Planned Parenthood official resigns over racist statements
Any distrust Women of Color felt toward Planned Parenthood was kept out of the public eye until July 28, when the abortion giant blew any remaining shreds of good will.
It was on that day a story Planned Parenthood shopped to the New York Times was published, within which Planned Parenthood failed to give WOC credit for the concept of “reproductive justice” and submitted names of only white female leaders of the abortion lobby to interview – seven to be exact – but no WOC.
Enter into the fracas Melissa Flourney, pictured right, Louisiana State Director for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast – until August 15, that is, when she was forced to resign.
So Flournoy threw gas over a few fires on August 13 when she attended a screening of We Always Resist: Trust Black Women and took over the discussion afterward, telling WOC they needed to drop what they were doing and get behind Planned Parenthood’s political agenda and also telling a black leader she needed to kick a black Democrat pro-life representative’s a*s.
Kris Ford of Women’s Health And Justice Initiative detailed Flourney’s ghastly behavior in an open letter to Flournoy and PPGC. The entire letter is well worth the read. Here are excerpts (bold emphases theirs):
You felt that last night’s discussions should have centered on how organizations like Women With A Vision, the communities they serve, and women of color as a whole could “show up” for Planned Parenthood’s pro-choice fight….
The pro-choice/pro-life framework that Planned Parenthood supports and fuels largely leaves marginalized women behind. We gain nothing from joining your parade or lending our faces or our children’s faces to your billboards.
You, Melissa Flournoy, are a perfect example of the schism in work around reproductive rights. Your refusal to listen, your insistence on centering the conversation on your personal wants, and your flippant disregard for the work that organizations led by women of color have done. Worse, the huge organization that supports you is guilty of the same.
Part of why I’m wary of Planned Parenthood is that I lead an intersectional life by default…. You push us to the front of one charge after another so that you can wave your diversity banners. We fall first and are left bleeding every time….
Trust Black Women… [is] produced by Sister Song, the same organization whose member Monica Simpson wrote an open letter to Planned Parenthood on August 5th. Monica’s letter details the ways that Planned Parenthood consistently omits the intersectional work of grassroots organizations on reproductive issues….
Monica published her letter barely two weeks ago, and yet here I am publishing this one today because of your appalling behavior last night….
There was a feeling of reverence for the heaviness of the topics we’d discussed. Out of the three seconds of silence, your hand went up and the whole meeting went off the tracks. You started by introducing yourself as the Louisiana State director of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast. After that, you proceeded to ask Deon what she could “do about Katrina.” Though you didn’t pause to give context, you were talking about Katrina Jackson, the state representative out of Monroe, Louisiana who penned HB388. The bill effectively shuts down some of the abortion providers here in Louisiana. You complained about the representative’s unwillingness to hear your pleas, and jokingly said that you wanted to “put (Deon) into a ring and let you kick her ass!” Didn’t we JUST get done talking about how hurtful it is for black women to constantly be profiled as dangerous? Violent? Subhuman? How is this helpful? Deon had told us about the police reports she sees where police officers describe black women as primarily “big,” “black,” and “angry.” YOU TURNED AROUND AND DID THE SAME THING. Deon stated that she’s not going to go fight any other black women. She’s not doing this work to go be the black person who can tame other black people for you. None of us are. It was clear that you weren’t getting the answers or feedback that you wanted. I’m sure you were aware of the people expressing their dismay in the background as you charged on to talk at length about how what we REALLY need to just focus on less race stuff and more political stuff. According to you, the solution lies in pressuring elected officials and voting the bad eggs out of office. You asked question after question, made statement after statement, and barely paused for Deon or anyone else to answer. When she was able to sneak a word in edgewise, you cut her off again! This went round and around. You interrupted most of the people who spoke last night, including me. I explained that I rejected the Pro Choice vs. Pro Life framework because it leaves behind many of the communities represented in that room. I stated that while I was glad you came, I didn’t want this entire conversation to become us simply focused on and responding to you. I also said that when you ask questions of people like Deon, like Paris, like the many activists and organizers in that room who have exactly the kind of analysis that your organization sorely lacks, you need to shut up and listen. You didn’t. In fact, you cut me off before I could finish talking. Here’s more of what I want to say:
How dare you, Melissa? How dare you show up to an event by and for women of color, then go ahead to tell us that we’re not focusing on YOUR organization enough? That we aren’t showing up for YOU enough? We afforded you every opportunity last night to get a feel for where women of color are coming from on this issue. The answers to why we aren’t as common as we could be among the Planned Parenthood ranks was staring you in the face, and you turned away every time. You heard it from black women, you heard it from black men, you heard it from faith leaders and scholars and activists and average folks walking down the street. You even heard it from Laura McTighe, a white ally who was so upset by your behavior that she stepped forward to name that you had effectively derailed the entire conversation and wrapped it around yourself, and that it was inappropriate of you to ask women of color why they weren’t doing more for YOU. Did you listen to her? Did you listen when she said that she felt the more appropriate question to ask was how you, your organization, and white people in general could show up and be better allies for US?
I don’t think you did. What you did was talk over people, take up too much space emotionally and physically in the room. I knew you weren’t really engaged with us because people were standing uncomfortably in the back of the room while you sprawled across two chairs of your own…
If the Louisiana State director of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast can listen to the lived experiences of women of color and then try to mock us and disrupt our meetings, then what hope is there for Planned Parenthood to work in an anti-racist framework? Why should I bother with trusting or investing in any of your political ventures if you can’t see the merit in my community based activism?
Black women’s bodies are the scapegoat here. No matter how you turn it, when we view ourselves on your terms, the jokes fly about how we should go fight people for you. We are damned for having children, damned for having abortions, damned for refusing to navigate our bodies within your framework, and then chastised for not showing up for you….
Rather than resist the urge to stack oppressions like a playground contest, you tossed out you’re a lesbian from Shreveport and that I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. I think I judged you appropriately. I think I had you figured out when I reluctantly had to lump you in with the rest of the big money non-profits that just want to hijack our stories for convenient marketing. I think I had you right when I assumed that you wouldn’t be able to simply be a member of the community that night. I think I was correct in assuming that you and the organization that you represent have a long way to go. If you commonly behave this way professionally, expect to alienate more and more people.
Well, wow. I’ve certainly been impressed by the depth and insight of these open letters. I may disagree with the bottom line of these particular WOC, who believe they need abortion in their equation, but I certainly come away with a better understanding of where they are coming from. It is also clear there is unbridled animus against Planned Parenthood.
This is Deon Haywood…
So naturally, telling a room full of people that you’d like to put Katrina Jackson in a ring with her so she could kick Jackson’s ass isn’t going to go over all that well.
By the next day the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast issued an open letter apologizing for Flournoy.
By August 15 Flourney had posted news of her resignation on Facebook (now private)…
While it relieves me to see WOC “wary” of Planned Parenthood for using them to further its political agenda, this is only the display of a deeper insidious agenda, which is to profit from their woes. WOC must know by now they have a disproportionate share of abortions. This is because Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry target them.
The roots of the abortion industry are in the eugenics movement, which became popular in America after blacks were freed from slavery and no longer needed or wanted.
Reprinted with permission from JillStanek.com.
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