Black Infants, Brown Girls, and Immigrant Women

February 23, 2017

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Here’s our pick of news, writing, and research this week that investigates political questions at the intersections of gender, race, and region.

1. What’s Killing America’s Black Infants? 
Zoë Carpenter for The Nation: “Across the United States, black infants die at a rate that’s more than twice as high as that of white infants. […] After evaluating 46 different factors, alone and in combination—including smoking, employment status, and education—the authors of one 1997 study could account for less than 10 percent of the variation in birth weight between black and white babies. Another study found that even black women with advanced degrees—doctors, lawyers, MBAs—were more likely to lose infants than white women who hadn’t graduated from high school. Now, a growing body of evidence points to racial discrimination, rather than race itself, as the dominant factor in explaining why so many black babies are dying. The research suggests that what happens outside a woman’s body—not just during the nine months of pregnancy—can profoundly affect the biology within. One study found that black women living in poorer neighborhoods were more likely to have low-birth-weight infants regardless of their own socioeconomic status. More segregated cities have greater black/white infant-mortality disparities; women whose babies are born severely underweight are more likely to report experiences of discrimination. This may help to explain how someone like Tonda Thompson, who says she did everything right during her pregnancy, could come to bury her infant son.”

2. If Obamacare is repealed, 2 in 3 women who could lose coverage are women of color
Natasha Noman for Mic: “Most women who have health insurance in America are white. But the majority of those who would lose their health insurance if the Affordable Care Act is repealed could likely be women of color, according to an analysis from the National Women’s Law Center released Tuesday. […] A big reason so many women were able to get health insurance in the first place is because the ACA expanded Medicaid, a government entitlement program which provides health care to the country’s most vulnerable populations. […] ‘I think one of the most interesting findings was how much Medicaid expansion there was and how much that increased insurance access across the board,’ Gretchen Borchelt, the vice president for reproductive rights and health at the National Women’s Law Center, said. […] But given the high numbers of vulnerable populations who rely on Medicaid — like women of color and fostered children — shrinking its coverage could hurt minorities most. […] ‘The ACA has literally been a life-saver for women, giving them the health insurance they need,” Borchelt said in a press release for the NWLC’s new study. “Women of color, who already face too many barriers to health care, have the most to lose.’ She added: ‘We can’t go back to the days before the ACA, when insurance plans could charge women more just for being women, many low-income women couldn’t get Medicaid coverage no matter how poor they were, and when working women went without coverage because their employer didn’t offer it, and the individual market failed them.'”

3. Immigrant Mother in Denver Takes Refuge as Risk of Deportation Looms
Julie Turkewitz for the New York Times: “In the basement of a white stone church here on Tuesday night, Jeanette Vizguerra gathered up her three youngest children, slipped them into pajamas and asked herself perhaps the hardest question of her life. Should she present herself to the immigration authorities Wednesday morning for a scheduled check­in, risking deportation? […] Ms. Vizguerra came to the United States from Mexico in 1997. She worked as a janitor and a union organizer, and she later owned a moving and cleaning business. In 2009, she was caught with fake identification that her lawyer said she had acquired in order to work. She pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, setting off a chain of events that led to the deportation order. In the Denver area, she is a well­-known advocate for immigration overhaul. Ms. Vizguerra’s situation — first the government ordered her to leave, then it allowed her to stay — is reflective of Obama-­era immigration policies that his critics called muddled and inconsistent. And even as Mr. Obama allowed some people to stay here, he deported millions of others. […] When the time came on Wednesday, she decided not to go. Then Mr. Meyer, her lawyer, learned that Ms. Vizguerra’s request for another ‘stay’ of her deportation had been rejected. ‘I could be here [in the church] days, months, maybe even years,’ [Ms. Vizguerra] said. […] Under federal policy, immigration officers are supposed to avoid entering churches and other ‘sensitive locations,’ unless they have advance approval from a supervisor or face ‘exigent circumstances’ that require immediate action. There was no sign of I.C.E. agents Wednesday evening outside the church. Shawn Neudauer, a spokesman for I.C.E., would not say what the agency planned to do next.”

4. Here’s the chilling effect when ICE targets domestic violence victims
Katie McDonough for Fusion, in response to a recent case in which an undocumented woman in Texas was apprehended after filing a protective order against an alleged abuser: ‘They make a lot of threats that they’ll report you. They’ll say that you can’t call the police or go to court, which are really big myths,’ said Rachel Goldsmith, assistant vice president of domestic violence shelters at Safe Horizon, a service provider in New York City. ‘They may tell you, ‘Oh I know the laws in this country and you don’t.’ It’s a common tactic of power and control.’ These tactics are common enough in abusive mixed-status relationships that domestic violence organizations have made checklists that all read the same. Materials from Futures Without Violence and Casa de Esperanza both warn of abusers ‘threatening deportation or withdrawal of petitions for legal status.’ They might destroy legal documents or different forms of identification to keep victims fearful and isolated. To be undocumented in the United States is to in some ways be in a constant state of precarity, and abusers know and exploit this. Domestic violence cuts across all kinds of factors, but power operates differently depending on the context, and the threat of deportation—and aggressive enforcement measures like raids—can be powerful weapons against undocumented women. […] ‘Of course a case like this will bring fear,’ Goldsmith said. And because stories like this spread quickly by word-of-mouth, it “could absolutely make people fearful to come forward.'”

5. ‘Brown Girls’ is showing queer women of color as we’ve always existed
Cameron Glover for ThinkProgress: “It’s a tumultuous time to be queer and of color in the United States. Hate for the queer community is nothing new, and the new president seems to be fueling this at every turn. Donald Trump has embarked on a radically anti-LGBTQ agenda, railing against marriage equalityclaiming anti-trans bathroom policies should be left up to states, and promising to allow religious discrimination against same-sex couples. Trump’s racism and xenophobia can’t fit in this introduction. In this environment, the web series Brown Girls, which debuted on Wednesday, speaks volumes. The highly-anticipated series puts queer people of color in the spotlight, finally giving them a voice in a media environment that too often forgets their existence completely. The show itself is pretty simple. It shows Leila, Patricia, and their friends and family — all of whom have their own intersections of identity through race and sexuality — just going about their daily lives. From the one-liners with a dry sense of humor, to the chill realistic tone of the theme song playing in the preview, it’s clear that the aim of Brown Girls is to simply show queer women of color as we’ve always existed: dynamic, multi-faceted, and most importantly, human.[…] There’s an underrated power that media holds, and allowing queer people of color to exist will do more than just promote better diversity on screen — it will give queer people permission to be themselves, in a society that thrives on conforming instead. […] Many of us exist at the intersection of identities that go beyond our sexuality — and can coexist with religion, race, gender, gender identity, and ability. The media needs to reflect that.”