black women who have used drugs 3) the stigmatization and devaluation of poor black mothers under the new welfare provisions, and 4) the differential access to and disproportionate spending of social resources on the new reproductive technologies used by wealthy white couples to insure genetically related offspring.

The legal redress of the racism inherent in current  American law and policy in these matters, the author argues in her last chapter, demands and should lead us to adopt a new standard and definition of the liberal theory of "liberty" and "equality" based on the need for, and the positive role of government in fostering, social as well as individual justice.


Product details

  • Paperback: 373 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books (1 Mar 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679758690
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679758693
  • Product Dimensions: 20.1 x 13 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 669,632 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This book is amazing. Roberts discusses in great detatil the extreme limitations that society puts on black women's bodies. Chapters focus on the lack of control that black women experience over their bodies beginning with slavery, Margaret Sanger, abortion,through modern day horrors of Norplant, Deproprevera and media outrage over the crack babies. Roberts spends a great deal of time discussing the crimnialization of black woman's reproduction this topic was by far my favorite. I am so glad to have found a book about black women's reproduction. It is important to have this book out there, to have in print the prejudices that millions of black woman have experienced is powerful. It is important that I as a white woman realize and acknowledge that my experience as a white woman varies a great deal from black women's experiences because of racism. I believe the next step after acknowlegeing this diffrence is to work to create equality and justice for all women. I thank Dorothy Roberts for this most important book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars black women and the control of society 10 Mar 1999
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
this book is deep. i am happy our professor had us read this book for the quarter or i would have never known how much control this world has placed on the black female. i myself and a black women who has realized the implications of having birth control centers placed all throughout the lower income communities especially planned parenthood (founder Marget Sanger)who has destroyed our bodies by forcing us to insert norplant, the pill and other dangerous birth control;do i hear 'genocide', into our bodies. if you are a black female searching for answers on your body or a wonderer, girlfriend! this book is for you.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  15 reviews
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Needed account of reproductive history 17 Aug 2002
By Robin Orlowski - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Roberts, a Rutgers law professor, examines the sociopolitical reproductive history of black women--concluding this group did and still faces disparate treatment in public policy. The combined impact of race/ethnicity, sex and ecconomic status govern black women's relation to their own bodies--and treatment from policymakers and medical personnel.
While this premise has been previously examined by other scholars, Robert's contribution differs in legal analysis of the state/women relationship specifically as it applies to black women. She also faults fellow feminists for their ignorance, silence, and apathy towards black women's unique reproductive rights.
Begining with a critique of the predominantley white pro-choice movement for preoccupation with white middle class women and the assumption reproductive access means the same thing for all groups, Roberts holds black women's fertility is only valued if a predominantley white society can find ways to benefit from it.
She also notes that illegal abortion took the highest tolls on low-income black women who were unlikely to have the financial and political clout of rich white women to convince doctors to perform theraputic abortions in secret. At the same time, abortion should not be the sole issue of a truly progressive reproductive rights movement because coercive sterilization and contraceptive programs are also painful incidents in black women's reproductive history.
The pro-choice movement should oppose reccent 'welfare reform victories' because of the destruction such punitative measures have on black communities. Although most recipients were and continue to be white, policy debates were flooded with inferred images of the black "welfare queen" to foster and exacerbate racial and class tensions within the most conservative industrialized nation in the world.
Because anything else repeats the very conditions she is seeking to eliminate, a truly progressive reproductive policy supports the rights of all women to control their own bodies. Not enough to perform "multicultural" outreach, all feminist reproductive rights groups must fully intergrate a multi-pronged, class concious approach into their mission statement and policy objectives.
This book is an indispensible text for a social science course on reproductive rights, law, and/or social policy, but should be read by all who are concerned about securing freedom for all.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Black women's experiences with racism & reproduction 25 Aug 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book is amazing. Roberts discusses in great detatil the extreme limitations that society puts on black women's bodies. Chapters focus on the lack of control that black women experience over their bodies beginning with slavery, Margaret Sanger, abortion,through modern day horrors of Norplant, Deproprevera and media outrage over the crack babies. Roberts spends a great deal of time discussing the crimnialization of black woman's reproduction this topic was by far my favorite. I am so glad to have found a book about black women's reproduction. It is important to have this book out there, to have in print the prejudices that millions of black woman have experienced is powerful. It is important that I as a white woman realize and acknowledge that my experience as a white woman varies a great deal from black women's experiences because of racism. I believe the next step after acknowlegeing this diffrence is to work to create equality and justice for all women. I thank Dorothy Roberts for this most important book.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful! 15 Jun 2000
By Raquel B. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Ms. Roberts did an excellent job in detailing the racism behind reproduction and family planning as it pertains to Black women. I heard of unauthorized sterilizations, but had no idea of how wide-spread such policies went nor that they are present in today's society. It seems that women, especially Black women can't get a fair break. I'll never understand how someone else can tell someone what to do with their body. Yet these same people refuse to put the same energy and money in education and real healthcare. We have to take this knowledge and educate our brothers and sisters so that it can stop.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book on reproductive health from a woman-of-color perspective! 16 Sep 2007
By J. Washington - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Although it is bittersweet (I wish there was no need for a book on this sour subject), I absolutely love this book! Dr. Roberts' thorough analysis of reproductive health as it relates to Black women is outstanding. As a medical and public health professional, I often refer to this book as a resource for various projects and research. I recommend this book to anyone who is entering the field of reproductive health, medicine, or health care. I also met Dr. Roberts and she is truly a gem - sweet, down-to-earth, and very knowledgeable.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Really Great book 22 Jan 2014
By Yocelin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I had to buy this book for my Class , but regardless it was a great book it was interesting and it taught me so much that I didn't know about our current society it really opens your eyes to reality
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