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Memo to the World: Black Mothers Matter Too!

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Kimberly Seals Allers: I have a gripe. I hate to start off airing grievances, but I figured I'd get this one off my chest so I can move on to other things. So here it is: there's a dominant mommy culture in this country and its face is mostly white and affluent.

black mother and daughter

That bothers me because Black mothers have an important perspective, unique insights, and many of the same across-the-board issues as all moms, but we are often overlooked in all the great mommy debates. We aren't seen as the thinkers in this mommy movement, not respected as an important perspective in shaping the future of say, maternity leave and childcare issues, nor is our journey in motherhood told in cutesy books or network sitcoms.

My fear is that there's some dangerous subliminal messaging here and the message is this; my job as a Black mother is simple: make sure my children don't become future criminals, gangsta rappers, dog-fighters, teenage mothers, or welfare recipients. Our hands are full; let's leave the policy making and big picture idea-shaping to someone else.

But more strikingly, I fear that black women are still viewed as breeders not nurturing mothers, women who "end up" mothers and not those who choose and embrace the path of motherhood. Hey, we're too busy rolling our necks, cussin' or smacking up our kids to take part in esoteric conversations about enacting meaningful legislation that supports mothers.

The last bit of blame falls on us. We have to speak up. We too want the best for our children, better maternity leave options, and flex-time schedules that aren't career killers. The truth is, we are intentional parents with supportive husbands and our relationships are not just baby mama drama. We can learn a little sumthin' from our Caucasian sisters here--if they have an issue they will create a community, live or online, in a minute. They will speak up, they will march, or start a foundation, but they will be heard. We can start by viewing our voice as important and demanding to be heard. We can start by rallying together. The world is officially on notice.

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95 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous April 3, 2009, 8:24 AM

it’s sad that you feel this way, because i (a white woman) don’t feel this way at all. i think we all (no matter what race) want to make sure our children don’t become all the things you said, and go thru all the same (and different) things as mothers. we all want to make sure they turn into responsible, loving, smart, couragious, outgoing adults.

Anonymous April 3, 2009, 9:20 AM

Sometimes I think women of color try to perpetuate a stereotype of themselves that caucasian women in general really don’t see. Most “white” moms do not think of “black” moms in the way your article implies. Sure there are the few radical thinkers/stereotypers in all races but really, this article is so not necessary because it perpetuates a scenario that really only exists in the black woman’s mind. Move on, you’re a mom, you have more important things to worry about.

Jessica  April 3, 2009, 11:16 AM

Both of you posted as anonymous- and I can see why. You have the perspective of someone who is not a person of color. No matter how you slice it, you just don’t get it. And this article wasn’t really meant for you anyway. It was meant for black mothers to hear the call and stand up as an influential part of the motherhood movement. She is absolutely right that you don’t see black mothers on TV (commercials, shows, movies) very often that don’t portray us as negative stereotypes. Do you see any black mothers on that new show “In the Motherhood”? No you don’t. And that’s just one example. So if you can’t look at this through our eyes and from our perspective, you shouldn’t bother commenting.

bethany April 3, 2009, 11:30 AM

Sorry JESSICA, i was the first anonymous poster and my name is BETHANY, i simply forgot to put my name in…not that it matters, my name in there doesn’t mean you know me! and just for the record, i don’t know one person who feels the way about black people as described in this article, so i agree with the 2nd anonymous poster that you put it in your heads. i don’t look at black mothers any different, they are MOM’S, just like me. the world isn’t the way it was 50 years ago (obviously since we have a black president!). AS A MOM i still have the same fears as the mother writing the article has about raising a good kid and not some murderous monster. the article was meant for moms….it’s on a “mom” site.

Vita David April 3, 2009, 12:04 PM

Bethany, thank you I am glad I read your posting before I wrote mine,,,thank you I feel the same way, so I will not repeat it. I will add this one thing…Mothers are Mothers , no matter what race!!!!—we all want the same exact things for our children—when we look in the mirror we all see one thing A Mommy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Christina April 3, 2009, 12:46 PM

Why does race even have to be a part of this issue, why can’t it just be about mothers joining together? I’m sorry but I don’t understand why race is brought into every issue. Motherhood is something that women of ALL colors experience. Articles like this are not helping unite us!

Indignant Daughter April 3, 2009, 12:58 PM

Why does everything have to be about race?Just because you are black, doesn’t mean you can complain about everything. Movies about the first black football team..then swim team..then track star…whats next?What is this obsession with black culture?

Yes your ancestors were abused and enslaved, but its OVER!Let it go!And stop acting so self-righteous.

Tasha April 3, 2009, 1:48 PM

I love the fact that people who are not black always ask why it has to be about race. Until you live it, don’t question it. When everyday you see someone on TV, magazines or movies that look like you…of course you don’t get it. Everyday, I…a black women go on several websites for mothers and have to read numerous articles becfore I come across one that has a picture of someone that looks like me. Most times, I can go a a whole day looking at celebrity kids, or mothers and not see any black faces online. I don’t understand why thats so hard to understand. You want to see and read about people like yourself. Just because you give us a few movies or random tv shows doesn’t make the problem go away.

kim April 3, 2009, 2:55 PM

tasha - i hate that people that aren’t white always think that white people see them as a certain way that we don’t. until you live as a another person (no matter the race or gender) you can’t tell them how they feel about certain things. this article is telling me how i feel about black mothers - and for the record i don’t feel this way at all. we are all mothers, i wish everyone could help eachother rather than knock eachother down. we already have breastfeeding mothers vs fomula feeding mothers…SAHM vs working moms…homeshooling moms vs public school moms……now we have to add black moms vs white moms?????? count me out!

Anonymous April 3, 2009, 2:57 PM

I think the reason this stereotype exists is because there is truth to it. If you look at statistics of low income housing, teen pregnancy, affairs, murder, high school dropouts, it is usually in more impoverished neighborhoods where the gov’t doesn’t get the funding to properly educate and take care of it’s residents and many (not all) of those residents some seem to be trying to improve their situation. It is a double edged sword and every member of the black (or any) community can rise above it.

Also, you have to ask yourself WHO is exacerbating this stereotype. The majority of actors/singers that are black are the ones agreeing to play these roles in the media. So, it is a decision many are making to act this way.

I know many woman of different race and cultures that are excellent and educated mothers, and I know many white families where I fear for the kids b/c the parents are so messed up. All races have stellar individuals as well as messed up ones.

Amber April 3, 2009, 3:06 PM

The first two anonymous posters were supportive and understanding, and yet Jessica still went on the bash them.

So, when white people DO try and help, we still get accused of “not getting it”

And, why is this article “not meant for white women” as well? Even when there is a call for equality and the “white” women support it, we get told to basically back down. Aren’t we all supposed to be lifting each other up, no matter our race?

itch April 3, 2009, 3:16 PM

Oh boo, playing the race card. I love how there is this car in my neighborhood that has a huge sticker saying “Black Pride” and everyone is ok with it. However if someone put “White Pride” on their car they would be called all sorts of things.
And lets look at the ‘N’ word. I have heard more black people use it than white people. As far as I am concerned, no one should use it.
Its 2009, get over it.
Oh, and there are sitcoms with black mothers to.

Shelly April 3, 2009, 3:20 PM

Amen Amber! Oh, and yall do have Michelle Obama in the White House setting the example of a nurturing mother. Being 1st lady beats any sitcom or book.

Joyce April 3, 2009, 6:26 PM

I am a white woman who lived in a part of the country that is 99.5% white. My brother married a black woman. My son is 5 years older than her son. She never has issues calling me and asking how I dealt with “this issue” when my son was that age. She even calls me for advice when her brother’s even younger son has acted up. She is now living in the same town that is 99.5% white. I never fit in that town, so I let her know how to deal with the mentality there.
Mothering issues transcend race, and everything else. We all want our children to excel and be the best they can be.

Theresa April 3, 2009, 6:30 PM

you know Im a mother of 2 boys. I worry every day about things. Not because im white, black ,hispanic etc. but because im a “mother” .. I don’t think it should always be about race.There are plenty of ppl out there that feel the same way as you do.We are not black.so to say that we don’t understand or dont get it is rediculous.

nicole April 3, 2009, 9:06 PM

wow. this dialogue does not surprise me. white women hate to be called out. it is uncomfortable and scary for you to look at your privilege—to acknowledge that your viewpoint is supported by the hegemony of the dominant white protestant culture. your white privilege allows you to not see race as an issue; to even be annoyed and outraged at a woman of color voicing her frustration at not having a voice is threatening to you. We were much more useful to you as your mammies and nursemaids is the subtext in your outrage at our “back talk.” you don’t understand. you don’t get it. this is a fact not to be contested but rather a shortcoming you need to explore in your communities with each other. just google white privilege and see what comes up. you might gain some insight into how different moms of color are when it comes to raising our brown children in a country that does not value them.

MonicaUK April 3, 2009, 9:35 PM

Well said Nicole and Jessica! There is so much that mothers, regardless of race bring to the world but the sad fact is that race HAS been an issue for so long. that is why programs like In The Motherhood have no Black, Hispanic, Asian or Indian moms. THANK YOU MOM LOGIC for having the guts to step outside the boundaries of the mainstream mom movement. Kim, Itch & Bethany, did you actually READ the full story? the writer mentions things that us black moms could learn from our white sisters. there is no us against them here… chillax! I for one will be coming back to see what else Ms Allers has to say….

MyBrownBaby April 3, 2009, 10:31 PM

Let’s be very clear: Kimberly’s viewpoint is not to be dismissed just because YOU don’t agree with it. I’m an African American mom and a lot of what she speaks of here is very real, whether YOU specifically participate in it/perpetuate it/support it or not. We are rarely a part of the parenting debate—hardly ever invited to the table for our opinions and perspective. It’s not just about a TV show, either; it’s about our place in the dissemination of information when it comes to motherhood. And instead of bashing Kimberly’s opinion or disagreeing with it so vehemently (in defense of yourself), maybe you could consider stepping back from it and really LISTENING to what she’s saying. Until I can look on the New York Times best seller’s list and see a book by a mom of color breaking down parenting for ALL, or turn on a national news show and see that a black mom has been invited to give her expert opinion about something other than race, or I can take my child to a park in my affluent neighborhood and have fellow moms RECOGNIZE AND TALK TO ME like I’m a fellow mom instead of “the help,” then we ALL have work to do. And that’s real, whether you want to acknowledge it or not.

Um, and one voice is not enough. Michelle O has been First Lady for what, like, three months? Do we really think that her three months in the spotlight changes more than 200 years of history? Oh, how I wish it could my dear mothers. But it simply can’t. And it won’t change until we all agree on the basics: Black moms do not get equal treatment/time/spotlight in the motherhood debate.

Thank you, Kimberly, for always breaking it down so it’ll forever be broke. And thank you MomLogic, for having the courage and conviction to create a forum for her to tell it like it t-i-is. I can’t wait to see more.

Denene Millner
MyBrownBaby.blogspot.com

Bec Thomas April 3, 2009, 10:47 PM

I get so tired of the Black vs White issue, you’d think that there are not other ethnic groups in this country.

Jessica April 3, 2009, 11:40 PM

Hi Amber, Jessica here again. So just to clarify, you think I was bashing the first two anonymous moms who posted, but that wasn’t my intention. And let me just quote #2 “it perpetuates a scenario that really only exists in the black woman’s mind”. Really? I mean, really?? I’m not allowed to take offense to that? That statement is so sad to me because it just says it all. There isn’t even an attempt on behalf of #2 to see things from someone else’s perspective and in someone else’s shoes. I didn’t go off on Bethany and #2 and generalize about their race. How dare someone who isn’t black say that she thinks it’s all in our heads. That we don’t know the difference between reality and exaggeration. Here’s another thing. I’m not just black. I’m black, WHITE, and Japanese. And I’m proud to be all three. And most people can’t tell what the hell I am when they meet me unless they ask. But I’m with a Black man, I have Black children, I have a Black mother, and I grew up in the Black culture. I have a unique perspective because of who I am and my mixed background. As a child I’ve seen my mother be treated as if she were my nanny and not my mother because she is Black. I do believe that there should be unity and that all mothers want the same positive things for their children. But there needs to be understanding and acknowledgement on both sides that things are not equal. First Lady Michelle Obama is a great step towards progress, but like MyBrownBaby said, it doesn’t erase daily struggles, stereotypes and generalizations put on black women/mothers. It would have been great to see someone post that they don’t necessarily agree with the article, but they can’t really understand where it comes from because they themselves have never LIVED it. At least that would have shown that they were thinking about what it would be like to be a black mother, instead of immediately going on the defensive and making comments like “women of color try to perpetuate a stereotype of themselves that caucasian women in general really don’t see. ” Read that again. We actually try to concoct stereotypes of ourselves ladies!!! Because not enough of them exist already.
P.S. Didn’t mean to wind you up there Bethany.


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