The Crucible of Chamblee: Buford Highway, the International Village, and the Neoliberal Racial Imaginary at the End of the Twentieth Century (part II)

by Owen Griffis Clow

Part II

Photograph: Kate Medley. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.
Strip mall signage featuring English, Spanish, and Chinese, Chamblee, Georgia. Photograph: Kate Medley. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.

In my previous essay, I offered a brief local history of Chamblee, Georgia, and highlighted two events of the 1990s: a 1992 Chamblee City Council meeting and the city’s subsequent adoption (and the ultimate failure) of a “revitalization” project known as the International Village. These events, I argued, reflected the city’s turn to probusiness interests to counter negative press attention resulting from the city’s own racist reaction to its new immigrant population—a story that hardly accords with the one told by the area’s tourist boosters, who tend to represent the historical development of the Buford Highway Corridor as a story of harmonious cooperation and judicious support from local authorities. 1See, e.g.,  Eric Clarkson, “My City’s 20-Year ‘Overnight Success Story’ Offers Lessons to Others,” Atlanta Journal Constitution, December 8, 2019, 28A. Clarkson is Chamblee’s current mayor. But the story of Chamblee and its “international” rebranding also points up the limits of the racial imaginary in America at the turn of the twenty-first century. This essay uses some of the events in Chamblee’s recent past as a case study to explore how the constraints of the neoliberal racial imaginary have colored the city’s recent history and to posit a relationship between racial capitalism and the historical construction of this imaginary. Ultimately, the recent history of Chamblee suggests a shift in how local authorities understood race: Chamblee’s outward embrace of its multiethnic immigrant population is not simply the transition from racism to the absence of racism; rather, it is the transition from traditional white supremacy to a neoliberal racial imaginary. 

Let me pause for a moment to explain what I mean by “the neoliberal racial imaginary.”2My description of the neoliberal racial imaginary draws from Kyle W. Kusz, “Much Adu about Nothing? Freddy Adu and Neoliberal Racism in New Millenium America,” in Commodified and Criminalized: New Racism and African-Americans in Contemporary Sports, eds. David J. Leonard and C. Richard King, (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2010), 150. Kusz, following Henry Giroux, identifies “the main ideological elements of neoliberal racism” as “self-reliance, hyperindividualism, competition, hard work, racial meritocracy, and racial color blindness,” and argues that it is through the “logics of the neoliberal racial imaginary” that these elements are transformed into a “public common sense” of race. I know this term sounds like academic nonsense. Instinctively, I’m inclined to agree with this assessment. But I also want to suggest that we are all intimately familiar with the neoliberal racial imaginary itself, even if the term seems like self-aggrandizing academic jargon, and that the term is useful as it explains a phenomenon which continues to describe social relations in America. Let us break “the neoliberal racial imaginary” down into its component parts. By “neoliberal,” I refer to an ideological turn in the latter half of the twentieth century which insisted that enjoyment of the rights and privileges of liberal democratic society were (or ought to be) predicated on meritocracy, competition, individual achievement, and the philosophy of “colorblindness.” Neoliberalism is neither the product nor province of any one party; it is a philosophy of politics that is attached umbilically to capitalism, and one which finds purchase through the political enshrinement of unequal market relations, deregulation, and rampant privatization. And by “racial imaginary” I simply mean the way that Americans, under neoliberalism, imagine the real-life manifestations of American racial ideology.3For more on the ideological formation of race in America, see Barbara J. Fields, “Slavery, Race, and Ideology in the United States of America,” New Left Review 181.1 (1990), 95-118. How does “race” circumscribe our social relations? How do we evaluate “racial diversity” in a community? What does “racial harmony” mean? Is it possible? How might we imagine it?

The neoliberal racial imaginary underlies the common-sense logic of contemporary American racial capitalism. In his discipline-defining book Black Marxism, Black Studies theorist Cedric Robinson claimed that

the development, organization, and expansion of capitalist society pursued essentially racial directions, [and] so too did social ideology. As a material force, then, it could be expected that racialism would inevitably permeate the social structures emergent from capitalism.

The term “racial capitalism,” he explains, refers to this development and allows it to function as “a historical agency.”4Cedric Robinson, Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition,(Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1983), 2. As an analytic tool, racial capitalism suggests that the development of a particular ideology of race in America was intimately connected to the development of America’s dominant mode of economic self-conception. While Robinson’s original articulation reframes how we think of the historical development of these two concepts, legal scholar Nancy Leong posits a process-oriented definition: “the process of deriving social and economic value from racial identity.”5Nancy Leong, “Racial Capitalism,” Harvard Law Review 126.8 (2013), 2152. I am particularly interested in Leong’s description because it focuses on value: racial capitalism is an extractive process, reliant upon, in historian Walter Johnson’s words, “the elaboration, reproduction, and exploitation of notions of racial difference.”6Walter Johnson, “To Remake the World: Slavery, Racial Capitalism, and Justice,” Boston Review, February 20, 2018. Thus, the neoliberal racial imaginary, in my conception, is the product of this extractive process; it is the utopian vision of the world produced by the logic of racial capitalism. 

You’ve made it through the abstract discussion of theory—dense, I admit, but necessary. But how does this relate to Chamblee?

One might imagine a small, majority-white town in the American South responding to an influx of nonwhite immigration with well-worn fears of economic replacement or the foreclosure of potential job opportunities. But what was most striking about the comments at the Chamblee City Council meeting was not the overt racism, nor the xenophobia: it was the fact that the public anxiety about nonwhite immigrants were not typically rooted in the typical economic concerns of “job theft,” et cetera. The bulk of the issues expressed by the petitioners revolved around either the politics of visibility or the protection of access to their own property—issues which are economic in nature, but were not, in this instance, stated explicitly as such.7By “politics of visibility” I refer to disagreements over the right of people to be seen in public, a right which may be curtailed when people in a position of power express aesthetic displeasure (fear, disgust, anxiety) with the appearance of a dissimilar “other.” Immigration historian Art Hansen records that “residents complained that Hispanic men frequently were rowdy, drank, and used drugs while waiting for work near a convenience store. An elderly white woman who lived behind [a Majik Market parking lot where day laborers often congregated complained that men used her yard as a bathroom.”8City of Chamblee Council Meetings, Agendas and Minutes 1990-1993, 706, item 5, Chamblee City Hall, Chamblee, GA. Quoted in  Art Hansen, “International Immigration and Change in Metropolitan Atlanta,” in Beyond the Gateway: Immigrants in a Changing America, eds. Elzbieta M. Gozdziak and Susan F. Martin, (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2005), 103. “They’re just terrible filthy people,” said another petitioner. “I don’t want them in Chamblee.” The mayor, Johnson Brown, agreed, assuring the crowd that his city was “not going to have these people coming in here going to the bathroom wherever they please.”9Shelley Emling, “Hispanic Leaders, Chamblee Officials Seeking Dialogue, The Atlanta Constitution, September 1, 1992, C1. Quoted in Walter J. Nicholls, The Immigrant Rights Movement: The Battle over National Citizenship, (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2019), n.p. (eBook). 

The increased visibility of nonwhite residents and racist accusations of their uncleanliness threatened the theretofore-white racial imaginary of Chamblee—a shared implicit belief among white residents that the city was effectively white space and ought to be policed accordingly. The national reaction against the overt racism of the City Council reflected the death of a racial imaginary now outdated in the ostensibly “post-racial” society of the 1990s. After all, would Mayor Brown and Councilman King have been compelled to deny their racism—a matter of public record—in a public forum were such views no longer palatable to the general American public?10Johnson W. Brown, “People of Chamblee were Victimized by Biased, Inaccurate Press Reports,” The Atlanta Journal, September 1, 1992, A19; Gary King, “Inflammatory Quotes Taken Out of Context in Chamblee,” The Atlanta Constitution, August 31, 1992, A8. It also suggested the need for local government and residents to recalibrate that racial imaginary to a form more palatable to an American public increasingly aspiring towards a dream state of full racial colorblindness. With the help of the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce, Chamblee chose this option.

The problem of the International Village project is instructive to the overall contours of the neoliberal racial imaginary which came to supplant the preexisting model of overt white supremacy. Chamblee officials were swayed by the economic argument set forth by the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce, but recognized that support for the plan would require more than just political action to make the project viable. This entailed an effective “rebrand” of the city: Chamblee had to publicly shed its “good ol’ boy” politics—the public side of the old racial imaginary—and publicly embrace the new “face” of the city. Any self-conscious rebranding of a place necessarily involves the erasure or concealment of elements of the past—of historical memory—which no longer serve a useful role in the active construction of a place’s identity. This was the rhetorical strategy behind Atlanta’s “city too busy to hate” moniker in the 1960s—a label which intentionally obscured a long history of racial violence in the Atlanta area.11For a discussion of the limits of this slogan, see Virginia H. Hein, “The Image of ‘A City Too Busy to Hate’: Atlanta in the 1960s,” Phylon 33.3 (1972), 205-221. Chamblee’s superficial embrace of its immigrant communities followed this public-relations approach, and it is telling that the city’s advertising literature highlights the commercial productivity of the Buford Highway Corridor, pointing up the novel cultural mixture of the community only insofar as these immigrant cultures have produced entrepreneurs who make a lot of money.12Ballon, “The Melted Pot.” And, in practice, Chamblee’s support for its immigrant communities was largely limited to boosterism: many sections of Buford Highway have no sidewalks, and the street is by far the most dangerous major road in the Atlanta area in terms of number of pedestrian deaths.13Angie Schmitt, “The Campaign to Fix Atlanta’s Most Dangerous Street and Preserve its Immigrant Cultures,” StreetsBlog USA, September 21, 2017. In effect, this was a recalibration of Chamblee’s racial imaginary: from explicit white supremacy to a neoliberal model of colorblind multiculturalism in which nonwhite groups may gain true admission to the community through a kind of quasi-meritocratic display of commercial productivity.

Photograph: Wikimedia Commons user HispaFacts101. Licensed under Creative Commons Attirubtion-Share Alike 4.0 International. See https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en
Entryway to Plaza Fiesta, one of the Buford Highway Corridor’s larger commercial buildings. Photograph: Wikimedia Commons user HispaFacts101. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International. See https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en

I highlight the events in Chamblee at the end of the twentieth century—the city council meeting, the International Village project—as a means of demonstrating a shift in the racial imaginary of a city in the midst of rapid, dramatic demographic and economic changes. From 1992 to 1996, the City of Chamblee replaced one racial imaginary—the imaginary of overt white supremacy, of “good old boy” Southern racism and white aesthetic domination—with another: the ostensibly multiracial, colorblind, economically-prosperous neoliberal racial imaginary. This transition, of course, did not end racism, either in Chamblee or elsewhere. Substantively, it did little to ameliorate it. This is not to make the argument that the Buford Highway Corridor is devoid of value: it remains a vital immigrant foodway, and its status as a starting point for culinary tourism is certainly merited. Today Chamblee and Doraville are widely recognized as diverse immigrant meccas in the greater Southeast, but just under a quarter of residents in each city live below the census poverty line.14This statistic is produced from data from the 2010 U.S. Census. To arrive at this number, I combined the total populations of both Chamblee and Doraville, per the census, and combined the total sub-poverty-line population of each city, and calculated a percentage (23.7%). The rate is higher in Chamblee (25%) than in Doraville (18%). As I previously indicated, the U.S. Census’s ability to accurately reflect undocumented populations is imperfect at best. One effect of the excavation of this local history is to point up a history which has largely been whitewashed by probusiness interests. But, in a deeper sense, this exploration suggests that it didn’t have to work this way: the boundaries imposed by the racial capitalism, mediated through the neoliberal racial imaginary, foreclosed the potential for a socially-conscious, antiracist approach to community-building.

Bibliography

Brown, Johnson. “People of Chamblee Were Victimized by Biased, Inaccurate Press Reports.” Atlanta Journal, September 1, 1992, sec. A19.

Clarkson, Eric. “My City’s 20-Year ‘Overnight Success Story’ Offers Lessons to Others.” Atlanta Journal Constitution, December 8, 2019, sec. 28A.

Emling, Shelley. “Hispanic Leaders, Chamblee Officials Seeking Dialogue.” Atlanta Constitution, September 1, 1992, sec. C1.

Fields, Barbara. “Slavery, Race, and Ideology in the United States of America.” New Left Review 181, no. 1 (1990): 95–118.

Hansen, Art. “International Immigration and Change in Metropolitan Atlanta.” In Beyond the Gateway: Immigrants in a Changing America. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2005.

Hein, Virginia. “The Image of ‘A City Too Busy To Hate’: Atlanta in the 1960s.” Phylon 33, no. 3 (1972): 205–21.

Johnson, Walter. “To Remake the World: Slavery, Racial Capitalism, and Justice.” Boston Review, February 20, 2018.

King, Gary. “Inflammatory Quotes Taken Out of Context in Chamblee.” Atlanta Constitution, August 31, 1992, sec. A8.

Kusz, Kyle. “Much Adu about Nothing? Freddy Adu and Neoliberal Racism in New Millenium America.” In Commodified and Criminalized: New Racism and African-Americans in Contemporary Sports. New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2010.

Leong, Nancy. “Racial Capitalism.” Harvard Law Review 126, no. 8 (2013): 2151–2226.

Nicholls, Walter. The Immigrant Rights Movement: The Battle over National Citizenship. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2019.

Robinson, Cedric. Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1983.

Schmitt, Angie. “The Campaign to Fix Atlanta’s Most Dangerous Street and Preserve Its Immigrant Cultures.” StreetsBlog USA, September 21, 2017.

Obstacles to Voting

by Megan Stevens

Context

When dealing with a topic in history as complicated as race, it can be difficult to pin-point just one aspect to plan a lesson around. While intending to use the lesson in a, specifically, United States Government course helps narrow it down, there are still countless options. In selecting the theme for this lesson the goal was to simultaneously choose a topic that was relevant to American politics today as well as provide a breadth of information to best help students understand an important aspect of race in the American political sphere. In choosing to focus upon voter turnout amongst black citizens, the lesson is able to cover topics such as gerrymandering, voter identification laws, poll closures, and mass incarceration. 

While these components impact minority voters of many backgrounds, this lesson will focus specifically on black Americans for three reasons. The first is that, despite the fact that voter turnout for minorities is low in general, the specific factors chosen to explore are most commonly highlighted for their impact on black citizens in particular. The second is the history of voter suppression suffered by black Americans, particularly during the Jim Crow Era in the South. The last is simply the idea that, in order to best understand the topics being analyzed, it helps students to focus their attention on how these variables could impact people of a similar background rather than balance their impact on various different cultural and ethnic groups. The students will also be given background information on the topic in order to ground their interpretation of the sources. This background information can also serve helpful for those attempting to implement the lesson and therefore will be included in a similar fashion here. 

Prior to the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, many states—particularly in the South—incorporated laws preventing black Americans from exercising their right to vote. Policies such as literacy tests, poll taxes, and grandfather clauses were employed with the intention of disenfranchising citizens of color. Voting is a powerful tool in a democratic republic. Enfranchisement allows for citizens to elect representatives that will have the power to pass legislation that could create positive change for and protect the constituencies they represent. These constituents, therefore, have a means through which to hold government officials accountable to their promises. Elections are a forceful means for citizens to have their voices heard on a regular basis.

Despite the undeniable progress America has seen since the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Twenty-Fourth Amendment—banning the practice of poll taxes—some barriers to voting still remain. Each of these barriers serves a different political purpose. Voter Identification Laws are passed as a means for promising protections against voter fraud. The idea behind this is that, if citizens are forced to present IDs at the polls, the likelihood that elections can be tampered with by improper voting practices can be tapered.1William D. Hicks, et al. “A Principle or a Strategy? Voter Identification Laws and Partisan Competition in the American States.” Political Research Quarterly, vol. 68, no. 1, (2015): 23. Poll Closures come typically as a means of cutting costs or as a result of actions such as early voting and absentee ballots lowering demand for polling locations on election day.2Mark Nichols. “Closed Voting Sites Hit Minority Counties Harder for Busy Midterm Elections.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, (2018). Mass incarceration—or rather, the percentage of those incarcerated—comes from attempts by politicians to represent themselves as tough on crime. This is something that many voters deemed as a positive quality throughout the end of the twentieth century as well as the beginning of the twenty-first.3James Forman Jr. Locking Up Our Own. (New York, NY: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2017): 7. Gerrymandering allows for politicians to ensure a higher likelihood of re-election for members of their party within their state—ideally guaranteeing their ability to hold the majority within their states’ legislature.

While not all of these barriers are employed to intentionally disenfranchise a portion of the population—as did the legislation of the Jim Crow era did—it is undeniable that these policies may have an adverse effect on black citizens. Throughout this lesson, students will explore how these different policies could create an environment in which it is more difficult for minority voters—specifically African Americans—to exercise their right to vote. Although this may be true, it is improper to see these circumstances as irreparable. Both through the actions of the people effected as well as the interventions of organizations—such as the ACLU—citizens have made sure to make their voices heard despite these barriers.

In addition to this, in situations where the rights of African Americans have been seen to have been violated by these policies, organizations—such as the ACLU and NAACP among many others—step in to pursue legal recourse and potentially have these policies overturned (typically in the courts).4Bertrall Ross. “PARTISAN GERRYMANDERING, THE FIRST AMENDMENT, AND THE POLITICAL OUTSIDER.” Columbia Law Review 118, no. 7 (2018): 2192. Federal courts have served as important ground to fight against potential disenfranchisement. Interest groups and advocacy organizations—such as the Sentencing Project—also serve as a tool to inform Americans of the potential outcomes causes by these barriers’ existence. Their websites offer statistics and articles that make this information more readily available to the public.5Kara Gotsch. “Report to the United Nations on Racial Disparities in the U.S. Criminal Justice System.” The Sentencing Project, The Sentencing Project, (2018).

Bibliography

Forman, James Jr. Locking Up Our Own. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2017.

Gotsch, Kara. “Report to the United Nations on Racial Disparities in the U.S. Criminal Justice System.” The Sentencing Project, The Sentencing Project, 19 Apr. 2018, www.sentencingproject.org/publications/un-report-on-racial-disparities/.

Hicks, William D., et al. “A Principle or a Strategy? Voter Identification Laws and Partisan Competition in the American States.” Political Research Quarterly, vol. 68, no. 1, 2015,    pp. 18–33. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/24371969.

Nichols, Mark. “Closed Voting Sites Hit Minority Counties Harder for Busy Midterm Elections.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 31 Oct. 2018, www.usatoday.com/story/news/2018/10/30/midterm-elections-closed-voting-sites-impact-minority-voter-turnout/1774221002/.

Ross, Bertrall. “PARTISAN GERRYMANDERING, THE FIRST AMENDMENT, AND THE POLITICAL OUTSIDER.” Columbia Law Review 118, no. 7 (2018): 2187-218. www.jstor.org/stable/26524958.

Documents

Women in Government

by Megan Stevens

Context

This lesson focuses on gender within the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. In crafting this lesson, there is an attempt to provide students with a provocative question that both represents the current political landscape while also asking them to tap into their historical knowledge of women’s rights and path to full citizenship. The lesson revolves around three key components to gendered history in the United States—labor participation, social norms, and political participation. The sources have been chosen with care in order to represent the obstacles that women face in each of these categories.

 In regards to labor, it focuses not just on early hindrances to women’s participation in the workforce but also on current data and statistics comparing the professional lives of men and women. The perceptions of women’s issues during the twenty-first century in the labor force revolves around the equal pay gap and the remnants of traditional motherhood inhibiting equal participation. Typically, this is caused by prejudices held by employers about women being able to balance their life to “have it all”. The data represented within the lesson is meant to demonstrate how these conceptions have real life implications–which can be seen through the employment rates of women (as well as mothers), occupations deemed as appropriate for women, and income disparities. The roots of these ideas come from generations of reinforcement. The purpose of the lesson is not simply to highlight barriers to the representation of women that still remain, but to trace their historical significance that brought us to this point. 

For women to work, in the twentieth century, meant relegating a women’s responsibilities to the family to the back burner.1Alicia Kessler-Harris. In Pursuit of Equity (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001): 34. They were judged to have selfishly relinquished their role as mother in order to serve their own ambitions. Many women who chose to enter the labor force in this era did so out of economic necessity.2Lois Rita Helmbold and Ann Schofield. “Women’s Labor History, 1790-1945.” Reviews in American History, vol. 17, no. 4, (1989): 504. In reaction to this, a number of social reform women’s organizations advocated for legislation restricting women’s participation for their own protection.3Alicia Kessler-Harris. In Pursuit of Equity (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001): 43. The belief was that if men were providing for their families appropriately, there would be no motivation for women to leave their protective sphere within the home.4Alicia Kessler-Harris. In Pursuit of Equity (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001): 57-58. There was little acceptance of the notion that women’s work outside of the home could provide them with a sense of autonomy and citizenship never achievable otherwise.

For the category of social norms, the decision was made to focus largely on primary sources that would have been viewed by a large portion of the public. The public nature of these sources represents their acceptability among the population of the time. While some of these sources are written, others are advertisements and post cards that would have received wide-spread viewership. There was also a decision to include sources from a variety of decades in the mid to late twentieth century. While it may be far-fetched, one of the goals of having some more recent sources (from the 70s and 80s) is to have the students make the connection that the citizens who were young when these ads and articles were published represent the largest percentage of frequent voters today. Therefore, the impressions of women dictated within these sources could have had an impact on their perception of women’s ability to perform the work public offices require–especially that of the president.

In addition to this, the sources also try and highlight gender norms as they have impacted women’s participation in the labor force and politics. Men’s work was deemed as occupying the public sphere.5John Scanzoni and Greer Litton Fox. “Sex Roles, Family and Society: The Seventies and Beyond.” Journal of Marriage and Family, vol. 42, no. 4 (1980): 744. Women’s work, on the other hand, was relegated to the private sphere that the home represented.6John Scanzoni and Greer Litton Fox. “Sex Roles, Family and Society: The Seventies and Beyond.” Journal of Marriage and Family, vol. 42, no. 4 (1980): 744. The roles of women were as wives and mothers above all else. As a result of this, the identity of women was attached to those who occupied her home with her–her husband and her children. To break from these roles required women to participate in activities that were deemed as selfish—that sacrificed the well-being of their families for their own happiness and independence. Some sources selected are meant to demonstrate the backlash that these women received. In particular, the post cards demonstrating attitudes towards suffragettes at the turn of the twentieth century show families in disarray due to the mother figure’s participation in a movement to fight for her own rights.7“Palczewski Suffrage Postcard Archive: Holidays.” Edited by Catherine H Palczewski, University of Northern Iowa.

Lastly, political participation is perhaps the most important of the three categories as it most closely relates to the essential question itself. There are a variety of scholars who have commented on the reasons as to why women struggle to get elected as well as tend to have historically lower voter turnout than their male counterparts.8Jane Perlez “WOMEN, POWER AND POLITICS.” New York Times, vol. cxxii, no. 46,085. (1984): 22. The decision to select the primary sources and secondary sources for this portion of the lesson was one that was weighed carefully. The secondary sources have excerpts within them that can be pulled not only to provide students insight into why women struggle to get elected, but also includes thought-provoking information that will allow students to contemplate the reasons why these problems exist. In doing so, it is attempting to paint as full a picture as possible within a short period of time that one class period alots. The students will be able to work hands on with both primary and secondary sources in order to come to a conclusion on the essential question: Why hasn’t there been a female president?

Bibliography

Helmbold, Lois Rita, and Ann Schofield. “Women’s Labor History, 1790-1945.” Reviews in American History, vol. 17, no. 4, 1989, pp. 501–518. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/2703424.

Kessler-Harris, Alicia. In Pursuit of Equity: Women, Men, and the Quest for Economic Citizenship in 20th-Century America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.

“Palczewski Suffrage Postcard Archive: Holidays.” Edited by Catherine H Palczewski, University of Northern Iowa, University of Northern Iowa, sites.uni.edu/palczews/NEW%20postcard%20webpage/CryingBaby.html.

Perlez, Jane., “WOMEN, POWER AND POLITICS.” New York Times, June 24, 1984, vol. cxxii, no. 46,085. p. 22.

Scanzoni, John, and Greer Litton Fox. “Sex Roles, Family and Society: The Seventies and Beyond.” Journal of Marriage and Family, vol. 42, no. 4, 1980, pp. 743–756. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/351822.

Documents

The White Supremacy of Natural Law: Miscegenation and Same-Sex Marriage as Sodomy in American Law and Culture

by Will Hogue

In the wake of the Kim Davis scandal, where Davis, a Rowen County, Kentucky clerk denied a marriage license to a same-sex couple on the grounds of religious freedom in 2015, Governor Mike Huckabee came to her defense. In a nationally broadcast interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Huckabee was asked how his and Davis’s stance, in the wake of the Supreme Court decision Obergefell v. Hodges which legalized gay marriage, could be justified in comparison with the court’s ruling in Loving v. Virginia which struck down bans on interracial marriages. Tapper inquired, “I know that you are a supporter of the Loving v. Virginia decision in 1967 which outlawed all bans on interracial marriage…. Even after the bans were struck down, even though there may have been Mormons or adherents to Bob Jones who, at the time, thought of blacks as inferior, as taught by their religion… you would have said [law clerks] have the right to defy the Supreme Court.” Huckabee, confidently retorted, “It’s not the same case. That was an interpretation of marriage, but it’s still man-woman marriage. This is a completely new, total redefinition of marriage. And, I think what’s important is we have a county clerk who is not accommodated for her faith.”1CNN, “Mike Huckabee Defends Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis,” YouTube (CNN, September 4, 2014), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X24TE0R_Ekc. This statement from Huckabee is one that many Americans likely agreed with, but the question for me was, is it not the same case? 

In her groundbreaking book on miscegenation law, What Comes Naturally, historian Peggy Pascoe argued that the “bottom line of white supremacy” was the naturalizing of anti-miscegenation law.2Peggy Pascoe, What Comes Naturally: Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America (New York, New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2011), 1. She argued that race-mixing was prohibited by the white male elite using “three animating fictions—one constitutional, one scientific, and one popular” which served to create a natural law basis for constitutional separation.3Peggy Pascoe, What Comes Naturally: Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America (New York, New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2011), 6. Natural law, “a body of unchanging moral principles regarded as a basis for all human conduct,” is generally grounded in the cultural and religious prohibitions of a given society, and gives moral, natural credence to something as part of, or counter to human nature.4Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), s.v. “Natural Law.” When we look to the legal arguments posed for anti-miscegenation law we find that even at the highest levels, the moral and scientific language of “human nature” was involved to maintain the social order. From the Western medieval period, sodomy laws prohibited any sex which was not productive—heterosexual, homosexual, and beastial.5Zeb Tortoricci, Sins Against Nature: Sex and Archives in Colonial New Spain (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2018). These miscegenation acts against nature, were often legally seen as sodomy because they were considered unprocreative or encouraging “deplorable results.”6Pascoe, What Comes Naturally: Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America, 71. Under this umbrella of sodomy was beastiality, which according to Victorian race science after the antebellum property laws of the United States included the mixing of “negroid” and “caucasoid” human races. As Keith Sealing writes:

To the monogenists, slavery or anti-miscegenation laws based upon a theory of White superiority over a fellow descendent of Adam had to be justified by a theory of specific unity followed by racial degeneration…. Although the proponents of the second theory had an apparently more scientific justification for slavery and anti-miscegenation statutes, it was not well-received in the South because it conflicted with the Bible. The “polygenists” saw Blacks as a separate and inferior species descended from a different Adam, and, thus, saw slavery as qualitatively no different from the ownership of a horse, and miscegenation as approaching bestiality. But the polygenists had one major problem: species are generally defined as populations that cannot mate, or populations that if successfully mated produce sterile offspring, such as the mule [the word “mulatto” is often considered to derive from the Spanish for mule, although this is debated]. Every admitted child of master and slave stood as evidence against the polygenists’ separate species theory. Polygenists were forced to hold fast to the position that these mixed-race individuals were of diminished fertility, even though that was patently false, or else to redefine the term “species” to fit the obvious fact of vigorous infertility between Whites and Blacks.7Keith Sealing, “Blood Will Tell: Scientific Racism and the Legal Prohibition Against Miscegenation,” SSRN Electronic Journal, 2000, https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1260015.

As Kathleen Belew showed in her work on 20th century white supremacists, the idea of preserving the “naturally ordained” hierarchies of racism and sexism were beholden to an understanding of compulsory heterosexuality and procreative intercourse. This logic, in the neo-fascist’s eyes would see homosexuality as a crisis to bring the demise of Western White Civilization.8Kathleen Belew, Bring the War Home the White Power Movement and Paramilitary America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University press, 2019). Fundamentally, these laws existed to keep two groups as distinct castes—women and African Americans. The creation of these illicit castes made natural and inferior African American sex, and the supposedly “passive” women.9Andrew Koppelman, “The Miscegenation Analogy: Sodomy Law as Sex Discrimination,” The Yale Law Journal 98, no. 1 (1988): p. 145, https://doi.org/10.2307/796648., 147. This passivity is a pejorative stereotype applied to women, blacks, and homosexuals which serves to preserve the white propertied male as the hierarchical head. In all of this, there is a concern for the property rights of white men and, as one judge put it, the “highest advancement of our cherished Southern civilization.”10Peggy Pascoe, What Comes Naturally: Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America, 71. In the end, the preservation of this social order depended on officials at the local level—county clerks—who Pascoe referred to as the “gatekeepers of white supremacy.”11Pascoe, What Comes Naturally, 4. It seems that this “white supremacy” is protected, both in anti-miscegenation and anti-gay marriage law through the tripartite rationale Pascoe explicates. A tiny section of What Comes Naturally is dedicated to the connection activists drew between Loving and the fight for gay marriage; however, revisiting the topic in our current political climate with a resurgence of white nationalism and homophobia seems both timely and necessary.

American laws prohibiting intermarriage between whites and people of color date back to the colonial era. However, the rights extended to black people in the Reconstruction amendments created a newfound panic around interracial sex and the slippery slope to race-mixing. “Scientific” arguments, based on miscegenation as sodomy, were offered to defend this bias. James Trosino cites the 1883 State v. Jackson case which claimed, “It is stated as a well authenticated fact that if the issue of a black man and a white woman, and a white man and a black woman, intermarry, they cannot possibly have any progeny, and such a fact sufficiently justifies those laws which forbid the intermarriage of blacks and whites.”12Issac West, “Analogizing Interracial and Same-Sex Marriage,” Philosophy & Rhetoric 48, no. 4 (2015): https://doi.org/10.5325/philrhet.48.4.0561, 4. There were also scientific studies to defend the argument for bestiality that suggested “mulattoes” could not bear children past the third generation, and that those who were born would be “sickly” and “effeminate.”13Pascoe, What Comes Naturally, 7. Psychologists and eugenicists had also similarly classified people of African descent and homosexuals as mentally inferior and mentally disordered, respectfully. These pseudo-scientific rationales not only rest on racism and homophobia, but on the understanding that marriage is an institution which only exists for procreation. Of course, scientific studies were not employed to ban women from marrying after menopause, and the question of adoption does not figure into these late nineteenth century arguments as a way of having children; rather, these studies were employed within a system with preconceived ideas about race and sexuality.  

The removal of homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Association’s list of disorders in 1973, supported by the widespread existence of same-sex attraction as reported by Alfred Kinsey among others, sparked the decriminalization of gay sex state by state, to be held up by the Supreme Court in the 2003 case Lawrence vs. Texas.14Neel Burton MD., “When Homosexuality Stopped Being a Mental Disorder,” Psychology Today, Spt. 18, 2015. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/hide-and-seek/201509/when-homosexuality-stopped-being-mental-disorder. Similarly, as Phoebe C. Godfrey argued, the equality that blacks obtained through Brown vs. Board, which was justified, in part, due to a psychiatric belief in the inferiority of black mental faculties, mirrors Lawrence, and was likewise grounded in a fear of the possibility of illicit sexual behavior.15Phoebe C. Godfrey, “Eschatological Sexuality: Miscegenation and the ‘Homosexual Agenda’ From Brown v. Board of Education (1954) to Lawrence v. Texas (2003),” Race, Gender, and Class, Vol. 19, 3-4 (2012), 143-160. When these pseudo-scientific arguments eventually fell flat, the argument rested on the same Christian morality which served to make this sex taboo. As Trosino writes, “the heterosexual supremacist’s fear that legalized gay marriage will taint traditional heterosexual marriage also is closely analogous to the white supremacist’s fear that miscegenation would harm white womanhood… something sacrosanct.’”16James Trosino, “American Wedding: Same Sex Marriage and the Miscegenation Analogy,” Boston University Law Review 73 (1993), 110. These arguments, and most of the arguments against miscegenation and gay marriage, rely on a moralization grounded in white Christian traditions. 

Also, as Darwinism forced polygenists to rethink their arguments about multiple human races or deny evolution entirely, the existence of homosexuality in nearly all mammal species, particularly in great  apes, eroded the argument of homosexuality as against nature.17W. Byne, “Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity,” JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association 283, no. 16 (2000): pp. 2170-2170, https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.283.16.2170. A lesser studied aspect of the religious debate over the theory of evolution is its connection to upholding the racist order. Indeed, Darwinism opened up the possibility of denying the existence of multiple human races for the one “Out of Africa” human race, and the “naturalized” prohibitions against sodomy could be contextualized with other species of Great Apes. Until Darwin, the polygenetic idea of Co-Adamism, as supported by Giordano Bruno, Charles White, and others argued that Africans were a separate race, and that, like mules and other hybrid animals, they would be impaired due to the bestiality involved in their reproduction.18David N. Livingstone, Adam’s Ancestors: Race, Religion, and the Politics of Human Origins (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Univ Press, 2011), 15. These arguments about the naturalness of anti-miscegenation and strict heterosexuality fell flat with the general acceptance of On the Origin of Species, however the cultural and religious afterlife of these beliefs can still be felt in our social and legal structures.

Christian ideology on sodomy and bestiality is probably the most influential and lasting source both for supporting anti-miscegenation and opposing same-sex marriage laws. While Pascoe does not focus on Christianity specifically, ideas surrounding “Christian Civilization” are overwhelmingly present in the book. She argues that the ideas of “illicit sex” and legitimate marriage served to preserve “white purity” by ensuring any sex outside of marriage was illicit. This made all sex between members of the same sex, and interracial sex illicit.19Pascoe, What Comes Naturally, 12. However, as becomes clear in the book, what was considered moral and immoral was largely dictated at the state and local level by the Protestant dominant ideology. At Indiana’s founding in 1866, State Supreme Court Justice Buskirk noted that:

Marriage is treated as a civil contract, but it is more than a mere civil contract. It is a public institution established by God himself, it is recognized in all Christian and civilized nations… the right, in states, to regulate and control, to guard, protect, and preserve this God-given, civilizing, and Christianizing institution… cannot be surrendered.20Pascoe, What Comes Naturally, 56. 

This was one of the justifications for Indiana’s anti-miscegenation law. Likewise, Trosino quotes the 1877 Green v. State case defending anti-miscegenation which claimed that God had “made the two races distinct.”21James Trosino, “American Wedding: Same Sex Marriage and the Miscegenation Analogy,” Boston University Law Review 73 (1993), 103.  These religiously inspired condemnations of interracial marriage were not confined to the 19th century, however. Indeed, the trial judge in Loving wrote:

Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And, but for the interference with his arrangement, there would be no cause for such marriage. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.22“U.S. Reports: Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967).,” The Library of Congress, accessed December 11, 2019, https://www.loc.gov/item/usrep388001/

This line of thinking is consistent with the “popular animating fiction” Pascoe discusses which was present in many white Christians’ worldviews. When the courts and legislatures had finally reached a place where they could no longer defend white supremacy scientifically, or by way of God’s Natural Law, they relied on the First Amendment right to religious liberty. Religious groups which were inspired by polygenism often relied on an ancient argument that the African race is descended from Noah’s dark-skinned a cursed son Ham. Thus, in this view, Hamites (Africans) were doomed to serve light-skinned (Caucasians) for all time.23Michael F. Robinson, The Lost White Tribe: Explorers, Scientists, and the Theory that Changed a Continent (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), 85-94. Famously, Mormons prohibited interracial dating, and the evangelical Bob Jones University was taken to the Supreme Court over its ban on interracial dating which made it lose its tax-exempt status, but the ban remained in place citing the First Amendment. (Bob Jones did not lift the ban until the year 2000).24“Bob Jones Univ. v. United States,” Legal Information Institute (Cornell Law), accessed December 23, 2019, https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/461/574. 

This first amendment argument on the basis of individual religious freedom continues to be the predominant avenue through which people oppose same-sex marriage. When Mike Huckabee referred to same-sex marriage as a “total redefinition,” we must keep in mind how closely related race mixing was to sodomy and bestiality in American law and consciousness. Indeed, Christianity has done much to naturalize compulsory heterosexuality and anti-miscegenation from antiquity to the present, but they have always existed, just as same-sex marriage and civil unions existed in various cultures.25For references to Homosexuality in the Middle Ages and Ancient Europe, see: John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2015). For references to Homosexuality and Same-Sex marriage in Asia see: Bret Hinsch, Passions of the Cut Sleeve: the Male Homosexual Tradition in China (Berkeley, Calif: University of California Press, 1992)., and Gregory M. Pflugfelder, Cartographies of Desire: Male-Male Sexuality in Japanese Discourse, 1600-1950 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007). This may seem superfluous, but given the ancient moral roots of Christianity and aspects of American law, these prejudices shaped the creation of the entire legal tradition.  Brown, Loving, Lawrence, and Obergefell all created a backlash in which conservative Christians sought to maintain the previous system in the name of their individual first amendment rights. Not only could law clerks, like Kim Davis, make it difficult for same-sex couples to gain marriage licenses, but as the 2019 case Masterpiece Cake Shop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission shows, discrimination based on religious freedom will be federally upheld where it stands for LGBT people, whereas the religious freedom to discriminate by race in public services was shot down in Newman v. Piggie Park in 1968 via a definition of the Civil Rights Act.26Jared Ham and Amanda Wong, “Masterpiece Cakeshop, LTD. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission,” Legal Information Institute (Cornell Law), accessed December 13, 2019, https://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/cert/16-111, and  “Newman v. Piggie Park Enterprises, Inc., 256 F. Supp. 941 (D.S.C. 1966),” Justia Law, accessed December 12, 2019, https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/FSupp/256/941/2349546/. While the Civil Rights Act of 1964 gave workplace protections and legal access to public services to African Americans, there are no workplace protections against religious freedom bias for LGBT people in a majority of U.S. states.27“Non-Discrimination Laws,” Movement Advancement Project, accessed December 13, 2019, https://www.lgbtmap.org/equality-maps/non_discrimination_laws. The Supreme Court will decide whether Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act includes sexuality and gender identity, or not, in 2020. The court is projected to make a narrow decision on the issue, and it seems they may not rule in favor of LGBT rights.28Adam Liptak and Jeremy W. Peters, “Supreme Court Considers Whether Civil Rights Act Protects L.G.B.T. Workers,” The New York Times (The New York Times, October 8, 2019), https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/08/us/politics/supreme-court-gay-transgender.html.https://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-biz-cb-lgbt-workplace-discrimination-case-20191007-5q2lvkrco5eqnmk4y3kztv6l7a-story.html. So while county clerks, the traditional “gatekeepers of white supremacy,” have lost much of their ability to prevent the illicit behaviors of mixed-race and same-sex marriage to support the white patriarchy, the private sector in a majority of states still has the first amendment right to discriminate legally against LGBT employees and users of public space, and African Americans are continually denied access or removed from public space, sometimes though violence. 

Interestingly, the first amendment religious freedom argument which preserved this racist line of thinking also helped to bring it down. The Los Angeles Catholic Interracial Council, a coalition of interracial Catholics who sought to end anti-miscegenation laws worked to support the marriage of a white Latina Catholic and a black Catholic man. Since the Catholic Church had banned the belief in polygenism and anti-miscegenation in Pius XII’s 1950 encyclical Humani Generis, the group stated that anti-miscegenation defied their religious freedom. While the Catholic hierarchy distanced itself from the group, the case went to trial and struck down the anti-miscegenation laws in the state of California.29Pascoe, What Comes Naturally, 223. While religious freedom was part of the fight against miscegenation as well as for it, same-sex marriage has taken to employ the language of human rights instead. In both cases it was essential to break down the tradition of natural law which used was created with a European patriarchal bias to establish laws around sex and marriage. Sodomy law, rather than just miscegenation law specifically, to expand Pascoe’s thesis, seems to be the “bottom line of white supremacy.”30Pascoe, What Comes Naturally, 1.

Bibliography

Baxandall, Rosalyn, and Linda Gordon. Dear Sisters: Dispatches from the Women’s Liberation Movement. New York, NY: Basic Books, 2000.

Belew, Kathleen. Bring the War Home the White Power Movement and Paramilitary America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University press, 2019.

Boswell, John. Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2015.

Byne, W. “Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity.” JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association 283, no. 16 (2000): 2170–70. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.283.16.2170.

Hinsch, Bret. Passions of the Cut Sleeve: the Male Homosexual Tradition in China. Berkeley, Calif: University of California Press, 1992.

Koppelman, Andrew. “The Miscegenation Analogy: Sodomy Law as Sex Discrimination.” The Yale Law Journal 98, no. 1 (1988): 145. https://doi.org/10.2307/796648.

Livingstone, David N. Adam’s Ancestors: Race, Religion, and the Politics of Human Origins. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Univ Press, 2011.

Pascoe, Peggy. What Comes Naturally: Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America. New York, New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2011.

Pflugfelder, Gregory M. Cartographies of Desire: Male-Male Sexuality in Japanese Discourse, 1600-1950. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007.

Rosen, Michael. Dignity: Its History and Meaning. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2018.

Sealing, Keith. “Blood Will Tell: Scientific Racism and the Legal Prohibition Against Miscegenation.” SSRN Electronic Journal, 2000. https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1260015.

Self, Robert O. All in the Family: the Realignment of American Democracy since the 1960s. New York, NY: Hill and Wang, 2013.

Tortoricci, Zeb. Sins Against Nature: Sex and Archives in Colonial New Spain. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2018.

Trosino, James. “American Wedding: Same Sex Marriage and the Miscegenation Analogy.” Boston University Law Review 73 (1993): 93–120.

“U.S. Reports: Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967).” The Library of Congress. Accessed December 23, 2019. https://www.loc.gov/item/usrep388001/.

USCCB. Respect for Unborn Human Life: The Church’s Constant Teaching. USCCB. Accessed December 23, 2019. http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/abortion/respect-for-unborn-human-life.cfm.

West, Issac. “Analogizing Interracial and Same-Sex Marriage.” Philosophy & Rhetoric 48, no. 4 (2015): 561. https://doi.org/10.5325/philrhet.48.4.0561.

Williams, Daniel K. God’s Own Party: the Making of the Christian Right. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

The Black Manifesto

by Benjamin Van Dyne

Most efforts to secure reparations for U.S. slavery and racial subjugation have focused on the federal government—whether Callie House’s organizing among her fellow ex-slaves for taxes on seized southern cotton to be repaid to former slaves,1Berry, Mary Frances, My Face Is Black Is True: Callie House and the Struggle for Ex-Slave Reparations (New York: Vintage, 2009). Representative John Conyers’ proposed congressional commission to study federal reparations (which he introduced in every Congress starting in 1993 until his death in 2019),2See Robinson, Randall,  The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks (New York: Plume, 2001), p. 238. author Randall Robinson’s best-selling The Debt in 2000,3Robinson, Randall,  The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks (New York: Plume, 2001). or writer Ta-Nehisi Coates’s 2014 article “The Case for Reparations” which succeeded in persuading swathes of the white intelligentsia of the need for some form of reparation.4Coates, Ta-Nehisi, “The Case for Reparations,” The Atlantic, June 2014.

In 1969, however, James Forman led a very different effort. The National Black Economic Development Council (NBEDC) was a group of black churchmen and business leaders who had gathered in Detroit in 1968 to consider how to advance the cause of black economic progress. Forman led them in developing the “Black Manifesto,” which was directed not at the federal government but at the leading mainline Protestant churches and white Jewish synagogues.

After writing the manifesto, Forman and the NBEDC sought for a suitable place to make the first public presentation of the manifesto. They settled on New York’s Riverside Church. Riverside was a cathedral to both U.S. Protestantism and U.S. capitalism. With its Art Deco-Gothic style and deep pockets, both funded by the devoutly Baptist John D. Rockefeller, it had a reputation as a center of political and social action. Just the year before Martin Luther King had announced his opposition to the Vietnam War from its pulpit, and its weekly broadcast of the Sunday sermon was heard throughout greater New York. If the manifesto’s claim that “the white churches are another form of government in this country,” was true anywhere, it was at Riverside.

Though Riverside’s minister, the Rev. Ernest Campbell, had agreed to allow Forman to present the manifesto during Sunday service, he had not envisioned Forman’s disruptive takeover. Forman interrupted Campbell, seized the mic, and presented the manifesto’s demands: reparations of $500 million from white churches and synagogues. Well before Cedric Robinson made a systematic case that capitalism itself was a racializing and racist system,5Robinson, Cedric J. Black Marxism: the Making of the Black Radical Tradition (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000). Forman and the NBEDC made a case that white churches and synagogues owed reparations specifically because they were “part and parcel of this system of capitalism” and therefore owed $500 million in reparations—as the Manifesto drily points out, “a mere $15 per black brother and sister in this country.”6The Black Manifesto, The Church Awakens: African American Struggles for Justice, Archives of the Episcopal Church. In his remarks that Sunday, Forman criticized Riverside’s relationship with Rockefeller, charging that Rockefeller used “money stolen from the poor to build this great cathedral. . . and [his] money is still exploiting people of color all around the world.” Forman then demanded a list of all of the church’s assets. It was at this point, remembered Forman, that Campbell asked the church’s organist to attempt to drown him out.7Forman, James Forman, The Making of Black Revolutionaries (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2000).

According to the manifesto, the money was to be used for ten purposes, including black-owned newspapers, television stations, research institutes, and funds for striking black workers. Fully $200 million was designated for a southern land bank and $130 million was to be used to establish a new, radical black university in the south.8The Black Manifesto, The Church Awakens: African American Struggles for Justice, Archives of the Episcopal Church. The NBEDC was to manage the money under the supervision of a committee of black leaders including Forman.

Within a week, black students at the adjacent Union Theological Seminary had endorsed the manifesto, occupied the administration and classroom building, and demanded that the seminary pay up. Seminary president John Bennett at first refused, saying it was outside his legal purview. Bennett relented the next day and requested an emergency convening of the board. The Board of Directors at Union said no to the specific demands of the occupying students, but made several alternative commitments totaling more than two million dollars in funds, to be controlled by black students, faculty, and alumni. The seminary ultimately paid a little more than a million dollars.9“Summary of Responses to the Black Manifesto of the NBEDC.” Board of Trustees Document, Union Theological Seminary Archive. 1972 file.

This proved to be the pattern: Riverside and Protestant denominational institutions, if they responded at all, increased investments in their own programs, but refused to turn any money over to Forman or the NBECD. The total investments made by Union, Riverside, and the Protestant denominations came to about $4 million.10Lechtreck, Elaine Allen, “We are Demanding $500 Million for Reparations”: The Black Manifesto, Mainline Religious Denominations, and Black Economic Development,” Journal of African American History, (Winter–Spring 2012), 39-71. The other $496 million remained unpaid.

The legacy of the Black Manifesto can be seen in recent actions taken by some institutions to atone for the benefits received from slavery and racial discrimination, including at Georgetown University (where the university’s Jesuits once claimed ownership of 272 enslaved persons), Boston University and Princeton Theological Seminary.11Lechtreck, Elaine Allen, “We are Demanding $500 Million for Reparations”: The Black Manifesto, Mainline Religious Denominations, and Black Economic Development,” 39-71. In 2019, Episcopal Diocese of New York set aside a million dollars to make amends for the ways in which it has benefitted from slavery.12Millard, Egan. “Diocese of New York establishes reparations fund, adopts anti-slavery resolutions from 1860” Episcopal News Service, 12 November 2019. The text and story of the Black Manifesto, implicate religious institutions in much larger forces of capitalism and white supremacy—neither making them solely responsible, nor letting them off the hook.

Pro-Life as Liberal or Backlash? A Critical Review of Daniel Williams’ Defenders of the Unborn

by Will Hogue

While on the campaign trail, Donald Trump was questioned in a public audience about his position on abortion. Trump, who is known for frequent misogynistic comments, went on to say that not only was he pro-life, but that he believed women should receive “punishment” for an abortion procedure.1Lucia Graves, “Trump Once Said Women Should Be Punished for Abortion. Now, He’s Making It Happen,” The Guardian (Guardian News and Media, January 24, 2017), https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/24/trump-once-said-women-should-be-punished-for-abortion-t. While many pro-life groups came out and rejected his statement, his sentiment is part of a growing, arguably reemerging, trend. A failed Texas bill which somehow made it into the legislature would have made abortion punishable by death.2Anna North, “A Texas Bill Would Allow the Death Penalty for Patients Who Get Abortions,” Vox (Vox, April 11, 2019), https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/4/11/18304825/abortion-texas-tony-tinderholt-death-penalty-bill. These situations beg the question of why abortion is such a contentious issue, and is the fetus or the mother the object of concern or ire? With this current political climate, the history of the culture wars has seen a timely explosion of historical literature in recent years. With this, the history of Christianity, in particular the Christian right, has seen an enhanced interest from scholars. Within these histories, historians have begun to examine more closely the beginnings of anti-abortion activism sixty years ago. The critical question that Williams addresses is the age of the pro-life movement, which predates Roe v. Wade. Yet the framing of this creates an argument that goes against some of the classic literature in the field. 

 In her essential book on the subject, Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood, Kristin Luker argues that the controversy over abortion is not so much about the fate of the embryo, but rather, motherhood as a source of meaning for women’s lives. Luker shows that the debate surrounding abortion is mainly concerned with abortion as an aspect of  the breakdown of traditional gender roles.[1] Similarly, Rebecca Klatch gives a nuanced perspective of the various motivations for women’s involvement in conservative politics in her book Women of the New Right.[2] Klatch argues that “laissez faire” and “socially conservative” women are the two main camps of the New Right. “Laissez faire” women are ideologically rooted in 19th century liberalism, while “socially conservative” women are influenced by religious traditions.[3] Another classic work, Abortion and Woman’s Choice: The State, Sexuality, and Reproductive Freedom by Rosalind Petchesky, more overtly claims that the battle over access to abortion was an issue of upwardly mobile women abandoning patriarchal norms (abandoning a strictly domestic life for the workforce). Those who do not support feminist advancement are part of the backlash politics of the pro-life movement.  In her essential work, Backlash, Susan Faludi lays out the fundamental argument that “backlash” occurred when women stepped outside of traditional gender roles. This backlash is, in part, connected to any shift in women’s traditional role as mothers, and is linked to their growing autonomy from reproductive labor. When this change takes place, no matter how minute it may be in reality, patriarchal values resurface through media, religion, science and popular culture.[4] These are but some of the essential texts which established an understanding of the abortion debate as something intrinsically connected to gender roles.


[1] Kristin Luker, Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1984).

[2] Rebecca E. Klatch, Women of the New Right (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1987).

[3]Debra Reneé Kaufman, “Book Reviews.” Gender & Society, vol. 4, no. 1, 1990, pp. 118–120., doi:10.1177/089124390004001023.

[4] Susan Faludi, Backlash: The Undeclared War against Women (London: Vintage, 1992).

Defenders of the Unborn, however, looking at the longer history of the largely Christian pro-life movement begining in the 1950s, takes issue with the idea of the pro-life movement as backlash to Roe v. Wade. The most recent proponent of framing anti-abortion activism as backlash politics is Robert O. Self in his sweeping history All in the Family: The Realignment of American Democracy Since the 1960s. Religious historian Daniel Williams in his book Defenders of the Unborn: The Pro-Life Movement before Roe v. Wade rethinks both the ideas posited in Self’s book, and in Williams’ previous book on the religious right[1]. Defenders of the Unborn considers the longer history of the pro-life movement starting in the 1950s as a movement for which used a rhetoric of “human rights” for the unborn in a politics which Williams refers to as initially “liberal.” Williams, however, oversells his argument about the pro-life movement as an ecumenical “liberal” Christian movement across denominational lines. Indeed, he identifies little ecumenism or theological unity between Catholics and Protestants before at least the late 1960s after the Second Vatican Council. In this context, where Catholics were one of few denominations that opposed birth control or abortion, it is difficult to define something as broadly “liberal.” Indeed, Williams’ argument begins to fall flat when he acknowledges the differences in Catholic opposition to abortion and contraception, and almost universal Protestant support (mainline and evangelical) for abortion rights before the late 1970s. While he proves effectively that Catholics employed a rights-based argument to sell the pro-life agenda which he defines as “liberal,” he still admits that this did not reconcile with Catholic doctrine which had, at least since the nineteenth century, seen contraception, abortion, and sodomy as interrelated sins against nature.[2] Given that, doctrinally, the church’s abortion stance, and the idea of the “dignity of the human person” is rooted in a medieval understanding of social hierarchy, as Michael Rosen has shown, the politics of backlash may still be a valuable piece of the story even in respect to Catholicism.[3]


[1]Daniel K. Williams, God’s Own Party: the Making of the Christian Right (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012).

[2] USCCB, “Respect for Unborn Human Life: The Church’s Constant Teaching (USCCB),” accessed December 20, 2019, http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/abortion/respect-for-unborn-human-life.cfm.

[3] Michael Rosen, Dignity: Its History and Meaning (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2018).

Historians generally agree that the white male heterosexual was the de facto representative of the citizen, or the “universal subject,”3Robert O. Self, All in the Family: the Realignment of American Democracy since the 1960s (New York, NY: Hill and Wang, 2013), 4. and that civil rights, feminism, and gay rights proved a challenge to his dominance in the hetero-patriarchal order. Self argues that while the state has always been heavily involved in the regulation of bodies and sexuality through abortion law, sodomy law, and marriage, the nuclear family was so unquestionable that sex and sexuality were still culturally imagined to be private before the sexual revolution.4Robert O. Self, All in the Family, 4. This breakdown of the divide between public and private, both politically and socially, through Great Society programs and the new left eventually developed into an uneasy coalition of neoconservative Catholics and Jews, evangelicals, Southern Baptists and fundamentalists who believed in sustaining the traditional nuclear family. Self successfully connects the development of a neoconservative/conservative coalition with his idea of “breadwinner conservatism,” a political ideology which rejected Great Society social welfare programs and protected an idealized nuclear family from the “moral threats” of the new left.5Robert O. Self, All in the Family, 5. Self argues that for breadwinner conservatives abortion belonged within the umbrella of the new left’s promotion of immorality in the sexual revolution, feminism, and gay rights. Abortion, in Self’s view, is viewed as an issue that “challenged the conventional views of motherhood and the divide between public and private life in America.”6Robert O. Self, All in the Family, 134.

Here Daniel Williams suggests that the narrative must focus more on the origins of the pro-life movement rather than seeing it as appearing in the aftermath of Roe v. Wade. While Williams usefully reminds us that the pro-life movement had origins far earlier than Roe, the idea that this movement is grounded in New Deal liberalism, while interesting, is really only an issue that pertains to Catholics, and even then, Catholics supported abortion liberalization in numbers only slightly lower than their Protestant counterparts.7T.W. Smith, “Catholic Attitudes Toward Abortion,” National Center for Biotechnology Information (U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1984), https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed. Throughout the 1970s, Catholics were only 10% less likely to support abortion liberalization than Protestants, and even today only around half of Catholics are pro-life. The focus on pro-life Catholics whitewashes the intra-denominational struggle taking place among Catholics after the Second Vatican Council and promulgation of Humana Vitae. Catholics for Choice, a pro-choice lobbying group in Washington D.C. could be a group to look to in order to see the division among Catholics. Catholics for Choice, like their pro-life counterparts and most Protestant denominations, set their advocacy in the language of human rights. In a 1974 statement they stated, 

Sinful and barbaric laws forbidding women their human, personal right to terminate an unwanted and impossible conception, were forced upon them, in and out of marriage, and deprived them of their human and spiritual inalienable right to their own souls, conscience, free will, and full personhood, reducing them to the unholy status of bondage, and slavery to a patriarchal mystique which insisted on the state and male ownership of every woman’s body and mind.8Rosalyn Baxandall and Linda Gordon, Dear Sisters: Dispatches from the Women’s Liberation Movement (New York, NY: Basic Books, 2000)., 174.

Not only did pro-choice Catholics use the same rhetoric of rights as Catholic pro-lifers, this time for the mother, as well as discuss the inconsistent history of the dogma of “life at conception,” but they also framed their rights discussion in a private/public sphere discourse which resonates with Robert Self’s argument, that “private” had to be made public to see the injustices inherent in the system.9Robert O. Self, All in the Family. These Catholics are reflecting a liberalism which fits within the Great Society coalition even while critiquing it which is similar to most of their liberal protestant counterparts. 

The question of the “Right to Life” movement being grounded in liberal values is also a slippery argument. While Williams should be applauded for this insight, this argument needs a deeper discussion on the rise of Catholic neoconservatism, and a broader Christian liberalism had generally which been pro-choice. Christine Rosen points to a history of mainstream liberal support of not only what we would today conceive of as eugenics (race based forced sterilization, etc.) but also birth control and abortion in her problematic, yet insightful book Preaching Eugenics.10Rosen’s funding comes from a neoconservative thinktank, Ethics and Public Policy Center, and often blurs the lines between what we would normally consider eugenics and birth control. Much like Rosen, Williams does not define what is liberal and conservative distinctly, and blurs lines, even referring to the progressive era prohibition movement as ‘socially conservative’ while seeing pro-lifers as socially liberal.11Daniel K. Williams, Defenders of the Unborn: the pro-Life Movement before Roe v. Wade (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019), 3. Could not the Catholic stance on contraception and abortion be characterized as socially conservative as well? After all, at the Lambeth Conference of 1930 the Anglican Communion liberalized its rules on contraception, and it seemed as if the Catholic Church would follow suit after the Second Vatican Council.12The Anglican Communion, “Lambdeth Conference,” The Lambdeth Conference Resolutions of 1930 (Church of England, 2005), https://www.anglicancommunion.org/media/127734/1930.pdf. In fact, when Paul VI published Humana Vitae shortly after the Council, a lay member of the commission commented that, “It was as if they had found some old unpublished encyclical from the 1920s in a drawer somewhere in the Vatican, dusted it off, and handed it out.”13Lisa McClain, “How the Catholic Church Came to Oppose Birth Control,” The Conversation, October 31, 2019, https://theconversation.com/how-the-catholic-church-came-to-oppose-birth-control-95694. Williams’ other claim that these liberal Catholics clashed with second-wave feminists, while true, implies that earlier liberals and “liberal” Catholic pro-lifers may have been of one accord, but further investigation suggests this is not so.14Tracy A. Thomas, Misappropriating Women’s History in the Law and Politics of Abortion , 36 SEATTLE U. L. REV. 1 (2012). 

While the Catholic Church has prohibited abortion at any stage under the penalty of immediate excommunication since 1869, the Southern Baptist Convention (the largest Protestant body in the country) only began to debate abortion officially after their schism in 1979.15J. T. Noonan, “Abortion and the Catholic Church: A Summary History,” The American Journal of Jurisprudence 12, no. 1 (January 1967): pp. 85-131, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajj/12.1.85. In her dissertation, “The Spiritual is Political,” Laura Foxworth contends that after the 1977 International Women’s Year (IWY) conference in Houston, Texas, connection between the Equal Rights Amendment, abortion and homosexuality threw the Southern Baptist Convention into a tumult.16Laura Foxworth, “The Spiritual Is Political,” The Spiritual Is Political: The Modern Women’s Movement and the Transformation of the Southern Baptist Convention (dissertation, 2014), https://scholarcommons.sc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3760&context=etd., xii. Foxworth contends that the inclusion of provisions for lesbians at IWY was the tipping point for conservative Southern Baptists. Before this point, the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention was moderately liberal and supported the ordination of women and much of the Second Wave Feminist platform. However, conservative Baptists began to coalesce in the mid-70s, and by the end of the decade were able to elect a fundamentalist president, taking the Southern Baptists into the rhetoric and politics of Anita Bryant and Phyllis Schlafly.17Laura Foxworth, “The Spiritual Is Political,” The Spiritual Is Political: The Modern Women’s Movement and the Transformation of the Southern Baptist Convention (dissertation, 2014), https://scholarcommons.sc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3760&context=etd., 125. Williams usefully points out that Catholic Right-to-Lifers’ opposition to the ERA only came after reports from STOP-ERA that abortions would be paid with taxpayer dollars.18Williams, Defenders of the Unborn, 239. However, Schlafly worked to relate the issues of feminism, gay liberation and abortion in a way that greatly shaped some of the rapidly growing Catholic and opposition to ERA and abortion.19Greenhouse, Linda and Siegel, Reva B., “Before Roe v. Wade: Voices that Shaped the Abortion Debate before the Supreme Court’s Ruling (2012).” Yale Law School, Public Law Working Paper No. 257. Available at SSRN: http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2131505. While the Catholic reaction to abortion may be a mix between backlash and a movement that was shaped around a language of rights, for Southern Baptists and the Moral Majority (a conservative Christian political coalition), backlash was a key component to opposing abortion. 

Nevertheless, Williams makes a critically important point about the Catholic Church’s efforts to create an institutional movement to lobby and promote grassroots activism against abortion which proved essential for the creation of the movement as it exists today. Despite the Catholic Church’s stance on abortion and contraception being rooted in patriarchal theology which connects abortion, contraception, and sodomy as against nature, the framing of the pro-life movement as a movement for the rights of unborn people was a distancing from the politics of motherhood. However, other denominations still seem to have only joined in response to advances in the feminist movement, and in particular the “breakdown” of the family with its connection to abortion on demand and the rights of lesbians. Williams gives us excellent food for thought, and we should consider the staying power of abortion politics and the nuances that affect it.

Bibliography

Anglican Church. “Lambdeth Conference.” The Lambdeth Conference Resolutions of 1930. Church of England, 2005. https://www.anglicancommunion.org/media/127734/1930.pdf.

Baxandall, Rosalyn, and Linda Gordon. Dear Sisters: Dispatches from the Women’s Liberation Movement. New York, NY: Basic Books, 2000.

Faludi, Susan. Backlash: Undeclared War against Women. London: Vintage, 1992.

Foxworth, Laura. “The Spiritual Is Political.” The Spiritual Is Political: The Modern Women’s Movement and the Transformation of the Southern Baptist Convention, 2014. https://scholarcommons.sc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3760&context=etd.

Klatch, Rebecca E. Women of the New Right. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1987.

Luker, Kristin. Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1984.

McClain, Lisa. “How the Catholic Church Came to Oppose Birth Control.” The Conversation, October 31, 2019. https://theconversation.com/how-the-catholic-church-came-to-oppose-birth-control-95694.

Noonan, J. T. “Abortion and the Catholic Church: A Summary History.” The American Journal of Jurisprudence 12, no. 1 (1967): 85–131. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajj/12.1.85.

North, Anna. “A Texas Bill Would Allow the Death Penalty for Patients Who Get Abortions.” Vox. Vox, April 11, 2019. https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/4/11/18304825/abortion-texas-tony-tinderholt-death-penalty-bill.

Pascoe, Peggy. What Comes Naturally: Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America. New York, New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2011.

Pflugfelder, Gregory M. Cartographies of Desire: Male-Male Sexuality in Japanese Discourse, 1600-1950. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007.

Rosen, Michael. Dignity: Its History and Meaning. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2018.

Self, Robert O. All in the Family: the Realignment of American Democracy since the 1960s. New York, NY: Hill and Wang, 2013.

Smith, TW. “Catholic Attitudes Toward Abortion.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1984. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed.

Tortoricci, Zeb. Sins Against Nature: Sex and Archives in Colonial New Spain. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2018.

USCCB. Respect for Unborn Human Life: The Church’s Constant Teaching. USCCB. Accessed December 23, 2019. http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/abortion/respect-for-unborn-human-life.cfm.

Williams, Daniel K. Defenders of the Unborn: the pro-Life Movement before Roe v. Wade. New York: Oxford University Press, 2019.

Williams, Daniel K. God’s Own Party: the Making of the Christian Right. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

It Was like Living Through the End of the World

by David Marchionni

https://blogs.commons.georgetown.edu/cctp-802-spring2018/2018/05/04/the-art-of-the-aids-crisis-cautionary-oeuvres-from-the-1980s/

In all the history of homosexuality we have never been so close to death and extinction before. Many of us are dying or dead already.

Larry Kramer, 19831Karen Ocamb, “Larry Kramer’s Historic Essay: AIDS At 30,” Larry Kramer’s Historic Essay: AIDS At 30, The Bilerico Project, June 14, 2011, http://bilerico.lgbtqnation.com/2011/06/larry_kramers_historic_essay_aids_at_30.php.


It came out of nowhere. When the Centers for Disease Control published its June 5, 1981 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), it unintentionally inaugurated one of the darkest periods in American history: the AIDS crisis. The report, written by UCLA’s Michael Gottlieb, noted that between October 1980 and May 1981 five cases of the rare (and usually fatal) illness pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (traditionally found only in extremely immunosuppressed patients, and often referred to by the acronym PCP) appeared in what had previously been healthy young men in the Los Angeles area.2Lillian Faderman, The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle, (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2015), p. 415. Gottlieb and the CDC further observed that all the young men in question were homosexual. Rechristened as “gay pneumonia”, PCP helped cement Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) as an exclusively gay issue in the national consciousness. While AIDS affected many, it utterly decimated gay America.3A point of clarification: In this text “gay” (such as in “gay America”) refers to male homosexuals. It has killed hundreds of thousands (448,060 by the year 2000 alone), claimed the lives of much of the gay rights movement’s leadership, triggered widespread anti-gay violence, and opened the door to entirely new forms of government-sponsored oppression and discrimination.4“HIV and AIDS — United States, 1981—2000,” HIV and AIDS — United States, 1981—2000, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, June 1, 2001, https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5021a2.htm. Yet amidst such suffering, AIDS sparked a mass revolution. It radicalized gay activism, triggering a newfound wave of homosexual unity and mass protestation.

With the release of the July 3rd 1981 MMWR, the CDC acknowledged a new, rarely diagnosed illness (aside from PCP) was predominantly affecting homosexuals.5Michael B. Gregg, ed, “Kaposi’s Sarcoma and Pneumocystis Pneumonia Among Homosexual Men – New York City and California,” Morbidity And Mortality Weekly Report 30, no. 25 (1981), p. 305. Kaposi’s Sarcoma (abbreviated to KS) quickly became a media darling.6Gina Bright, Plague-Making and the AIDS Epidemic: A Story of Discrimination (New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), p. 77. Christened by the media as the “gay cancer,” KS caught the eye of the public due to its distinctive (and repulsive) skin lesions and its association with sex and homosexual deviancy. Few stories sell better than sex or fear, and the mysterious new GRID (Gay-related Immune Deficiency) offered both in equal measure. Media organizations large and small happily sensationalized the topic, claiming that the new malady would befall all who engaged in “risky” or immoral behavior. None other than The New York Times helped lead the charge, running numerous articles reporting that all infected patients were promiscuous homosexuals having sex with between fifteen and twenty anonymous men per night, and that the infamous gay bathhouses were the epicenter of the “Gay Plague.”7Lillian Faderman, The Gay Revolution, p. 416. The media frenzy only grew worse in 1983 following the realization that HIV could be transmitted via infected blood.8Dennis Altman, AIDS in the Mind of America, (Garden City, NY: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1986), p. 74. Heterosexual Americans, now in the line of fire, feared for their safety. Conservative state legislatures profited from the media panic, using the momentum generated to pass draconian HIV-specific criminal laws. In total, thirty-three states would pass such targeted felony ordinances.9Teresa Wiltz, “HIV Crime Laws: Historical Relics or Public Safety Measures,” Pew Stateline, The Pew Charitable Trusts, September 6, 2017, https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2017/09/06/hiv-crime-laws-historical-relics-or-public-safety-measures.

HIV/AIDS truly could not have come at a worse time. Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980 heralded a sweeping victory for the New Right’s Christian conservatism. Incensed by the progressivism of the 1960’s and 1970’s, the Right claimed the Presidency and the Senate in the 1980 election, a year before American homosexuals began dying in droves. The New Right wasted no time ascribing blame. Consider Lawrence Lockman’s widely circulated 1986 book The AIDS Epidemic: A Citizen’s Guide to Protecting your Family and Community from the Gay Plague. The conservative columnist (and eventual member of Maine’s House of Representatives) not only held “the gay lifestyle” responsible for bringing AIDS to American shores – reiterating the popular notion that homosexuals are “extremely filthy and disgusting as well as unhealthy” – but went further and attacked heterosexual patients as well, accusing them of cavorting with homosexuals and living sinful, debased lives.10Gina Bright, Plague-Making and the AIDS Epidemic, pp. 83-84. Alternatively, revisit the work of paleoconservative (traditionalist conservatives reacting against the rise of neoconservatism in the Republican Party) Patrick Buchanan.11Samuel Francis, “The Paleo Persuasion,” The American Conservative, December 16, 2002, https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/the-paleo-persuasion/. The Republican columnist, commentator, and politician authored the widely-circulated “AIDS Disease: It’s Nature Striking Back”. Buchanan’s piece echoed many of his fellows in calling homosexuals both a moral and public health menace. He then boldly pushed onward, articulating a policy of nationwide segregation, one that would forcibly remove suspected AIDS patients from public life so as to protect ‘innocent’ heterosexual America.12Dennis Altman, AIDS in the Mind of America, p. 59. The widespread (and completely debunked) belief that AIDS could be spread by casual contact only made it easier for local and state governments to encourage blatantly discriminatory practices. Individuals with HIV/AIDS (and homosexuals more broadly) could be barred from public facilities and transport, expelled from their schools, evicted from their homes, fired from their work, profiled and quarantined by the police, discharged from the Armed Forces, and barred from donating blood. Meanwhile, the CDC understood as early as 1983 that AIDS was not transmissible via simple contact, proximity, or shared use of daily items.13Institute of Medicine (US) Committee to Study HIV Transmission Through Blood and Blood Products, “History of the Controversy,” HIV And the Blood Supply: An Analysis of Crisis Decisionmaking, U.S. National Library of Medicine, January 1, 1995, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK232419/. Yet regardless of both CDC and activist attempts to spread awareness within the general population, these novel forms of discrimination intensified.14Gina Bright, Plague-Making and the AIDS Epidemic, p. 94. 

Arguably, the worst effects of AIDS-based discrimination were experienced within the healthcare industry, the one realm of life exceedingly vital to people living with HIV. Physicians and nurses refused to treat or even touch patients. Orderlies refused to wash patients or change their clothes and dressings, leaving them to lie in their own filth and misery. Should a patient find their way to a clinic or emergency room, staff would simply ignore them until they either left out of frustration and shame, or simply expired. When patients did succumb to AIDS-related complications, morgue technicians and undertakers refused to handle their bodies, instead opting to throw corpses (dressings, bedsheets, and all) into heavy-duty garbage bags before requiring the friends or family of the deceased to remove them on their own.15Dennis Altman, AIDS in the Mind of America, p. 62. The paranoia reached such a level that medical facilities across the country refused to treat any individual of an “at-risk” group (often summarized as the 4Hs: homosexuals, heroin users, hemophiliacs, and Haitians).16Gina Bright, Plague-Making and the AIDS Epidemic, p. 85. Due to the effects of media-sponsored paranoia, as well as hate speech, the 1980’s saw rates of violence against gay men and lesbians skyrocket.17William R. Greer, “VIOLENCE AGAINST HOMOSEXUALS RISING, GROUPS SEEKING WIDER PROTECTION SAY,” The New York Times, The New York Times, November 23, 1986, https://www.nytimes.com/1986/11/23/us/violence-against-homosexuals-rising-groups-seeking-wider-protection-say.html. Spurred on by AIDS-related panic and homophobia, the storming of gay neighborhoods and gay-aligned events grew more common.18William R. Greer, “VIOLENCE AGAINST HOMOSEXUALS RISING”, https://www.nytimes.com/1986/11/23/us/violence-against-homosexuals-rising-groups-seeking-wider-protection-say.html. Take a quiet Sunday afternoon in San Francisco, for example. That day bore witness to a gang of twenty-odd drunken teenagers gather at the edge of Sigmund Stern Grove. Wielding bats, sticks, and rocks, the mob screamed and shouted “Faggots got AIDS”, “Unclean” and “You’re diseased” whilst brutally assaulting gay and lesbian attendees of a community picnic organized by Dignity (a gay Catholic organization).19Dennis Altman, AIDS in the Mind of America, p. 69. Some Conservatives openly advocated for abhorrent measures of controlling the potentially-infected population. Conservative author William Buckley proposed that every HIV-positive American be mandatorily tattooed so as to make their status readily apparent.20Lillian Faderman, The Gay Revolution, p. 424. Meanwhile, Californian multimillionaire Lyndon LaRouche went one step further, organizing his Prevent AIDS Now Initiative Committee (PANIC) to promote an initiative on California’s 1986 ballot.21Lillian Faderman, The Gay Revolution, p. 424. He and his seven hundred thousand supporters sought to forcibly inter all people with AIDS in quarantined concentration camps, much the same way the nation had done to Americans of Japanese descent forty-four years earlier.

AIDS defined an entire generation. The specter of death hung like a cloud over the head of every LGBT American during the crisis years.22Perry N. Halkitis, The AIDS Generation: Stories of Survival and Resilience, (New York City, NY: Oxford University Press, 2014), p. 1. Facing death and discrimination, impassioned activists such as Larry Kramer rose and tackled the problems born of the Crisis.23Lillian Faderman, The Gay Revolution, p. 422. By 1982, he found a number of similarly-minded allies.24Lillian Faderman, The Gay Revolution, p. 419. Bold new confrontational organizations such as ACT UP, the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, and the AIDS Network all promoted revolutionary programs, ranging from caring for people with AIDS to engaging in campaigns of mass civil disobedience.25Lillian Faderman, The Gay Revolution, p. 419, p. 422. They looked after their own, and took the veritable life-and-death struggle gays faced on a daily basis into the homes of the nation through orchestrated church and television station invasions.26Lillian Faderman, The Gay Revolution, p. 436. In the face of not just their own mortality, but also the risk of reprisal at the hands of their neighbors or government, six hundred thousand gays and lesbians from all across the country gathered in the nation’s capital on October 11, 1987.27Lillian Faderman, The Gay Revolution, p. 428. The Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights saw the grief and rage of the community on full display, mourning the loss of over forty-one thousand fellow gays and lesbians to AIDS, and to protest a government that did nothing but watch them die.28Lillian Faderman, The Gay Revolution, p. 429. The unveiling of the AIDS Quilt at the National Mall on live television made for a stirring, lasting moment that exemplifies the best of civil resistance. The AIDS generation lived through one of the worst epidemics in modern history. All who survived have been scarred by it, but came out the other side more resilient and stronger as a community.29Perry Halkitis, The AIDS Generation, p. 1. While many had perished, their sacrifices would be remembered, and the survivors have continued to resist Christian conservative AIDS-related policies well into the modern day. 

Bibliography

Altman, Dennis. AIDS in the Mind of America. First ed. Garden City, NY: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1986.

Bright, Gina M. Plague-Making and the AIDS Epidemic: A Story of Discrimination. First ed. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

Faderman, Lillian. “Chapter 23: The Plague.” In The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle, First Simon & Schuster hardcover ed. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2015.

Francis, Samuel. “The Paleo Persuasion.” The American Conservative, December 16, 2002. https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/the-paleo-persuasion/.

Greer, William R. “VIOLENCE AGAINST HOMOSEXUALS RISING, GROUPS SEEKING WIDER PROTECTION SAY.” The New York Times. The New York Times, November 23, 1986. https://www.nytimes.com/1986/11/23/us/violence-against-homosexuals-rising-groups-seeking-wider-protection-say.html.

Gregg, Michael B, ed. “Kaposi’s Sarcoma and Pneumocystis Pneumonia Among Homosexual Men – New York City and California.” Morbidity And Mortality Weekly Report 30, no. 25 (July 3, 1981): 305–16. https://history.nih.gov/nihinownwords/assets/media/pdf/publications/MMWRJuly31981.pdf.

Halkitis, Perry N. The AIDS Generation: Stories of Survival and Resilience. New York City, NY: Oxford University Press, 2014.

“HIV and AIDS — United States, 1981–2000.” HIV and AIDS — United States, 1981–2000. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, June 1, 2001. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5021a2.htm.

Institute of Medicine (US) Committee to Study HIV Transmission Through Blood and Blood Products. “History of the Controversy.” HIV And The Blood Supply: An Analysis Of Crisis Decisionmaking. U.S. National Library of Medicine, January 1, 1995. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK232419/.

Ocamb, Karen. “Larry Kramer’s Historic Essay: AIDS At 30.” Larry Kramer’s Historic Essay: AIDS At 30. The Bilerico Project, June 14, 2011. http://bilerico.lgbtqnation.com/2011/06/larry_kramers_historic_essay_aids_at_30.php.

Wiltz, Teresa. “HIV Crime Laws: Historical Relics or Public Safety Measures?” Pew Stateline. The Pew Charitable Trusts, September 6, 2017. https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2017/09/06/hiv-crime-laws-historical-relics-or-public-safety-measures.

Corruption of the Body (Politic)

by Benjamin Van Dyne

Contemporary definitions of corruption (and, by contrast, of “good government”) arguably take much of their current shape in the Progressive Era reforms of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, which sought to battle “corruption” in at least two forms: First, there was the quasi-legal category of corruption, which conveys a sense of procedural norms being violated. Second, the term was used to describe the impurity of non-Anglo Saxon blood, which is “corrupted” by the presence of undesirable genetic and racial traits.1Christine Rosen, Preaching Eugenics: Religious Leaders and the American Eugenics Movement. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. To a contemporary reader, these usages may seem distinct, an etymological artifact with no lingering connection. Yet a closer look at the usage of these terms in the Progressive Era reveals that these two senses of “corruption” have a historical tie. The impurity of non-Anglo Saxon blood was linked by some reformers to the kinds of social and political behaviors that they attacked as “corrupt.” If political and social corruption was a major target of Progressive Era reformers, then it was genetic corruption that began increasingly to claim their attention in the 1920s and 30s. As historian Christine Rosen notes, some reformers saw eugenics as of a piece with other reform efforts because of the ways in which it tackled a root cause of social ills, rather than just the symptoms.2Christine Rosen, Preaching Eugenics: Religious Leaders and the American Eugenics Movement. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. The root cause of political and social corruption, at least some of the time, was corrupted blood.

Industrialization, urbanization and immigration changed the face of the United States in the years after the American Civil War. The jobs available in urban areas, especially in the North, drew not only immigrants, but also domestic migrants from the South, both black and white.  The changes wrought by the war became constitutive of the new U.S.: industrial, immigrant, urban. But the rapid growth of cities and industry led to tensions between various immigrant groups, between new immigrants and native-born whites, and between industry and the new laboring class—all of whom were coexisting in rapidly growing urban centers.3Saidiya V. Hartman, Wayward Lives: Intimate Stories of Social Upheaval. New York: Norton, 2019.

Progressive Era reformers were a diverse group with differing priorities and a variety of campaigns. It included early socialists as well as brahmins motivated by a sense of noblesse oblige. It had some roots in the social gospel (in white as well as black churches) as well more secular manifestations. My purpose, then, is to draw our one thread that implicates a variety of reforms efforts in a particular, Anglo-Saxonist discourse of “corruption,” not argue that the Progressive Era reforms were all determined by Anglo Saxon norms.4Kelly Brown Douglas has argued that Anglo-Saxon and Protestant chauvinism can be traced to the English reformers, who saw the purification of the English church from popery and from Norman culture as being closely related projects. See Kelly Brown Douglas, Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2015), chs. 1-2. Some reformers devoted their attention to efforts to restrain the abuses of large social institutions. They led efforts to regulate and ultimately break up trusts like Standard Oil. This is the era of activism for women’s suffrage and for direct popular election of U.S. senators.

But good-government reforms also edged into attacking institutions that gave power to newer immigrants. Attacks on urban political machines, in particular, could have a racial character. There is no doubt that these machines operated though coercion and sometimes outright violence. So-called “corrupt” urban regimes like those of Pendergast in Kansas City or Tammany Hall in New York operated on systems of bribes and kickbacks, patronage and pressure.5Gaustad, Edwin S. and Mark A. Noll, eds. A Documentary History of Religion in America to 1877. 3d ed.(Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003, 234. But such political machines were also a route into participation in American public life for newer immigrants who might otherwise not have had access to political or economic power. Like labor unions, such machines could function as solidarity organizations, if perhaps (also like labor unions) ones not totally free of internal power politics, patronage, and violence. But those political machines were also sources of economic and political power for communities of newer immigrants, mostly Catholic and mostly from Southern and Eastern Europe, who otherwise had access to neither. Such immigrants were not yet routinely considered white, and their presence and power presented a challenge to the Anglo Saxon political establishment that was both disgusted by their culture and threatened by their power.

Some effort to dismantle these machines were frontal attacks: Key members of Tammany were prosecuted for violating bribery laws. But other attacks were subtler, and mixed genuine efforts at good-government reform with effort to diminish the power of immigrant communities. Civil-service laws, which protected civil servants from political influence and reduced the number and power of political appointees, were aimed in part at reducing the power of urban political machines. Many of the key figures of the movement for women’s suffrage were also temperance activists; those speaking out for quality-of-life among women recognized the degree to which women were put in physical and economic danger not only by lacking the franchise but also by the lack of protection from husbands and fathers that, in their view, the use of alcohol caused. Men who spent their time and money at the beer hall were not spending it on their families who—barring major changes in normative family structures of the kind we are just now seeing—depended on them.6Gaustad, Edwin S. and Mark A. Noll, eds. A Documentary History of Religion in America to 1877, 42.

Yet attacks on the tavern as a site of drinking were also attacks on a physical site where a political machine’s operators would ask for and distribute favors. For some reformers, this meant that bars were not just sites of drinking (objectionable enough in itself). They were also a distraction from a proper Victorian home life, a gathering place for young single laborers, and a site of political organizing among immigrants whose status as “white” was still in the works.7Gaustad, Edwin S. and Mark A. Noll, eds. A Documentary History of Religion in America to 1877, 48.

To the extent that individual persuasion and legal prohibition did not succeed at bringing the immigrant masses into compliance with Anglo-Saxon, Protestant norms of good government, temperance, and family life, a slightly later group of reformers would continue that tradition—not depart from it—by pursuing eugenics as a means to save the city from undesirable persons. This is the second cultural valence of “corruption”—the way in which the social and political corruptions some reformers saw as endemic to new, mostly Catholic immigrants became linked firmly to biology.

The Immigration Act of 1924 limited the number of immigrants allowed entry into the United States by lowering the quota of immigrants of each nationality. It also recalibrated the calculation of the quota to increase the allowable number of British nationals, and completely excluded immigrants from Asia.8The text of the Immigration Act of 1924 can be accessed at http://library.uwb.edu/Static/USimmigration/43%20stat%20153.pdf. Advocates of these immigration restrictions focused on the danger that non-white blood would corrupt the social and political culture of the United States. The immoral behavior of urban immigrants (specifically sexual immorality and the use of alcohol) was cited by advocates as evidence of the need for immigration restrictions.9Baynton, Douglas C. (2016). Defectives in the Land: Disability and Immigration in the Age of Eugenics. Chicago; London: The University of Chicago Press. p. 45.

At the same time, reformers turned to more aggressive measures to regulate the presence of “corrupted blood.” Churches were asked to advocate for laws restricting marriages in order to prevent “undesirable”—that is, mixed or non-Anglo Saxon—offspring. Even where such laws did not pass, some churches did so voluntarily. (Roman Catholic churches, jealously guarding their authority over the sacrament of marriage, tended to be the exceptions.) The judicial system turned to forced sterilization on the theory that future criminality could be prevented if criminals did not reproduce. As historian Christine Rosen argues, at least some of the time, eugenics was an effort at long-term social reform meant to solve many of the same problems that other reformers had sought to solve.

The afterlife of this eugenicist meaning of  “corruption” survives in the complex, racially inflected cultural valence of that term. In a society where the ideal of colorblindness is often praised, such plausible deniability about racist assumptions can be perpetuated in such obliquely racialized categories. The cultural valence of “corruption” operates in a way somewhat analogous to “terrorism”: Anyone can commit an act of terrorism, but the image of a “terrorist” is assumed in much U.S. media to be Middle Eastern and Muslim. “Terrorist,” then, has a cultural weight which both perpetuates stereotypes about Middle Eastern and Muslim people but can be used without directly making claims about race and religion. Pay attention: “Corruption” still tends to be used in contemporary media predominantly to describe non-white people. Yes, anyone can commit acts of corruption—but only certain kinds of societies are thought to tend toward corruption and those tend to be Latin American, African, or Eastern European. Corruption of the body politic and corruption of the body remain more connected than they might seem.

The Crucible of Chamblee: Buford Highway, the International Village, and the Neoliberal Racial Imaginary at the End of the Twentieth Century (part I)

by Owen Griffis Clow

Part I

Get in the car. Drive. Don’t take I-85. Take S.R. 13 until it hits Clairmont, then continue straight onto U.S. 23. In Atlanta, where transportation infrastructure heavily favors the automobile, time can be as useful a measurement of proximity as distance. The town of Chamblee is about twenty minutes northeast of Atlanta proper. But how long it takes to get there depends largely on traffic.1These essays were written for “Race and Gender in Modern America,” a graduate history seminar at Fordham University during the Fall 2019 semester. They have been improved immeasurably through peer workshopping: I am deeply grateful to Benjamin Van Dyne, David Marchionni, Kaitlin Shine, William Hogue, Grace Campagna, Megan Stevens, and Dr. Kirsten Swinth for their fair, thoughtful, and incisive comments on earlier drafts.

Image: Wikimedia Commons user Arkyan. Licensed under GNU Free Documentation License/Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported. See https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en
The city of Chamblee. On the left, the city limits are filled in red; DeKalb County is outlined in thick black borders, while other incorporated cities are filled in with gray. On the right, DeKalb County (red) is shown within the state of Georgia. Image: Wikimedia Commons user Arkyan. Licensed under GNU Free Documentation License/Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported. See https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

Chamblee traffics in memory. In the early 1970s, the primary commercial attraction of the town was its “Antique Row,” a loose association of antique and consignment stores organized neither in a “row” nor even on the same street.2Mary Beth Bishop, “Shopping Destination: Chamblee’s Antique Row ‘Everything from Ridiculous to Sublime’,” Atlanta Journal Constitution, November 26, 1998, BE12. The antique trade, by way of justifying itself, conceives of “history” as a commodity. Professional appraisal as an “antique” imbues an object with nostalgia as well as a higher dollar value. In the American South, the antique store holds an additional valence: well into the twentieth century, Southern antique traders sourced many of their “wares” from poor black families, acquiring precious heirlooms and mementos “for fractions of their worth.”3Trent Rhodes, The Antiques Trade in Transition: Collecting and Dealing Decorative Arts of the Old South, M.A. Thesis (Newark: University of Delaware, 2018), 13-14. These items were then resold to consumers both within the South and beyond—serving, in effect, as totems of a romanticized “Old South,” as the material culture of the Confederate “Lost Cause” and as a means of culturally producing and reproducing those fictions.

The antique trade is no longer the core of Chamblee’s civic or economic identity. Since the late 1980s, Chamblee has served as one of the primary destinations for new immigrants in the Atlanta metropolitan area, as well as a highly visible site for recent immigrant commercial endeavors. The factors which once made Chamblee appealing to antique dealers—namely, cheap land and relative proximity to the downtown nucleus of Atlanta—similarly provided the impetus for commercial redevelopment by a wide array of new immigrant entrepreneurs.4Bishop, “Shopping Destination.” Much of this redevelopment involved the occupation of preexisting (that is, abandoned) commercial space, generally grouped along U.S. 23—an area often referred to as the Buford Highway Corridor.5Susan M. Walcott, “Overlapping Ethnicities and Negotiated Space: Atlanta’s Buford Highway,” Journal of Cultural Geography 20.1 (2002), 51-52. Curiously, Chamblee lacks clear ethnic neighborhoods: there is no “Chinatown” or any such equivalent; rather, strip malls (the dominant spatial-architectural form of the Buford Highway Corridor) play host to an eclectic mixture of immigrant businesses, many of which are restaurants.6Susan M. Walcott, “Overlapping Ethnicities and Negotiated Space: Atlanta’s Buford Highway,” 56-57. See also Lily Kelting, “Performing Multicultural Futures on Atlanta’s Buford Highway, Southern Quarterly 53.2 (2016), 41-56. It is not uncommon to find strip malls with signage in Korean, Vietnamese, Spanish, and Tamil. Guides to Atlanta make regular reference to Buford Highway as a destination for “food tourism.”7See, e.g., Beth McKibben, “21 Restaurants to Try Along Atlanta’s Buford Highway,” Eater, November 6, 2019; Muriel Vega, “A Beginner’s Guide to Eating around Buford Highway,” Atlanta Journal Constitution, March 22, 2017, online edition; Liz Barclay, “Some of the Best Food in Atlanta Is Found Along Buford Highway,” Vice, October 16, 2017. In a recent editorial, Eric Clarkson, the current mayor of Chamblee, characterized the city’s development as a “twenty-year overnight success story,” claiming that the “community has welcomed the arrival of many new immigrants […] Chamblee has truly represented this past century’s greatest eras of progress.”8Eric Clarkson, “My City’s 20-Year ‘Overnight Success Story’ Offers Lessons to Others,” Atlanta Journal Constitution, December 8, 2019, 28A.

Reporters, pundits, and other commentators tend to regard Chamblee’s new demographic diversity as evidence of the city’s “success.” It is less clear what, specifically, has been successful. The geographic distribution of class remains uneven within the city’s borders. Despite a dizzying array of commercial activities, many of Chamblee’s new immigrant residents do not experience the upward class mobility traditionally associated with community support for entrepreneurship.9See the U.S. Census Bureau’s “Opportunity Atlas,” which overlays predicted outcome data for the social mobility of children in a given census tract over a map of the area. The Opportunity Atlas is accessible at https://www.opportunityatlas.org/. For methodology, see Chetty et al., “The Opportunity Atlas: Mapping the Childhood Roots of Social Mobility,” (Washington: Center for Economic Studies, 2018), available at https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/programs-surveys/center-for-economic-studies/opportunity_atlas_paper.pdf. Nonetheless, if one consumes the tourist literature, reads the local reporting, or listens to the mayor, one might be led to believe that the city has not only realized the dream of the “melting pot,” wherein distinct cultural background are reduced to a common “colorblind” identity, but moreover that it has done so with uncharacteristic grace and harmony. The overall purpose of these two essays, as a unit, is to question the limits of this idea.

This essay provides a sketch of a pivotal 1992 Chamblee City Council meeting, traces the fallout from this meeting, and assesses the factors that led to Chamblee’s eventual receptiveness to nonwhite immigration and nonwhite immigrant entrepreneurship. It rejects a common assumption that Atlanta’s hosting of the 1996 Summer Olympics prompted Chamblee to embrace internationalism and harmoniously integrate a diverse array of nonwhite immigrant groups into a theretofore-white community.10See, e.g. “Mixed Signals on South’s ‘Immigrant Highway,” Associated Press, March 11, 2009, which claims that “local officials […] used the springboard of the 1996 Summer Olympics to make immigrants a centerpiece of the community’s rebirth.” Negative national press attention catalyzed Chamblee’s initial attempts at governmental reform, but it was neither public outcry nor “the Olympic spirit of international brotherhood” which led Chamblee to deliberately rebrand itself as a welcoming home for immigrants. Despite the city and its boosters suggestions to the contrary, it was a calculated recognition, advanced through probusiness interest groups like the DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce, that immigrants represented the most viable means of economic revitalization of the city.

Photograph taken by the National Park Service and under public domain.
An early twentieth century house on Dresden Drive in Chamblee. Photograph taken by the National Park Service and under public domain.

Officially incorporated in 1907, Chamblee began its existence as a “railroad town.” What little commercial development existed could be found at the intersection of the two rail lines that ran through the community. Nearly all other developed land was devoted to agricultural production, primarily dairy.11Planned Unit Development Pattern Book, City of Chamblee, March 22, 2019, 20. After World War II, the expansion of Atlanta’s transportation infrastructure and the opening of a massive General Motors factory just north of Chamblee prompted rapid residential development. Secondary industrial development followed: Kodak, Frito-Lay, and General Electric all opened factories in Chamblee in the immediate postwar period. By the 1980s, however, the plants had begun to close.12Joy Wilkins, “Chamblee, Georgia: Home Grown Industries and the New Faces of the Entrepreneurs,” (Atlanta: Georgia Tech Research Corporation, 2000), 2. Case study prepared by the Center for Economic Development Services at the Georgia Institute of Technology. The Frito-Lay plant lasted until the end of the century. The displacement of industry corresponded with the departure of many residents as the fringes of Atlanta’s suburban development expanded ever outward, toward Chamblee and beyond.

The proliferation of vacant commercial and residential space made Chamblee an attractive site for new immigrant settlement. Some newcomers were sponsored by the federal government, which, beginning in the late 1970s, began resettling Vietnamese, Laotian, and Cambodian refugees in the area through the cooperation of local churches.13Art Hansen, “International Immigration and Change in Metropolitan Atlanta,” in Beyond the Gateway: Immigrants in a Changing America, eds. Elzbieta M. Gozdziak and Susan F. Martin, (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2005), 103. By the middle of the 1980s, non-refugee immigration into the Atlanta metropolitan area had likewise started to funnel into the Buford Highway Corridor, generally feeding into both Chamblee and a small suburb to the immediate north, Doraville. Geographer Susan Walcott identifies 1990 as a high watermark for both Mexican and Vietnamese immigration to the Buford Highway Corridor, pointing to broadly-defined “macroeconomic changes” as the impetus for this event: the Mexican economy was in the throes of an oil crisis, while the economy of California—where many Central American and Southeast Asian immigrant groups had initially settled—was beginning to decline.14Walcott, “Overlapping Ethnicities,” 57. Summit National Bank, an “immigrant-friendly” bank which opened in Chamblee in 1988, conducted its own informal census of immigration to the Atlanta metropolitan area that same year, finding 13,000 Koreans, 14,000 Chinese, 18,000 “Southeast Asians,” and 75,000 “Latin residents.” Summit’s data collection, while imprecise, includes undocumented immigrants, a factor which has historically underrepresented immigrant populations in Chamblee and Doraville.15Allen R. Myerson, “Ethnic Atlanta,” Georgia Trend 4.3, November 1988, 46. By the 1990s, the economic and social fabric of Chamblee had been profoundly transformed.

On August 14, 1992, the social implications of these economic and demographic transformations came to a head at an otherwise routine meeting of the Chamblee City Council. Thirty-seven white residents of Cumberland Estates, a relatively wealthy neighborhood, presented the City Council with a petition demanding that the city take action against “aliens and vagrants.” Their petition drew on archetypal imagery of urban decay, expressing a fear that Chamblee would soon resemble “the worst part of the Inner City area of New York.”16City of Chamblee Council Meetings, Agendas and Minutes 1990-1993, 706, item 5, Chamblee City Hall, Chamblee, GA. Quoted in Tore C. Olsson, Making the “International City”: Work, Law, and Culture in Immigrant Atlanta, 1970-2006, M.A. Thesis, (Athens: University of Georgia, 2008), 15-16. The specific issue which prompted this petition was the increased visibility of working-class Latino men in public spaces—many of whom were working in an informal “day labor” market. Of course, day laborers are neither an explicitly nonwhite phenomenon, nor a phenomenon exclusive to the end of the twentieth century: historians Philip Foner and David Roediger, for instance, include “day laborers” as an important constituent group in early American labor organizing.17David R. Roediger and Philip S. Foner, Our Own Time: A History of American Labor and the Working Day, (New York: Verso, 1989), 111. Pools of day laborers were crucial to the economy of the agrarian South before and after the Civil War, and economists have noted the effect and availability of day laborers in adjusting wages and rates for agricultural work more generally.18Warren C. Whatley, “A History of Mechanization in the Cotton South: The Institutional Hypothesis,” The Quarterly Journal of Economics 100.4 (1985), 1194. But when Chamblee petitioners cited the “Inner City area of New York” they invoked images of nonwhite ghettos and the urban poor, elements of an overriding white fear of racial mixture.19On the racialized nature of Latino day labor in the United States, see, e.g., Juan Thomas Ordonez, Jornalero: Being a Day Laborer in the USA, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2015). The threatening rhetoric soon grew overtly violent: a council member suggested that residents set bear traps on their property to catch and deport trespassing “illegals”; another official suggested the formation of a vigilante group.20Olsson, Making the “International City,” 14.

Public outcry began as soon as reports from the City Council meeting went to print. Mexican consular officials took to local news media to complain. Advocacy groups and immigrant rights organizations were similarly appalled.21Olsson, Making the “International City,” 34. Mayor Johnson Brown and councilman Gary King wrote to Atlanta’s two major newspapers, The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution, to defend their behavior. Brown and King blamed inaccurate reporters, suggesting that their quotations had been taken out of context and leaving the reader to wonder what context, exactly, would justify the use of bear traps to catch and subsequently deport men seeking work.22Johnson W. Brown, “People of Chamblee were Victimized by Biased, Inaccurate Press Reports,” The Atlanta Journal, September 1, 1992, A19; Gary King, “Inflammatory Quotes Taken Out of Context in Chamblee,” The Atlanta Constitution, August 31, 1992, A8. The Department of Justice opened a civil rights investigation into the Chamblee City Council, bringing the attention of national news media to the city and subsequently catalyzing some local reforms.23Wilkins, “Home Grown Industries,” 3. “Reforms” tended towards the superficial, e.g. hiring a few nonwhite police officers. Ernie Stallworth, a “senior mediator” assigned to the Chamblee case, later reflected that “Chamblee was bad news […] you had institutional and systemic racism—a ‘good old boys’ system that worked well if you were white and didn’t work at all if you weren’t.”24Marc Ballon, “The Melted Pot,” Inc., February 1, 1999. While most councilmembers were unwilling to own up to any real wrongdoing, the Department of Justice investigation facilitated the formation of a task force within the city government with the ultimate goal of defusing “racial tensions”—a task force which implemented a few reforms, generally targeted at the Chamblee Police Department, but which was unable to truly usurp the ingrained power structure of the Chamblee city government.25Marc Ballon, “The Melted Pot.” By way of example, Chamblee created the position of “city manager” in April of 1993, hired George Rodriguez, a Latino man, to fill this role, and then fired him within six months for hiring a Spanish-speaking police officer “against protocol.” See Olsson, Making the “International City,” 31.

The DeKalb Chamber of Commerce, however, had a plan to dramatically rebrand Chamblee and end its public relations nightmare. Even by national Chamber of Commerce standards, the DeKalb County chapter wielded—and continues to wield—outsized power in local governance. Unlike the Chamblee City Council, which was beholden to the racist and xenophobic beliefsof its white constituency, the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce regarded the newest wave of immigrants as a potential economic resource: cheap labor, in many cases, but with a certain entrepreneurial streak. Prior to the Chamblee City Council controversy, the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce had been advocating the creation of the “International Village,” by setting aside a sizable section of commercial and residential land in the Buford Highway Corridor to be redeveloped and “internationalized.” The ultimate goal of this project was to make the “multiethnic” experience of Buford Highway accessible to a white consumer base. Historian Tore Olsson explains: 

The Village would feature pedestrian-friendly, tree-lined sidewalks, cooperative efforts between ethnic businesses, and community centers catering to various immigrant groups, including the Latino day laborers whose presence had heightened ethnic tensions within DeKalb County.  In essence, the project would capitalize on an existing phenomenon, by rendering it palatable and consumable for the worldly tourist, whether they be from a neighboring suburb or a foreign country.26Olsson, Making the “International City,” 32.

While the negative press attention drawn by the explosive City Council meeting—as well as the Department of Justice’s visit, which did not create new rules within the city but certainly drew the ire of national media—motivated Chamblee officials to meet with DeKalb Chamber of Commerce planners, it was the Chamber’s pitch of the International Village as a financially productive tourist attraction that won over Chamblee officials.27Olsson, Making the “International City,” 33. To Chamblee officials, however, it was merely a beneficial side effect that the development might make the area more livable for the immigrant communities that lived and worked there. 28Immigrant advocacy groups like the Latin American Association spent considerable resources arguing for greater attention to the needs of residents and the creation of a new built environment that would be livable for residents rather than simply accessible for customers. Mexican Consul General Teodoro Maus specifically asked for “a lot of soccer fields.” This never happened. See Olsson, Making the “International City,” 33.

The International Village project was never completed, but Chamblee’s distinctly-probusiness embrace of its recent immigrant population persisted. As with nearly any public development project, the funding was often difficult to access—but perhaps the most pressing reason for the project’s failure was the response of Doraville, Chamblee’s suburban neighbor to the north. The DeKalb Chamber of Commerce’s plan for the International Village included some land in Chamblee and some in Doraville; Buford Highway itself runs through both. Doraville’s government refused to consider the International Village in the context of its potential economic benefit, as Chamblee’s had. Instead, Doraville’s city council lambasted the project, suggesting that it ran contrary to the “way of life” in Doraville—a “way of life” that one councilmember described as “basically Baptists and Methodists and Presbyterians,” a peculiar invocation of protestantism that is difficult to understand as anything other than thinly-veiled racism. Doraville’s “vice mayor,” Lamar Lang, sarcastically asked The Atlanta Constitution, “Why would we want to attract more immigrants when we got all we want?  We got plenty. We got enough to go around. If you want any in your neighborhood, we’ll send you some.” Maritza Soto Keen, who was involved with the local Latin American Association, told Olsson in an interview that “Doraville did not want to become a Chamblee; in fact, not being Chamblee was a priority to them.”29Olsson, Making the “International City,” 34. In effect, thinly-veiled fear of the outcome to which Chamblee officials had eventually acceded—a commercially-active city outwardly amenable to nonwhite immigrant groups—prevented the ultimate completion of the project on its initial terms.

I began this essay by remarking on Chamblee’s “Antique Row” and its historical affinity for the commodification of memory. There are, of course, still antique shops in Chamblee; they can be found on backroads and in nondescript storefronts, bounded on either side by businesses with little to no English-language signage. The transformation of Chamblee, and of the Buford Highway Corridor more generally, suggests the packaging and sale of another kind of memory: the utopian imaginings of a neoliberal multiracial project, a project which failed in some respects and succeeded in others, and one which I will explore in the second half of this essay. It suggests the sale, moreover, of the kind of false memory current mayor Eric Clarkson suggested in his 2019 editorial: the notion of a “20-year overnight success story,” or the idea that the city welcomed an influx of nonwhite immigrants with open arms and secured for them a vibrant commercial space to live the American Dream.30Clarkson, “‘Overnight Success Story’.” The perception of Buford Highway as Atlanta’s “immigrant quarter,” which has motivated much of the area’s boosterism since the 1990s, elides a good deal of historical nuance and reinforces a way of thinking that celebrates the “multiracial” composition of a commercial district without, for instance, the installation or procurement of adequate public services. The “overnight success story” narrative functions as a mask not just for the endurance of racism but, moreover, as a means of obscuring the realities of life in the Buford Highway Corridor. Marian Liou, a local activist, suggests a less rosy image:

From a distance, in one shopping center you might have a Guatemalan restaurant next to the Korean restaurant next to the Mexican taco place. And you see it and it looks beautiful in one sense, even though they may not get along. Or they might be competing over resources, such as parking, or customers. When there are three rolled ice cream shops, the owners probably aren’t the best of friends.31Adam Newman, “Rethinking Buford Highway: An Interview with Marian Liou,” Atlanta Studies, April 13, 2017, https://www.atlantastudies.org/2017/04/13/rethinking-buford-highway-an-interview-with-marian-liou/.

Chamblee is still selling antiques, but the “memory” they conjure and the “past” they overlook are far more recent.

Photograph: John Phelan. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported. See https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en
One of Chamblee’s antique stores. Photograph: John Phelan. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported. See https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en

Bibliography

Ballon, Marc. “The Melted Pot.” Inc, February 1, 1999.

Barclay, Liz. “Some of the Best Food in Atlanta Is Found along Buford Highway.” Vice, October 16, 2017.

Bishop, Mary Beth. “Shopping Destination: Chamblee’s Antique Row ‘Everything from Ridiculous to Sublime.’” Atlanta Journal Constitution, November 26, 1998, sec. BE12.

Brown, Johnson. “People of Chamblee Were Victimized by Biased, Inaccurate Press Reports.” Atlanta Journal, September 1, 1992, sec. A19.

Clarkson, Eric. “My City’s 20-Year ‘Overnight Success Story’ Offers Lessons to Others.” Atlanta Journal Constitution, December 8, 2019, sec. 28A.

Hansen, Art. “International Immigration and Change in Metropolitan Atlanta.” In Beyond the Gateway: Immigrants in a Changing America. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2005.

Kelting, Lily. “”Performing Multicultural Futures on Atlanta’s Buford Highway.” Southern Quarterly 53, no. 2 (2016): 41–56.

King, Gary. “Inflammatory Quotes Taken Out of Context in Chamblee.” Atlanta Constitution, August 31, 1992, sec. A8.

McKibben, Beth. “21 Restaurants to Try Along Atlanta’s Buford Highway.” Eater, November 6, 2019.

“Mixed Signals on South’s ‘Immigrant Highway.’” Associated Press, March 11, 2009.

Myerson, Allen. “Ethnic Atlanta.” Georgia Trend, November 1988.

Newman, Adam. “Rethinking Buford Highway: An Interview with Marian Liou.” Atlanta Studies, April 13, 2017. https://www.atlantastudies.org/2017/04/13/rethinking-buford-highway-an-interview-with-marian-liou/.

Olsson, Tore. “Making the ‘International City’: Work, Law, and Culture in Immigrant Atlanta, 1970-2006.” M.A. Thesis, University of Georgia, 2008.

Ordonez, Juan Thomas. Jornalero: Being a Day Laborer in the USA. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2015.

“Planned Unit Development Pattern Book.” City of Chamblee, March 22, 2019.

Rhodes, Trent. “The Antiques Trade in Transition: Collecting and Dealing Decorative Arts of the Old South.” University of Delaware, 2018.

Roediger, David, and Philip Foner. Our Own Time: A History of American Labor and the Working Day. New York: Verso, 1989.

Vega, Muriel. “A Beginner’s Guide to Eating around Buford Highway.” Atlanta Journal Constitution, March 22, 2017, sec. online.

Walcott, Susan. “Overlapping Ethnicities and Negotiated Space: Atlanta’s Buford Highway.” Journal of Cultural Geography 20, no. 1 (2002): 51–75.

Whatley, Warren. “A History of Mechanization in the Cotton South: The Institutional Hypothesis.” Journal of Economics 100, no. 4 (1985): 1191–1215.

Wilkins, Joy. “Chamblee, Georgia: Home Grown Industries and the New Faces of the Entrepreneurs.” Case study. Atlanta: Georgia Institute of Technology, 2000.

Suffering in Silence: African-Americans and the Modern HIV Epidemic

by David Marchionni

https://minorityaidssupport.org/ending-hiv-will-only-happen-if-black-america-leads/

It is difficult to escape the shadow of history. This is as true for disease as it is for people.  Take Yersinia Pestis, for example; centuries later it is still associated primarily with the Black Death of Medieval Europe.  Bubonic Plague seared itself into the West’s collective memory, yet the bacterium remains a very real concern for millions across the world. A 1994 mass outbreak in Surat, India forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes, infected 693 residents, and caused 54 fatalities.1Godshen Pallipparambil, “The Surat Plague and Its Aftermath,” Montana State University, Accessed December 8, 2019, http://www.montana.edu/historybug/yersiniaessays/godshen.html. This same issue plagues the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (colloquially referred to by the acronym HIV). HIV has remained a highly stigmatized illness since the AIDS crisis of the 1980’s and has been inextricably linked to homosexual promiscuity in popular culture.  This connection has proven useful in some respects. For example, it fostered eventual support and funding for HIV-related aid programs in the metropolitan areas where much of the “Out” American LGBTQ Community resides. Yet, it has also proven highly detrimental to at-risk and HIV-positive populations who do not fit this traditional perception. HIV’s continued association with urban homosexual enclaves has proven particularly harmful to African-Americans living with HIV, especially within impoverished communities in the southern United States, which currently faces a veritable AIDS crisis of its own.

As the nation slowly confronted the AIDS epidemic between the late 1980’s and early 2000’s, a combination of governmental intervention, targeted prevention efforts, increased access to quality medical care and education, and more potent (and non-toxic) treatment options have markedly slowed down the rate of infection within the United States.2Thurka Sangaramoorthy and Joseph B. Richardson, “Why the South Still Has Such High HIV Rates,” The Conversation, June 29, 2019, http://theconversation.com/why-the-south-still-has-such-high-hiv-rates-76386. A welcome sign of such progress is the reported 19% drop in the number of new diagnoses between 2005 and 2014.3Thurka Sangaramoorthy and Joseph Richardson, “Why the South Still Has Such High HIV Rates,” http://theconversation.com/why-the-south-still-has-such-high-hiv-rates-76386. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that there are approximately 1.1 million Americans currently living with HIV, and of that number, only 15% are currently unaware of their HIV-positive status.4Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “U.S. Statistics,” HIV.gov, September 25, 2019, https://www.hiv.gov/hiv-basics/overview/data-and-trends/statistics. Unfortunately, these numbers mask a bleak reality. While it is certainly true that White America has experienced significant progress in the campaign against HIV/AIDS, this has not been mirrored in Black America. African-Americans account for the highest proportion of both new HIV diagnoses and of people living with HIV, encompassing more than any other American race or ethnicity. Currently, within the African-American community, the 2017 “Diagnoses of HIV Infection in the United States and Dependent Areas” CDC report noted that while African-Americans account for just 13% of the U.S. population, they comprise 42% of all new HIV diagnoses.5Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HIV Surveillance Report, 2017; vol. 29, Published November 2018. Accessed December 22, 2019, http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/library/reports/hiv-surveillance.html, p. 8. Breaking these numbers down slightly, 73% of diagnosed patients were men, while 26% were women. Beyond gender, it is apparent that sexual identity continues to be closely tied to HIV. Roughly 60% of newly diagnosed African-American men identified themselves as gay or bisexual, with male-to-male sexual contact remaining the primary vector of HIV transmission, with 80% of all new male infections occurring this way.  African-American women, on the other hand, primarily listed heterosexual sexual contact as their primary means of disease transmission, occurring in 91% of new female cases.6Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “HIV and African Americans,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control, November 12, 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/group/racialethnic/africanamericans/index.html All told, there are approximately 468,800 African-Americans currently living with HIV.  Yet even with these statistics, it remains difficult to visualize the whole picture. The figures listed above reflect national averages; in so doing they fail to demonstrate where HIV transmission and mortality rates have grown the most prevalent (and the least treated): the American south.7Susan Reif, “State of HIV in the US Deep South,” HIV/AIDS Policy Clinic, Duke University, Accessed December 22, 2019, https://dukespace.lib.duke.edu/dspace/bitstream/handle/10161/13807/State of the Deep Southrevised online2.pdf?sequence=4, p. 3.

Amidst the AIDS crisis of the 1980’s, HIV was concentrated in urban metropolitan areas. While the concentrated infection proved horrifically devastating in the early years of the crisis, the relative proximity of patients has since allowed for far easier cataloguing of transmission vectors, as well as ensured greater infrastructure and financial support to benefit affected communities. In the South, however, the population is far less concentrated, and is dispersed across rural, semi-rural, and small-scale metropolitan spaces.  While only approximately 36% of the U.S. population resides in the south, American southerners comprised 51% of all new HIV infections in 2015.8Susan Reif, C. Micha Belden, Elena Wilson, and Carolyn McAllaster, “HIV/AIDS in the U.S. Deep South: Trends from 2008-2016,” (Southern HIV/AIDS Strategy Initiative, Duke University, June 2019), p. 2.  Also, the 2010 census reported that of the roughly 38.9 million African-Americans living in the country, 55% of them resided in a southern state.9US Census Bureau Public Information Office, “2010 Census Shows Black Population Has Highest Concentration in the South,” Newsroom Archive, United States Census Bureau, May 19, 2016. https://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/2010_census/cb11-cn185.html. Of these southern States, the traditional “Deep South” (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South, Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas) has been particularly hard-hit by HIV/AIDS.10Susan Reif and Co., “HIV/AIDS in the U.S. Deep South: Trends from 2008-2016,” p. 8. These States have not only struggled with the highest HIV diagnosis rates in the nation, but also the highest associated mortality rates, standing at between 1.5 and 3 times the national average.11Susan Reif and Co., “HIV/AIDS in the U.S. Deep South: Trends from 2008-2016,” p. 9. This reporting may also not fully reflect the true severity of this ongoing epidemic, as underreporting remains a very real concern. 

Several factors work together to fuel the southern HIV crisis: geographic constraints (the large space necessary to travel in order to access healthcare), concentrated poverty (the clustering of extremely poor populations within poor communities), the prevalence of abstinence-based sex education, lack of adequate training within the medical community on HIV-related health issues, the criminalization of HIV-related risk behaviors (such as draconian anti-drug laws), White-controlled state and local governments that readily ignore issues predominantly affecting their African-American constituencies, and widespread stigmatization within the African-American community. It is difficult to ascribe primary culpability to any one of these factors, as they all play a part in this theatre of misery. Concentrated poverty leaves already low-income families saddled with additional burdens (including poor access to public facilities, poor access to quality healthcare, poor health outcomes, and poor educational opportunities) that make it effectively impossible to afford, let alone regularly receive, proper treatment.  Homophobia and criminalization, meanwhile, help foster a culture of fear that disincentivizes potential HIV-positive individuals from getting tested, risking further transmission. Persistent stigmatization of HIV in the Deep South has in effect forced individuals with HIV to remain hidden in the proverbial closet. Those that do choose to “out” themselves run many of the same risks that HIV/AIDS patients did back at the height of the original AIDS crisis. Southern individuals living with HIV continue to experience familial, workplace, healthcare, and governmental discrimination, as well as risk violence and harassment.12Bebe J. Anderson, “HIV Stigma and Discrimination Persist, Even in Health Care,” AMA Journal of Ethics: Illuminating the Art of Medicine, American Medical Association, December 1, 2009, https://journalofethics.ama-assn.org/article/hiv-stigma-and-discrimination-persist-even-health-care/2009-12. If their HIV-positive status is discovered, they may be denied or fired from work, removed from their homes, denied medical care, or be abandoned by their families.  In addition to southern-associated issues including concentrated poverty and HIV-specific criminal laws, the culture of silence within African-American communities also plays a role. As summarized by Phil Wilson (of the Black AIDS Institute), “you don’t tell other folks that there’s a gay son and that someone else in the family has AIDS.”13Endgame: AIDS in Black America, Directed by Renata Simone, (Boston: Renata Simone Productions, Inc, 2012), https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/endgame-aids-in-black-america/, 9:54. This general lack of communal admission or acceptance is complicit in the thousands of new infections each year. It should be no surprise that the old “Silence = Death” slogan has slowly begun to circulate amongst impacted Southern communities. For those continuing to live with HIV but who do not or cannot seek treatment, the lack of community-wide African-American discourse on HIV places thousands more at significantly increased risk of complications and disease progression. The silence also incentivizes those with HIV to keep their status a secret from everyone, including sexual partners.  This prospect may help explain how 91% of African-American women with HIV reportedly contracted it from heterosexual intercourse. Black “Respectability Politics” also plays a central role in fueling the stigmatization of African-Americans with HIV. Mirroring the cultural norms of the White mainstream, middle-class and wealthy African-American communities, which still remain organized around religious congregations, continue to characterize homosexuals and individuals living with HIV as immoral or degenerate.14Endgame: AIDS in Black America, 25:02, 25:44.

 The American struggle against HIV has been ongoing for nearly forty years. For much of that time, efforts to combat HIV/AIDS by activists, policymakers, and health care providers took place along the coasts.  Yet it has become increasingly apparent that all the while, the epidemic has proliferated freely across rural America. The deep south now stands as the current battlefield in a modern AIDS crisis, one that has primarily ravaged the African-American community.  While NGO’s and the Federal Government slowly move to confront HIV in the south, stigmatization and homophobia, geographic constraints, concentrated poverty, and the criminalization of HIV-related risk behavior continue to hamper (if not render impossible) efforts to provide adequate medical care. The continued stigmatization of HIV, both in White and Black America, makes accurate testing and reporting unduly difficult. This, coupled with high rates of poverty and southern State governments that have refused to expand their Medicaid programs (which would have covered uninsured HIV patients), exacerbates the situation.15Teresa Wiltz, “Southern States Are Now Epicenter of HIV/AIDS in the U.S,” Pew Stateline, The Pew Charitable Trusts, September 8, 2014, https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2014/09/08/southern-states-are-now-epicenter-of-hivaids-in-the-us. Given ongoing discrimination against African-Americans, as well as the continued stigmatization that comes with HIV’s close association with homosexuality and transgenderism, it appears unlikely that meaningful progress toward lowering infection rates and raising treatment levels among African-Americans will occur in the near future.  

Bibliography

Anderson, Bebe J. “HIV Stigma and Discrimination Persist, Even in Health Care.” AMA Journal of Ethics: Illuminating the Art of Medicine. American Medical Association, December 1, 2009. https://journalofethics.ama-assn.org/article/hiv-stigma-and-discrimination-persist-even-health-care/2009-12.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “HIV and African Americans.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control, November 12, 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/group/racialethnic/africanamericans/index.html.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HIV Surveillance Report, 2017; vol. 29.  Published November 2018. Accessed December 22, 2019. http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/library/reports/hiv-surveillance.html.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “U.S. Statistics.” HIV.gov, September 25, 2019. https://www.hiv.gov/hiv-basics/overview/data-and-trends/statistics.

Endgame: AIDS in Black America.  Directed by Renata Simone. Boston: Renata Simone Productions, Inc, 2012.  https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/endgame-aids-in-black-america/.

Moore, Mark. “President Trump Calls for Eradicating AIDS and HIV in 10 Years.” New York Post, December 1, 2019. https://nypost.com/2019/12/01/president-trump-calls-for-eradicating-aids-and-hiv-in-10-years/.

Pallipparambil, Godshen. “The Surat Plague and Its Aftermath.” Montana State University. Accessed December 8, 2019. http://www.montana.edu/historybug/yersiniaessays/godshen.html.

Reif, Susan, C. Micha Belden, Elena Wilson, and Carolyn McAllaster. “HIV/AIDS in the U.S. Deep South: Trends from 2008-2016.” Southern HIV/AIDS Strategy Initiative. Duke University, June 2019. HIV/AIDS in the U.S. Deep South: Trends from 2008-2016.  https://southernaids.files.wordpress.com/2019/06/sasi-report-hiv-aids-in-the-u.s.-deep-south-trends-from-2008-2016-final.pdf.

Reif, Susan. “State of HIV in the US Deep South.” HIV/AIDS Policy Clinic. Duke University. Accessed December 22, 2019. https://dukespace.lib.duke.edu/dspace/bitstream/handle/10161/13807/State of the Deep Southrevised online2.pdf?sequence=4.

Sangaramoorthy, Thurka, and Joseph B. Richardson. “Why the South Still Has Such High HIV Rates.” The Conversation, June 29, 2019. http://theconversation.com/why-the-south-still-has-such-high-hiv-rates-76386.

US Census Bureau Public Information Office. “2010 Census Shows Black Population Has Highest Concentration in the South.” Newsroom Archive. United States Census Bureau, May 19, 2016. https://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/2010_census/cb11-cn185.html.

Wiltz, Teresa. “Southern States Are Now Epicenter of HIV/AIDS in the U.S.” Pew Stateline. The Pew Charitable Trusts, September 8, 2014. https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2014/09/08/southern-states-are-now-epicenter-of-hivaids-in-the-us.