At DePaul University in Chicago, it is now impossible to be both pro-life and pro-black lives — at least according the university’s president.
Last week, Fr. Dennis Holtschneider silenced the DePaul College Republicans, halting use of their proposed “Unborn Lives Matter” campaign on campus. In a letter explaining his decision, Holtschneider claimed, “Yet there will be times when some forms of speech challenge our grounding in Catholic and Vincentian values. When that happens, you will see us refuse to allow members of our community to be subjected to bigotry that occurs under the cover of free speech.” He went on to describe the advertising campaign as “[s]peech whose primary purpose is to wound” and called it “inconsistent with our Vincentian and Catholic values.”
Holtschneider may have believed these words when he wrote them, but his accusation rests on a baseless assumption of malicious intent on the part of the College Republicans. The poster blocked by the University merely imitates a well-known, popular phrasing of a powerful message, and one that the university had a chance, and perhaps even an obligation, to promote as an avenue for unity. Is it really so difficult to consider that the group’s reappropriation of “Black Lives Matter” is more akin to others’ reappropriation of the British mantra “Keep Calm and Carry On,” for example, than it is to mocking the rallying cry of a movement seeking justice and equality for African Americans?
Furthermore, when it comes to protecting and defending black lives, it can be argued quite compellingly that the pro-life movement is at the forefront. Just consider the numbers on abortion in the black community in the United States. Abortions performed on black mothers comprised between 30 and 35.4 percent of all such procedures performed in 2009, depending on whether you ask the Center for Disease Control or the Guttmacher Institute. This means that between 363,000 and 428,340 African-American children were killed in utero, as compared to the 286,623 blacks who died outside the womb. These are incredible statistics.
And it doesn’t end there. Margaret Sanger, founder of the abortion giant Planned Parenthood, was a known racist and eugenicist who wanted to promote abortion to “exterminate the Negro population” (her words, not mine). So, with Planned Parenthood being the leading provider of abortions in America, there’s a clear reason for common cause between Black Lives Matter and the College Republicans, even if they would make for otherwise strange bedfellows.
But Fr. Holtschneider, with the stroke of his pen, has all but eliminated the possibility of such a partnership. Rather than encourage a possibly golden opportunity for dialogue between two powerful — and typically opposed — movements, DePaul’s president has instead divided his community and embroiled his university in controversy. What a shame.
Kevin Dawson is the Operations Manager at American Principles Project.