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Is My Mommy Experience Like Yours?

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While you may hate me for saying it, my life as a black mother may be way different from yours.

mother and daughter

Kimberly Seals Allers: Last week, 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 -- 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.

26 comments so far | Post a comment now
Wake up March 11, 2010, 1:27 PM

This is the stupidest article I have ever read. Black moms, white moms, jewish moms…all of us have our own cross to bare. Stop trying to make your “plight” any harder than anyone else’s. It makes you sound whiny and weak. Celebrate the fact you have children and get over the color issue. Waaa-waaa-waaa

A Mom Myself March 11, 2010, 1:30 PM

I am not sure what the Miss America thing has to do with article above, However I do agree.
I think this mom just wanted to vent, and it came across as complaining about the same thing we all experience in one way or another. Black or White. I am not sure why Momlogic choose to print this since it is clearly illogical.

Zora's Mom April 22, 2010, 10:16 AM

First of all in order for someone to be racist, his/her race must have the upperhand in politics, economics, etc. Last I checked, the upperhand still belonged to white people no matter how their numbers are shrinking. So it is utterly ridiculous to call a minority a racist. Prejudice perhaps, but not racist. Let’s move on from this vocabulary lesson.

Secondly, when other bloggers write from their white perspectives why don’t I see minorities on their sites taking offense? Seals Allers writes from the black perspective because (drum roll) she’s black. Just as you would write from your Jewish, Asian, European, female perspective because of who you are and the experiences that have shaped you. Don’t believe it? Listen to a story you’ve never heard before and picture the characters in your mind. Now tell, me do the characters look like you and people you know or black, or asian, or latino?

Thirdly, when your people are still suffering the effects of systemized slavery and legalized humiliation then you can tell folks when they should get over it and stop whining and complaining.

Lastly, when is the last time you had to educate your children about codeswitching? When to codeswitch and how? Based on your heritage, religion, race, etc. we all have unique challenges. But does the Jewish or white mother have to remind her son to be extra careful about obeying the traffic rules when driving his dad’s Mercedes Benz because he’s a likely target for police? And do those same moms have the same concerns as the black mom about why the special education department and suspension list is filled with black kids? No. So we are all mothers with unique experiences. Seek to understand, especially before you pontificate.

Anonymous May 12, 2010, 8:12 AM

“Jews are considered white and we rarely experience prejudice the way African Americans do. “
Clearly this is a fake post since Jews are BLATANTLY prejudiced against -far more than any other race in this country.

Darell Degroot July 25, 2010, 10:12 PM

@Dave -You make a great point

tabletki na pryszcze April 3, 2011, 7:32 AM

I’m glad, that i found your website, there are a couple of cool articles

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