August 23rd, 2008

corset & bougainvillea

Why fuck 20/20?

The show begins with a funeral in a cemetery. Family members stand around the grave in the rain. A young woman cries. It's an open casket funeral. The dead? A newborn baby girl.

That's not the only close up of a dead baby you'll see in 20/20's special "Babyland," (The title refers to the section of the potter's field where babies are buried.) There will be others, all black, as well as shots of their grieving parents.

Now, it's great and all that ABC decided to address the United States' high infant mortality rate, and to point out that black babies are three times more likely to die than white ones, and to focus on Memphis, TN, where a baby dies every 43 hours.

However.

That's where my appreciation for what the show attempted to do ends and my anger and disgust kick in.

During the last five years of war, we have regularly been informed that it is disrespectful and in bad taste to show dead soldiers on television. But apparently it's fine to show dead babies--as long as they're black. I have no doubt in my mind that were these children and their families white, the crew would not have violated their private grief in this way.

And why are so many of these babies dying? Why are so many of them born premature?

Institutional racism and classism are apparently not the problem. Nope--inequities in access to good prenatal and pediatric care surely are not the problem. The absence of relevant sexual and reproductive education instead of the abstinence BS our current administration insists on funding exclusively? Of course not. Access to birth control? No. Poverty? Nuh uh.

You know what the problem is? These girls are young and are having babies out of wedlock and are killing their kids.

Let's ignore the fact that pregnancy among teenage girls has been on a sharp decline--between 1990 and 2002, the pregnancy rate declined by 35% nationally and 40% among black teenage girls specifically and has declined even further since then. But why would we want to point THAT out when instead we could focus on The Great White Hope: a white missionary from a wealthy Memphis suburb who talks young black girls out of having abortions.

And, of course, it took all of ten minutes for the reporter, Elizabeth Vargas, to start asking the pediatric ICU doctors how much it cost to save the many premature babies--because, AHA!, that's why you should care--your tax dollars are going to save the lives of little black babies, and we can't have THAT, now can we?

And all that in just the first 15 minutes. We changed the channel because Usain Bolt in the 4x100 relay was so much hotter than the clusterfuck on Channel 7.