While you may hate me for saying it, my life as a black mother may be way different from yours.
Kimberly Seals Allers: Last week, Essence.com published an interesting commentary on whether or not black mothers have a harder time raising their children than white moms do. It was a great read. For some time now, I've been declaring that our experience as black mothers is indeed very different. It's been an often-unwelcome statement -- as you may know if you frequent my postings here. (I'll never forget my first memo on the matter to the momlogic community -- and the, er, colorful responses I received.)
But my passion to help black women become powerful parents (even given our unique challenges) is real. It's what inspired me to leave my fabulous job and become a champion for black moms by building MochaManual.com -- the ultimate parenting resource for black women. So I'm ecstatic to see more voices joining the discussion.
I loved this comment by Lawson Bush, author of "Can Black Mothers Raise Our Sons?": "There's certainly less room for error when raising a black child. The need to be more precise and correct is more pressing to us. You can't let them go off to school without having a conversation about what the school is telling them about themselves. We have to be in charge and vigilant on every level because they're constantly being bombarded with negative concepts: 'Think badly of yourself; think of yourself as a gangster. Think of yourself as dead by 25 -- or in prison.'"
As black mothers, we have a lot of extra work to do combatting negative stereotypes, teaching our children our complete history and preparing them for the world. And for us, the stakes are extremely high.
When you look at some of the statistics (especially the eye-popping ones presented in the Essence piece), you can clearly see what the challenge is. Statistics such as, "One in four black men will enter prison at least once, compared to only one in 23 white males." Or, "Three in 100 black males entering kindergarten will go to college." Or, "Sixty-nine percent of black children in America cannot read at grade level in the fourth grade." You know that something needs to change. The truth that our children's reality is very different from white children's is a truth that must be told. It must be shouted, accepted and addressed -- not criticized.
I was even more excited to see the robust commentary that followed on the Essence site. There were comments on all sides of the issue, and some tough love on the single-parent epidemic in our community. That's real, too.
At the end of the day, the solution is multifaceted and cannot be squarely blamed on single mothers, deadbeat dads, politics, racism or any other societal ill. Finger-pointing will get us nowhere fast. When one of our black children fails, it is our collective failure and the ripple effects can reach you regardless of whatever gated community you may live in. I hate to go all "High School Musical," but we're all in this together.
But what I am most delighted about is the conversation. All I ever wanted to do was to start a conversation about our motherhood experience -- and there are times when I've felt like the Lone Ranger on an unwelcome mission. But as long as the dialogue keeps going, there are sure to be collaborations and solutions that follow. I can only hope that others continue to join in.
|Kimberly Seals Allers is an award-winning business journalist and founder and editor-in-chief of MochaManual.com, a weekly online magazine for moms of color. She is the author of "The Mocha Manual to a Fabulous Pregnancy" and "The Mocha Manual to Turning Your Passion into Profit." Kimberly is a divorcing mother of two and lives on Long Island, NY.|