By GuestBug Brittany
If you live in the state of Arkansas, specifically, Little Rock, North Little Rock, or the Pine Bluff area, you may have noticed a new billboard has popped up in high traffic areas. A photo of a Black (African American) baby, blended into a solid black background, sets a somber tone. What catches one off guard is the text. In big gold letters it reads, “Black & Unwanted”; below that in smaller letters, “Too Many Aborted.com”.
The “Black and Unwanted” billboards in Arkansas are sponsored by the nonprofit group, Arkansas Right to Life. Recently, local news stations (such as Fox 16 and Today’s THV) have covered community reactions to the signs, which have began to garner controversy. However, the signs are not the brain child of ARL. In fact, the signs began going up in the state of Georgia by the Radiance Foundation. According to ARL and the Toomanyaborted.com site, the ads are targeted toward the Black community because it has a high rate of abortion despite being the minority group. The billboards are an integral part of a movement to bring attention to the rate of abortions in the Black community.
When one delves deeper into the Toomanyaborted.com site, there are statistics everywhere. But none of them seem to support the message of the billboards. Instead, they seem to provide basic facts and figures without explanations and connections. The site includes chart after chart, divided by race in relation to the annual percentages. Most charts are based on the 2008 Arkansas statistics, which show White Americans as the primary recipients of abortions, having approximately 58% of the 4,789 abortions documented. So, does this data confirm what the ads are targeting? To really heat it up, why are they targeted at Blacks? Who is behind the ads?
Background: The Radiance Foundation, was cofounded by Ryan Bomberger. His accolades include his time advocating for adoption and foster care, mentoring and other community projects. Bomberger also has an Emmy for Creative Production. There is also Catherine Davis, Tufts University Magna Cum Laude, activist for “Operation Outrage”, a group that “educates Georgians about the holocaustic impact abortion has had on the Black community”. Both contacts are Black and appear to be pro-life, based on the information they are provide on the site.
Whether the founders of the movement are black or not is almost irrelevant. Their campaign has a targeted audience for a hot topic that is bringing attention to the current generations of the black community. It is obviously doing just that. Still there is a boldness that doesn’t seem justified.
What makes the signs controversial lies on the surface and deep within the black community. The initial response is that the wording, black and unwanted, rubs the reader the wrong way. The words spark an offensive reaction, whether for or against it. It is also odd that the sponsoring group, toomanyaborted.com, also has another ad, “Endangered Species” that is not displayed (to date) in Arkansas. This raises the question of whose perception is more important, the actual black community OR those who pay for the billboards.
Another response is that the wording is playing on the fears of others in the black community, who have for years, believed that planned parenting clinics provide ways to create population control. Ironically, one of the signs in Little Rock is about two blocks away from a planned parenting clinic (University and 12th street). Then, there is the deeply rooted taboo and stigma associated with abortions in the black community. Abortion has always been a very strong subject that you just do not bring up in a black household, regardless of how liberal it may be. It is one of those skeletons in the closet that comes out only when let out.
Personally, I think the wording works against the message (despite the statistics). “Unwanted” seems to carry the subliminal message that “black” is unwanted, a belief that has been rooted in perceptions of the black community since it came about. Sidenote: Black has been associated with bad, evil, disliked, forbidden, and exotic since cultures developed language. Some scholars believe that Africans are black because they are the descendants of a cursed race. If you remember your history lessons, in psychological experiments in the 50s and 60s, black children would pick the white doll as the prettiest, despite their own color. Fast forwarding to the modern time period, think of all the cries during Katrina (including Kayne’s infamous anti-Bush comment) in which media and advocates called foul on the treatment of blacks. So to say that Black is Unwanted is almost a blatant show of prejudice, discrimination, disrespect, and so many other forms of it.
The question that arises from this type of media is whether the black community will be open to the discussions that may stem from it. The black community has been stereotyped as a group that has opinions but are not willing to address them on a public scale. Yes, there have been marches. Yes, there are groups who advocate for black rights. However, the issue of billboard that states “black and unwanted” is something that should spark smaller discussions in the community—to address those taboo issues which we continue to avoid. While the sign itself seems to cry for attention (which it has garnered), maybe it is time to use this material to have healthy debates on some of the other issues within the black community.