Center for Race & Gender Thursday Forum Series presents...
Race and Social Movements: What Reproductive Justice Teaches Us
Panelists will discuss race, gender and social movements based on their practical experience and research with the reproductive justice movement.
The Bottleneck of Race in the Pursuit of Reproductive Justice and Movement Building
Dr. Sujatha Jesudason, CoreAlign, UCSF
In every conversation that CoreAlign (a national sexual and reproductive justice movement building initiative) has hosted since 2012, the issue of race has emerged as a conversation stopper. Since before the emergence of the reproductive justice movement, reproductive health and rights advocates have been criticized for the lack of inclusion and visibility of women of color. In the last ten years, a whole cadre of women of color leaders has emerged, particularly as leaders of reproductive justice organizations. However, the ability to understand, discuss and integrate a nuanced analysis of race has continued to elude the leaders and rank and file members of this field. Now, with the creation of a new national network and space to innovate and envision a new movement, the issue of race has become a bottleneck in moving forward. The “right women of color” are never in the room, there are never “enough women of color” and white women and women of color are talked about as essentialized and blunt categories. In this presentation, I will talk about all the ways that race is used as a conversation stopper and an impossible barrier to work through in pursuit of justice. I will share the lessons that we’ve learned about race, gender and movement building, and the ways in which CoreAlign is designing experimenting with “Impossible Conversations” to create the possibilities of working through to more innovative, subtle, concrete and analytical understandings of race, class, gender, sexuality, disability and immigration.
This presentation focuses on how intersectionality is claimed by movements and put into practice in movements. In many reproductive justice discussions, “intersectionality” becomes the way to signify how the movement makes space for participants' multiple subordinated identities in ways that other movements cannot (subordinated intersectional politics). However, this can elide the way intersectional analysis is happening in other movements, romaticizes intersectionality and fails to engage thoroughly with whether the movement’s use of intersectionality has to go beyond providing alternatives to the privilege in other movements (e.g., in the "white women's movement") to internal analysis of how privilege is enacted within that movement (e.g. heterosexism in reproductive justice work). The implicit assumption in much (feminist sociological) literature is that women of ethnic /racial minorities can more easily work together in their spaces due to being able to avoid the conflicts that occur when doing “cross-racial” work with Whites. However, cross racial work also occurs when coming together as “women of color” because, like other identities, this category does not exist a priori. The women are of many colors, i.e., racial backgrounds, differing ethnic histories, varying class statuses and so on ultimately constituting a coalition. Enacting intersectionality relies on practical strategies of: explicit identification of “us” as women of color (who are we, difficulties we face);a “same difference” politics that highlights internal diversity to demonstrate similar pathways and same political goal, which often subsumes difference; emphasizing external difference from the “other” of Whites and invoking a metaphor of an idealized family. It is a complex practical effort to claim an organizational position of representing women of color by correcting the exclusionary tendencies of other movements while avoiding accusations of false promises and, perhaps most damagingly, of being little better than the organizations in the movements against which the organizational identity has been composed.