June 15, 2011

Convincing Blacks to Stop Aborting Our Babies

Jill Stanek's blog reports that the National Black ProLife Coalition (NBPC), via its spokesperson Walter Hoye announced 60 “BLACK&BEAUTIFUL” billboards have been placed in the Oakland, CA, area. The billboard campaign is being sponsored jointly with TooManyAborted.com (TMA). TMA is the group behind what they termed an anti-genocide “Blacks are an Endangered Species” billboard campaign which put up billboards like the one above in Atlanta to huge controversy.  They have now teamed up with NBPC to put up a new series of pro life messaging billboards in the black community (pictured below).

The Black & Beautiful billboard is the RIGHT message delivered in the RIGHT way.  Bravo! I applaud it and urge more of the same. 

I wish I could be as supportive of the other campaign billboards TMA plans to put up in Atlanta during the  Juneteenth celebrations (shown below) that use a slavery metaphor to sell the message, but I can't.  In my opinion, it is simply an ineffective tactic to "market" the pro life message to the black community by essentially reminding blacks that they were once slaves and insinuating abortion makes us slaves once again. That approach says to me that for the creators, they are more interested in selling their moral outrage than they are in successfully persuading a larger and larger number of blacks to come to a different consensus on the issue of abortion.

I'm convinced that if the pro-life message were a product and you sat down with a professional marketing person and asked them if a marketing approach which conflates abortion and slavery together, reminds blacks they were once slaves and tells them abortion makes them slaves again is the right way to sell them the pro life view, they would tell you no, its not. 

 This rhetorical approach in my opinion smacks more of self righteousness than it does care and concern for the loss of children in the black community to abortion. I have always considered it the wrong tack to take. The Black is Beautiful billboard is the right approach and the right tone.  Telling blacks in essence that they are slaves again is not. Why? Because slavery is a painful element of the past in the psyche of blacks and for all that our ancestors and elders survived it, often heroically, there is great shame attached to it. It was a period of horrific human degradation and essentially telling people they are being degraded in such a way presently is not the way to sell the pro-life position.  I think this rhetorical approach makes people angry and uncomfortable with the insinuation that they are slaves and degraded, NOT uncomfortable about their position on abortion.

If you were trying to appeal to or persuade women who had been raped to some point of view, you would probably not use imagery to make your case that insinuated that they were being raped again. I think people would find that very awkward and uncomfortable to say the least and would avoid doing such a thing.  I would argue that the National Black Pro Life Coalition and Too Many Aborted are making their case to black America in just such an awkward and uncomfortable fashion when they use billboards which conflate slavery and abortion.

Now, I can hear the immediate counter argument, which is that this is genocide and if people have to be made uncomfortable, so be it.  I can understand that point of view, but I think the tremendous emotionalism in this issue is actually the enemy of effectiveness when it comes to making the case to the black community. I'm NOT arguing that the analogy between slavery and abortion is not a cogent one.  I AM arguing that it is an ineffective analogy to use for purposes of persuading blacks to the pro life point of view. Its possible that it could be used effectively to make the case, but I have yet to see it done in a way that does.

So the question is, do you want to be emotional, right and self righteous, or do you want to win the issue in the long haul? NBPA and TMA should pound away on the issue with the Black is Beautiful approach and dispense with the slavery allusions.  Its an ineffective tactic that does not help persuade blacks to the pro life point of view.

UPDATE: JackBorsch, a commenter at JillStanek.com on this article makes what I consider a rather good point on this issue that I think is very relevant as well;

I don't think angry rhetoric and holding the abortion supporters of today responsible for the views of some of their [Planned Parenthood] founders is responsible or truthful. It’s ridiculous to take information from a time where racism was a given and try to paint people today with the same brush. Most whites from that time were either blatantly or subtly racist....It doesn’t make any sense to associate people living today with the ideologies of yesterday, unless they themselves hold them.

This goes to another element of my effectiveness argument against using slavery allusions in pro-life messaging.  Painting people who support abortion and Planned Parenthood as racists out to exterminate blacks one baby at a time isn't accurate, isn't the truth. So you're essentially selling the pro-life message with a lie and that undercuts the message.

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