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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
Liz April 3, 2009, 11:46 PM

All this talk about race…Oh, PLEASE! Get over yourselves. Every race, culture, color has dealt with turmoil one way or another. Every single person on this planet deals with life’s problems but they all manifest in different ways. When will this “color” debate be over? Seriously, you’re not getting any reperations so get over it and move forward. The richest woman in the country is black and she came from nothing.

MyBrownBaby April 3, 2009, 11:51 PM

@Bec: I’m sorry that you’re tired of the “Black vs. White” issue, and you’re absolutely right: there are more than just black and white people living here in America. But Kimberly is speaking about what SHE knows. I wouldn’t expect her to give her opinion on how a Latina mom or an Asian mom or a Russian mom feels about her place in the motherhood debate, seeing as she’s not Latina, Asian or Russian. She’s speaking about her experience, and should be applauded for raising her voice—just like everyone else gets to when it comes time to talk about motherhood.

MyBrownBaby April 3, 2009, 11:54 PM

Oh snap… did she say reparations? Really? That was the take-away from this conversation? Wow. Just… wow.

NYCity Mama April 3, 2009, 11:58 PM

You know what saddens me about the responses to this post? That one mom spoke up about a situation that is her personal experience, her reality, and honestly the reality of many mothers of color in the USA. Her expressing her experiences, albeit that as a woman of color, is no different than any other woman or mother, expressing their personal experience with us. And often times, I have seen that though we may not “personally” be the issue causing the mother grief, and though we may not “personally” be the reason she feels this way, or we may not “personally” relate, we try, as women, as mothers, to sympathize, to be supportive, and to be there in spirit. In stead, this post, from the get, was taken personally, as if she named people by name. Attacks on her opinion, her thoughts, and the ridicule of her opinion and discredit of her feelings went wild. Review your responses. See how you have taken this an made it about YOU. I am disappointed to say the least. This isn’t a White vs Black issue, this isn’t them against us issue, this is a perspective that many women of color have. You may not agree, you may not see it that way, you may feel attacked or personally offended, but it nevertheless remains this mom’s and many other mom’s reality. So where’s the support? Where’s the empathy? Why all the anger and hostility? The belittling comments basically saying “Shut the hell up there’s a Black woman in office now!” What?? She’s not crying victimization, she’s sharing a piece of her with us all. Let’s step back and think about what it might be like for her, and if you can’t, because really, many just can’t (and that’s not an insult, it just is) then let’s be supportive listeners, join in on the conversation, and the call. It’s not about YOU. Shameful. Seriously. Shameful.

Sophia April 4, 2009, 12:01 AM

I think Kim is on target.This is a sensitive topic. This is also true. Have you ever watched the Today Show, Good Morning America, The View or any other show having a guest speaker about Motherhood be an African American Mother. NO.It is what it is. It is also strange to me why white people don’t see it but, black people of course we see it.So does many other races its not only black mothers its all other races. I’ve never seen an African American mom/specialist ie: KIM speak on such topics. HOW STRANGE (SHE HAS A BOOK)and its actually very good. I’m happy we are venting this is good maybe this will change something. Kim just wondering are you on oprahs book club yet?






Shellfish April 4, 2009, 5:11 AM

Well…this is an important topic and thanks for address this issues

Shellfish April 4, 2009, 5:34 AM

We as Black Mother are stereotyped…but in the end we are good mothers….we enderal a lot from society..
Society has a way of using us and throwing us away or stereotyping us…

But, as I walk thru Central Park in NY…all I see is Women of color as Nannies…nurturing and bringing up these hard head kids…while most of their white mother/fathers are too busy for them..or do not want to be bother with them….
.
I also see in the nursing homes, women of color are the prodomit care-takers…. nurturing and caring for elderly patients..some are left there because their family is “Too Busy” or have no use for them now!

So, what I’m saying, If women of color are taking care of people “most” precious people…
Then why are we put down and stereotype……?

It sound like some type of mix up here….

My question is Why do people only want and trust their “most precious” to women of color or Black Women?

And another question is: Why is that the more money you have the less you time you want to spend with your kids and put the kids off on women of color..and then turn around an ostracize and belittle “Black Women” after she has raise your kids when you were too busy or did not want to be bother with your OWN KIDS and your Elderly..?

MonicaUK April 4, 2009, 7:07 AM

Liz - Ha haa! Reparations - really? If you weren’t so ignorant you’d be dangerous

NYCity Mama April 4, 2009, 9:11 AM

I wanted to add that I sat down with my husband just to show him the level of hostility woman (mothers) can display towards another when topics like these come up….I can’t tell you how many times…yeah, he thought the “first lady in the white house”, the “reparations”, the “why is everything about race” all those comments that dismissed what Kim is saying were incredibly sad. And he is also disappointed that people are so quick to be defensive that they don’t take the time to listen and think. He understands what woman, mothers like myself and Kim and others go through. He gets it. Oh yeah…he’s also White.

WeParent April 4, 2009, 12:59 PM

Kimberly, thank you for being courageous enough to stir up discussion about this challenge in a forum like this. I am encouraged that MomLogic recognizes the need to make space for your voice which represents many of ours. Yes, we are all mothers, and as mothers many of our challenges, victories, concerns, etc. at their essence transcend race and class. But, they are translated through our experience of just those things, race/class, and therefore can look and feel very different in their manifestation. Yes, like many other mothers, I worry about giving my child the best possible education, but I do it within a context where statistically, my son has a significantly higher probability of being judged as behaviorally challenged than other children despite any advantages that my income, level of educational attainment or family stability may afford him. He is less likely to ever be taught by a person who looks like him. Not the best examples, but my point is that my experience as a mother is very much influenced by the fact that I am a Black woman and he is a Black male. For me, what your post says is that my voice matters, not that it should dominate, not that it must judge, but that it is worthy of being heard, considered and integrated into the process by which we as Mothers organize ourselves to create and push for solutions that allow us to provide the best for all of our children. Again, thank you for being willing to provoke and endure the certain emotional responses that all of us will have as we challenge ourselves to open up our minds and our hearts toward the end of maternal collaboration.

BeeK April 4, 2009, 1:00 PM

Thanks for this post Kimberly. It’s important that opinions of all mothers be heard. I wish that others had read this post with the hope of being exposed to someone else’s experience, not to bash it, but rather to understand. We all see the world through our own eyes, but we grow when we’re able to see it through someone else’s eyes. Non-white women do have a different experience. That’s the truth…maybe an unfortunate one, but it’s the truth.

AMomof4 April 4, 2009, 1:23 PM

Hmmm happened upon this article and now feel compelled to reply too. As a white mom of four now all in college, my first reaction to this is (sorry) again I don’t feel this way about black or any other color moms. Do we really need to segregate into black mom, white moms, hispanic moms etc??
A Mother is a Mother. And, if you perceive that white women are all affluent , they are not and if you feel white women go do something about their concerns why do you feel you need to create a separate group? Did you try to JOIN them?
I may live in a bubble but I am in the Midwest and when a woman who is not caucasian crosses my path I do not think all the things you assume I do.
My children attended a very integrated grade school. Their classmates were Asian, Indian, Black, Hispanic and a few whites. Actually we travelled across town to a school that we did not fit into as far as socioeconomic background and white was the minority. I never encountered a black/hispanic/white/indian/asian segregation of motherly concerns. We all worked together for the good of the school and our kids.
The way the world is going, Moms need to unite, not separate into different colored groups!

cam April 4, 2009, 7:18 PM

I am a white mother. I grew up in a town where I was the minority. I’ve seen how wonderful, loving, strict and outspoken all mothers are. Black, hispanic and white at least.
I agree that there isn’t enough out there showing the wonderful sides of being a different race. I’m hoping that having the Obama’s on the forefront that there will begin to be more tv shows showing different races in general in a more positive light. I would also like for my kids to see people as a whole and not just race.
I am married to a hispanic man and we have two children with another on the way. I see how parents in my daughter’s preschool go off in groups. Polish, white, hispanic and blacks just go off to separate corners. Since my children are ‘mixed’ races they just interact with everyone. Because of that I make sure to interact with all the parents that my kids interact with. She’s trying to learn Polish since her two friends speak it. She already has English and Spanish down. Hopefully things will begin to change…it won’t happen overnight.

sokhna heathyre April 4, 2009, 9:55 PM

wow - what a whirlwind of defensiveness & guilt to navigate through…mothers - we will never get anywhere with this topic because before we are mothers we are human…white has white experience through privilege & EVERYONE else (brought up american) has their experience…i am of blended ethnicities - i identify as indigenous…i am fair, but juicy lipped, broad-nosed & kinky haired & very beautiful & what the world aspires to be…so are my children…and in this day & age when we play on the playground people luv us, but they luv our color first, our hair first, our ‘exoticness’ first - they do not luv us first…we of color know what we know & must stop worrying about it - we are gifted & talented like no others, stop the shuffering & schmiling…& peeps of euro descent - stop pretending that u don’t know people of color are in pain, because our pain is your displaced fear/pain magnified! - stop pretending that racism has ended, stop pretending that, unless you are on the front line fighting for elevation & justice, your ignorance only perpetuates the cavernous separations between us in this world…humans are devolving & destroying the plant because we do not identify as one! mothers support their children killing other peoples children in wars!!! stop the madness women!!! we all are in a place of either feeding the destruction or feeding the healing - it took nothing for kim’s words to fuel a fight - everyone is ready to fight because stereotypical beliefs are on the skin of the mind - a strange fruit that is all-ways ripe & ready to be picked…euro peeps - i will give you all some info - & it’s the truth - PEOPLE OF COLOR IN AMERICA GET 2 EXPERIENCES, THEIR IMMEDIATE EXPERIENCE IN THEIR FAMILIES & HOME-CULTURE & THE WHITE EXPERIENCE OF AMERICAN CULTURE - TV, RADIO, PUBLIC SCHOOL, CHURCH, WORK, SHOPPING, NEIGHBORHOODS, ETC…if you live in an area that is 99.5% white, what kind of thoughts do you think you will have about blacks, indians, asians, native americans, etc? do you think you are neutral & clear? stop the madness…i am blessed to have my experience - i fit in anywhere because i don’t fit in anywhere, & the same goes with my children - we are free to be we…i am a great woman who is a great mother & i pray that everyone who reads kim’s post finds the holiness of being a woman & the sacredness of being a woman - nurturing, guiding, supporting, loving, supplying, creating, commanding & BLESSED BY THE UNIVERSE TO EVEN BE A MOTHER! “the love we withhold is the pain we carry” - alex collier

sokhna heathyre April 4, 2009, 10:01 PM

i pray that woman discovers the holiness of being a woman and the sacredness of being a mother…”the love we withhold is the pain we carry.” alex collier

Rachel April 5, 2009, 2:20 PM

What a racist moron. This woman probably thinks Obama will pay her bills too. I’m a black woman but maried a white guy, I certainly don’t see this as race related.

bethany April 5, 2009, 6:04 PM

sorry jessica….when things are typed it’s hard to tell people’s tones :)

bethany April 5, 2009, 6:10 PM

jessica, i may also be a little nieve (spelled it wrong). i guess i like to think that we are all moms and worry the same no matter what race/gender we are. we all love our children and want the best for them.

Sarah April 5, 2009, 6:29 PM

I agree with the person who said that “women of color try to perpetuate a stereotype of themselves that caucasian women in general really don’t see.” The bad part about that statement, though, is that, obviously, some women do feel that they aren’t looked at as serious mothers because they’re black and that is an issue that needs to be dealt with. I, too, get tired of listening to the old black catch phrase, “Well, my ancestors were slaves, so I feel like somebody owes me something…” Blah, Blah, Blah….and I will just say this, “Africans started selling Africans, White men didn’t start the slave trade. That being said, I also must say that there is still, and unfortunately will probably always be, racism in this country. It is a very sad fact, especially for people like me who find it hard to judge someone based on skin color. I have a black niece and nephew, an Italian nephew, and a Nicaraguan son and a Mexican daughter. My family is just about as mixed as it gets. I must admit, though, that sometimes even I feel like my children are discriminated against because of their Latino heritage and, as a mother, that infuriates me. I don’t know what will ever solve the problem of stereotypes and prejudice in this country, but I’m sure that some aspect of it will always be with us. However, I have to say that a vast majority of white women don’t consider themselves better mothers just because they’re white. It is unfortunate that the media downplays black womens’ roles in the joys of motherhood, but you have to remember that the media doesn’t reflect the whole of society. I ask that for those black women who feel that they are being discriminated against as mothers to please remember that all of us white girls are not the same and if you feel like you want to step up and do something, I whole heartedly support you!

Toni Grant April 5, 2009, 9:54 PM

Dear Sarah: The trade of enslaved Africans in the Atlantic has its origins in the explorations of Portuguese mariners down the coast of West Africa in the 15th century. Before that, contact with African slave markets was made to ransom Portuguese that had been captured by the intense North African Barbary pirate attacks to the Portuguese ships and coastal villages, frequently leaving them depopulated. To paraphrase if any of this goes over your head, Spaniards were the first to prophet from slaves not Africans so please stop it. Watch AMISTAD again for a history lesson if you can’t pick up a book. What the hell is this for and does that excuse slavery no matter what clown that this greedy, inhumane act was right?

The obligatory naming of the mixed people in your family only makes you look silly. Honey, we are ALL mixed. You have a lot of reading to do.

The BLAH, BLAH, BLAH comment displays your full ignorance. Did you ever share your thoughts about how tired you are of hearing black people allegedly say these things. Or, are you like the rest of these folks, looking for a cowardly way to air your grievances with ‘black’ commentary and used this forum to do so?

This is all sad. Re-read Kim’s comments and offer an honest solution. Where the heck did you feel talking about who started the slave trade was necessary. Totally insensitive and uncool. If Kimberly was Jewish would you mention that anything about Hitler, or if she was native american would you apologize to her since it is a fact that Europeans completely destroyed this race of people and had a poor attempt of erasing the American Indiain from American history, when in fact THEY are American History……..feeling silly yet? If not, you should……get a grip, know your history and relax.

Thanks Kim, some people get it - no matter the race


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