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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
Shellfish April 6, 2009, 6:48 AM

All of us as Mothers are doing our best with our children regardless of race…..
As Mothers as a whole we should stick together and bring down these sterotype barriers…and be an inpiration to each other…

We already have a hard enough job balancing kids, careers, house duties and Hubby..
So, from this point on…>>>>Let’s inspire each other and over look the adversity here…..and move forward….

Magenta April 6, 2009, 10:08 AM

I’m agree with you Kimberly. I live in NYC, the home of a Black mother constantly being mistaken for the nanny, babysitter, or housekeeper by White mothers. I’m a brush you shoulders off kinda girl though like my man Obama and Jay-Z. What I find too, in addition to Black mothers being ignored or dismissed, is that White mothers don’t respect our children or our space. I can’t tell you how many times, I’m about to break somebody’s hand (not literally) for trying to put their hands in my child’s hair. As if their personal space doesn’t matter. Also, if a little kid scuffle breaks out in the park, you better believe the only child of color will be fingered even when they where no where near the argument. Which is why I’m leery of hanging out with White moms and their children. I live in the one of the most diverse and liberal cities in the country, but it also one of the most racist.

sokhna heathyre April 6, 2009, 11:12 AM

i live in nyc as well - a clear place 2 c real actions as it is perhaps the most international place in the world…magenta - it is the most real place in the world…the reaction to my above comment shocked me, coming from a sister! just goes to show everyone that what i wrote is true - i am writing from my heart…as i wrote b4, it took nothing 4 kimberly’s blog 2 set of blaming & accusing - we r all ripe 4 reaction rather than action…as mothers, how will we teach compassion when we have none 4 those who are already here? how will we teach responsibility when we are not even responsible 4 our own thinking & how will we teach service when we are ignorant of our beliefs…that is all i wuz saying…name calling?! what r u teaching ur child?! blessup everyone! i’m all 4 creating round tables & holding monthly circles - 4 strength, support, networking…i hold a women’s yoga on my roof once a week on sunny days & we work it out!!! nyc mamas - u r welcome, just bring a mat…women of color - sometimes we need 2 b alone, i also teach a healing class 4 us in brooklyn - u r welcom…so heal up!!!!!!!!

nik April 6, 2009, 11:30 AM

I found the author’s article very interesting. I’m a white mother, and probably wouldn’t have considered Ms. Allers’ viewpoint. I’m thankful I have an open mind to read points of view I haven’t before heard and think about them logically. Without flying off the handle.

I will say that I work with a black mother who is one of my inspirations. Her two sons are two of the most polite cheerful kids (ages 11 & 13) I’ve ever met. AND they love to read…a love I’m trying very hard to instill in my own soon to be three year old son.

That being said, I certainley don’t think that my anecdotal evidence over-rides what is probably a universal feeling that black mothers feel.

I also think it’s pretty patronizing and condescending when a group of people are completely dismissive of thoughts and feelings of another group of people. If black mothers do feel left out and stereotyped, who are we as white people to say that they are ridiculous for feeling that way? Particularly when we haven’t had a chance to walk a mile in their shoes.

I will point out that Ms. Allers didn’t say anything about the slave trade, the “N” word or reparations. She is talking about the black mothering experience. I find it interesting that some white people who commented are the ones who brought up those extraneous subjects. As though black experiences can not be separated.

NYCity Mama April 6, 2009, 12:02 PM

Thank you Nik. I was waiting for someone to point that out. Well said!

Lark's MAMA April 6, 2009, 1:40 PM

I agree Kimberly! I always wondered if I joined a non-black organization for mothers, would my opinions and ideas really be respected? Would I just be an addition to their quest to seem more diverse? I live in Hosuton, Texas (the good ole boy sate…lol) And these are questions we ask ourselves all the time. It is refreshing to know we are not the only ones who feel this way. Of course ‘being heard’ has it’s pros and cons, but it is worth it for our children for us to get involved. I would want my daughter to do the same thing.
And to the white mothers ,thanks for your opinions. I disagree with a few things, but thanks. In the future, please do not assume what black women see themselves as…..we already know and we are not pulling this out of our behinds…these are valid feelings and points that should be discussed.

Karen S April 6, 2009, 2:18 PM

When Megan Mullally is the blackest thing on a show called “In the Motherhood,” it might be time to revisit America’s race relations. The idea that lighter is better still rules in America; note how the female animals in Disney cartoons are invariably lighter than their male counterparts. It is an uncomfortable truth that white people in general have advantages that other races don’t. Just because you don’t see yourself as racist doesn’t mean that race doesn’t matter. I’m hoping that Tiger Woods and Barack Obama might eventually soften the racial divisions that still exist, but seeing as how they are both considered black rather than mixed, I think we’ve got a long way to go.

Karen S April 6, 2009, 2:31 PM

Oh, and as for a direct response to the actual post — I really hope(d) that Fox labeling Michelle “Obama’s baby mama” would create more of a movement. Let’s get it going, ladies!

Western Lady April 6, 2009, 2:54 PM

Indignant Daughter - you sound so ignorant. Black history is so important in the overall history of our country. Their history is SO not limited to slavery. That is a big part of their history, but just a part. It’s understandable that they feel isolated from other mothers and feel as though, like the author said, their only role is to keep their kids from becoming gangsters and dog fighters, etc.

Society and the media perpetuates this image of black women that is so far from the truth!

Not only do black mothers need to stand up and say, “Hey, we have ideas and opinions that are relevant to parenting too!” But all mothers should band together and learn from each other and help to stop the rediculousness of the media and its biast, racist, absolutely stereotpyical view of the African American culture.

Deanna April 6, 2009, 7:27 PM

I am a new mom and I would like to agree with the author of the article. To further her point… today on Oprah the entire show was dedicated to moms and motherhood. Oprah had a panel of mothers giving their perspective about motherhood and there wasn’t a person of color on her panel. OPRAH should want to highlight women of color being one herself, BUT she didn’t. Imagine that!

Julie April 7, 2009, 8:19 AM

I am really and truly disgusted to read some of the closed minded comments made by some of the mothers. How will we teach our children to be open minded and accepting of all people if we can’t be ourselves. Did we even read the article? It was not written to offend white women or put anyone down. Why take offense to what was said? I know it can make people uncomfortable to talk about race sometimes but putting it all out on the table and being brutally honest may be the only way to really move foward. And I don’t see how people can say that it’s all in black women’s own minds. Did you ever sit down and really think about how many positive black mothers you see portrayed on TV? If you can count them on your fingers, that probably gives the article a little validity. And it’s not just about what’s on TV. But don’t you think that reflects our culture a little bit. I think everybody needs to stop taking offense so quickly and try to see life through somebody else’s eyes.

Crystal Arcand April 7, 2009, 10:21 AM

Am I the only mom that’s agitated that black mothers aren’t the only ones left out? What about Islanders? Their skin color may look the same as black moms, but the culture is different. Let’s look at Polynesian moms, Indian moms, Asian moms, Latina moms. A lot of moms are left out of the “White is better, smarter, etc” policy here.


This isn’t just black and white. This is a failure to look beyond our own noses - no matter what color they are.


Oh, and I’m a fair-skinned mom of European and Native-American descent, since everyone’s so concerned about the skin tone of the commenters here. Not that it matters. It doesn’t. Well, it SHOULDN’T.

Here’s an idea - approach a mom that looks or acts differently than you and get to know her as a woman. Ask her what she thinks. Ask her how she does things. Respect her. Learn from her. Love her. Then introduce someone else that looks like you to her. It’s the only way we’ll ever get past this.

Jas April 7, 2009, 11:19 AM

Toni Grant: Slavery existed in Africa before Spain and Portugal were even countries. It has existed around the world for millennia. And since you brought up Jews, you may recall that they were slaves in Egypt. I’m sure the Egyptians profited from the multitude of “expendable” people.

As for article, I’m glad to read Kimberly’s point of view. I’m saddened that she feels that way about “mommy culture”, but I understand why. Stereotypes and prejudice exist. We, as mothers, need to stand together and say, “This is not okay. We want better for our children.”

Monica Culp April 9, 2009, 4:57 AM

It might be 2009. We might have a black family in the White House. But no matter how old the world gets there will always be racism and prejudice. I’m pretty sure that Kimberly the author realizes that not everyone views black mothers in such a negative light. Not even just blacks but hispanics too. But, this stereotype does still occur. And as blacks we do still have to deal with it. For instance, when I was pregnant with my son and I went in for like my second or third doctors appointment the nurse who took my stats had to ask me questions. She asked me have I ever been pregnant before, how many children did I have and so on. No and none. Asked me questions about having took HIV test. No never. Did I have multiple partners? Do you know the father? Are you with the father? With each question she asked … Are you sure.? Are you sure? Are you sure? Granted I understand if you need to ask the questions but to ask me again and again as if I was lying. Uh no, I think I would know. I was 25. Married, one husband. I had and still have never slept with anyone but my husband. First child. Point is she grilled me as if I was lying to her. As if this was so unbelievable that a woman of 25 only had one sexual partner and this is her first child. Are you sure this is your first pregnancy? What? I’m thinking. I told you no the other two times you asked me. The point is. You say get over it. But idiots still exists. Racism still exists. And I experience this non-sense every now and then, having people making the assumption that I am a black woman towing a basketball team of children. Blacks even foster their own stereotype. I’ve met new people since moving to a predominately white area and they keep asking “and this is your only child?” Yes, darn it do I need to provide medical records.




Monica Culp April 9, 2009, 5:12 AM

Nik -Posted 04/06/09 11:30 AM

Well said. Each race of people have been thru their own type of injustices. White, Black, Asian, Jew Hispanic, etc. Who are any one of us to presume that someone’s feelings are invalid or all in one’s mind. I’ve long felt that I was either misrepresented in the media or overlooked. Things are better now but its still occurs. It is quite obvious that when products are developed the white consumer is consider first and foremost. So its no surprise that in MommyDom much the same occurs. Point in the end is that we need to work together and consider everyone across the board. While we come together as a Mass as different races and culture we face different issues in similar ways as well as the same issues in different ways.

Anonymous April 10, 2009, 9:02 AM

Most of the comments in response to this article prove Ms. Seals Allers’s point. The white privilege on this board is not shocking, people of color face both unintentional and willful blindness to their issues every day. It’s no wonder voices (and faces) of women of color are not prevalent. When their opinions are actually aired, they are dismissed.

News flash: If you are not a member of a certain group, you can’t presume to tell them what is or is not racist. How many of you would be frothing at the mouth if a man came on here and proceeded to lecture you about motherhood and dismissed your concerns about sexism?

blackpride April 10, 2009, 10:30 AM

Your vision is understandable, but through the fact that you’ve expressed this point of view you have done much for these fears not to come true. Black mothers shouldn’t be looked at only as mothers, but also as successful professional women. I think that lately the society is heading to the right direction. Many black women are successful and recognized, and this trend will extend furthermore in the future.

gayle haines April 10, 2009, 5:21 PM

Kimberly, having met me once, you know I’m a white professional business woman who invited you to address white and black moms, who are or want to be business professional women on Long Island. Date: April 22. Time: 7pm. Place: American Legion Hall, 102 East Main St., Bay Shore. Bring some of your books that tell “all of us” how to turn our passions into profit.
Admisson is FREE. Light refreshments will be available; donations happily accepted. Anyone reading this who wants to meet Kimberly, and a good group of women of any color, RSVP to gayle@lighthousesafaris.com. This will be a night to remember! I can’t wait to buy and read your book.
Gayle

Ana April 15, 2009, 6:54 PM

I just wanted to say that specially in those commercials about happiness, pureness and nature they will always use a white woman and if they happen to put a black women is easy to tell that she is of mixed race.
I think that the only time i have seen a mexican, dark skinned woman was in a Suave ad in a magazine a couple years back. Me being a mexican woman can relate to all of this and since im light skinned, 5’9 and dont speak with an accent i often get asked why.

Air Force Wife April 21, 2009, 9:31 PM

Nik- I couldn’t have said it better myself. I am NOT a mother. Yet. However, I consider myself educated and open-minded. The statement that black women IMAGINE being left out is utterly preposterous. How could anyone fix their fingers to type that? It’s extremely scary that a mom wrote that and she will pass that on to her children…


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