Written by Penelope Farthing
Let me start by saying that I’m not a mother. I want children, just not yet. If you think my current childless state means I am not qualified to speak on matters of motherhood, I appreciate where you are coming from. I’m going to speak anyway. However, being childless doesn’t mean that I don’t see obvious dysfunction that plagues the black community. I want us to do better and be better, hence the point of this blog. What better day than Mother’s Day to celebrate the good mothers, and draw attention to the not so good ones as a means to correct toxic behaviors?
And for those of you who might say that mothers from other races may do the very same things in the list below, you’re 100% correct. However, other races of women have a functioning patriarchy in far better shape than ours, and far more active fathers in the home, giving their children an advantage from birth. Please give the “what-about-isms” a rest.
So without further ado, here are 8 ways black mothers fail their children:
I have been witness to children (and adults) being called black and ________, where the blank can be ugly, nappy, fat, or any other horrible adjective. Being described as black with a negative adjective tacked on at the end undoubtedly, insidiously fosters self-hate, leading to toxic behaviors like skin bleaching, or perpetuating all the –isms like colorism, featurism, and texturism.
A wise man once said only two things in life are guaranteed – taxes and death. If we’re lucky, we’ll make it to our 90s after having lived a full, long life, and go peacefully surrounded by our loved ones. But if death is sudden and unexpected, it’s even more devastating. Estate planning is typically not on the mind of a young, healthy person, but it should be, especially if there are children involved. Too often, black people are made to resort to GoFundMes and other campaigns when tragedy strikes. You are never too young to make plans for the end, morbid as it may sound. It’s worth finding out if your job has life insurance options that you can make use of. If not, shop online for a reputable policy. Don’t saddle your children with the burden of funeral expenses – it’s not like you didn’t know it was coming.
In a similar vein, the lack of estate planning does not do our children any favors. For any young mothers reading this, if you were to die next week, what would your child(ren) get? How would they know how to split up your assets? Do you have a will? Aretha Franklin didn’t have a will, even though she was wealthy and up in age, and now her family is dealing with that stress in addition to the pain of losing a legendary loved one.
Another scenario: if you were injured or otherwise too ill to make decisions for yourself, how would your family know what you wanted? If you don’t have end-of-life documentation in place, get one as soon as possible to spare your loved ones making some difficult decisions. Black women, please make these considerations not just for yourself, but for your children as well.
It seems like every other week there is a tragic news story about the abuse of young black girls and boys at the hands of the “babysitter” or the “boyfriend”. It’s not a pleasant thing to think about, but even your own family can be predators. For instance, I recently saw this news story about a 26-year-old man who sexually assaulted a 3-year-old child while he was high on drugs, infecting her with 2 STDs and it hurts my soul that this is the plight of some black little girls. Women can be predators too, but statistically, the abuser is more likely to be male. Protect your children by never leaving them in the care of strange men!
“Uncle Joe is that way, just don’t go near him”
“Yeah he was inappropriate with me and other young female relatives, and he probably still is, but I don’t want to put another black man in jail”
Protect your innocent children from predators, even if you are related to said predator! Making your young children feel like being abused is a part of life is cruel. Your loyalty should be to your children first, so that they are safe, loved, and do not fall victim to a predator that you knew had a history of being deviant.
We all know that marriage is beneficial to the wife, the husband, and the children the result from the union. It is not just a piece of paper, contrary to what some people believe. If you are dating, please vet the men as well as you can. Do not entertain a man who you don’t believe to be good father material. If you do happen to get wrapped up with the “wrong dude”, definitely don’t get pregnant by him!
In a similar line of thought to the above point, quit having babies when you’re not ready! Do not put your bloodline behind the eight ball by birthing them into struggle and poverty. If you are going to be sexually active while unmarried, you should be on TWO forms of reliable, properly used birth control to stay disease and baby-free.
This one is not as heavy as abuse, but it still contributes to how we black women fail our children. Attaching a dumb name to your child automatically sets them up for failure. Unfortunate as it is, a job application from Preshus or Daquavious is more likely to be rejected compared to Pamela or David.
And if you say “well white people make up dumb names for their kids, we should be able to be creative too!”, you’re not wrong. However, for the most part, white people also control the hiring decisions, the mortgage approvals, the college acceptances, and the promotions, so be strategic in what you name your children. They will have the name the rest of their lives. If you can’t resist the need for creativity, it is far easier to get through life with a crazy middle name instead.
Why are people so quick to defend men with a known history of degeneracy, instead of the young girls and boys in the community? Why are the girls lambasted as “fast”, or “asking for it” who “should have known better” at all of 13, 14, or 15 years old? Why is it when a black man is accused of vile crimes against young women, a common response is “well, white men have been doing it for years”? Is it some kind of aspiration to literally get away with crimes?
Holding black men accountable for the abuse they meted should not be seen as some kind of slight against him. It should be the RULE, not the exception. When I see the “what-about” logic applied to these situations all I see are people defending the right to let the future generation be devoured, since other men do it too. Black women contribute to the dysfunction of their children by bailing out, housing, and continuing to pay attention to the abusers.
Unfortunately, as the collective of black women, these are just a few of the ways that we do our children a disservice. In order for the way the community looks to change, we have to address these issues and change how black women approach motherhood. Until then, things are looking down.