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Sociology Professor Tells ‘Black Woman’s Burden’

Kent State University sociology assistant professor Nicole Rousseau chronicled the role of black women’s wombs in America’s capitalist society over 400 years during a lecture to Belmont students on March 19.

Winner of the 2010 North Central Sociological Association Scholarly Achievement Award, Rousseau gave an outline of her book The Black Woman’s Burden: Commodifying Black Reproduction.

During slavery, black women were raped and forced to reproduce to provide labor for the agricultural South. During the U.S. industrial era, blacks were seen as parasites and sterilizations were mandated through the eugenics movements and The Negro Project. Today, sterilization is coerced through programs such as Project Prevention, which offers people with drug and alcohol addictions cash for sterilization. In Illinois, unwed mothers under21 are asked to have their tube tied immediately after giving birth to a second child, and wards of the state also are given cash incentives for sterilization. Each of these instances disproportionately affects women and minorities, Rousseau said.

“The reality is that this is an unnerving trend,” she said. “The idea is appalling that there are currently public debates about birth control and someone else’s body. This is a slippery slope because it legitimizes someone else making decisions for a woman.”

The Black Woman’s Burden explores bureaucracy, institutionalized racism, political economy and black women as a unique labor class while drawing from black feminism, the womanist theory and the critical race theory.

Rousseau earned her doctorate in Sociology from Howard University.  Her work on the structural and institutional roots of race, class and gender inequalities, social rhetoric and identity formation, and Historical Womanist theory have been included in several publications in the United States and South America.

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