Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Black Mothers are in the Best Interest of the Black Child

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When I first became a mother I was terrified.  I know that some women experience a modicum of fear regarding the prospect of raising a child – from what diapers to choose to being a good role model, there really is much to fear.  A child is the single largest responsibility that you will ever have, but my fears were far more involved, you see I am a Black mother of a Black child and that means at anytime my fitness to parent can be called into question.

For the first few months of Destruction’s life, I worried that some one would take him from me. I obsessively performed motherhood, reading any parenting magazine that I could get my hands on, because I knew that Black women have never been considered competent to raise our own children. When we would go out together, inevitably I would be considered his babysitter because Destruction was very light skinned when he was first born -- and this hurt more than I can ever convey to you.   I clutched my child to my breast seeking to protect him from the world and build a relationship with him.

I knew from the moment I looked in his big brown eyes what a special child he is and I promised to protect him to the best of my ability, and guide him in a path that would hopefully lead to a happy life.   Promises like the ones I made are often unfulfilled by mothers of colour, not because we don’t care, but because the system is designed for us to fail.  Many of us are raising our children in poverty, and this means that we must struggle to provide their basic needs. 

When the cupboard is empty, it is not because we have failed, but because society has yet to see food as an essential right.   Many of us would love to spend hours watching educational programs with our children, and significantly investing in their education, but when you have to work two jobs to keep a roof over their heads it becomes impossible – yet there is no understanding of this, and instead we are portrayed in the media as giving up, or not understanding the importance of education. Mommy and me playgroups aren’t possible for many, but that does not mean we love with less passion, or are somehow devoted any less than  affluent White mothers.

It seems that the best interests of the child always involve removing hir from the Black community, thereby severing their history and familial connections.  This is a form of social attack that Whiteness has been perpetuating for generations.  Ask a First Nations woman how comfortable she is having a White woman hold her child.   The White woman as expert has destroyed families and filled the earth with the salty tears of children who long for their mothers touch.  No White woman is better at raising a child of colour than a WOC.  Your best intentions and liberal credentials don’t amount to a pot of piss.

So, in all honesty, I really don’t want you anywhere near my child.  I don’t want you to touch him, hold him or even grow to love him, because your love has proven toxic to mothers of colour for generations. We watched as you sold our children for profit and then bought new ball gowns.  When you handed us your children as substitute -- a pale reflection of the love we once knew, you turned your eyes on our bitter tears.

Even now you continue to use the best interest of the child as you cart our babies to soccer tournaments and we are left with an echo of the love we once knew.  No matter how liberal, educated, or well-meaning, you cannot know what it is to love a Black child, the way we love the fruit of our womb.  You have not suffered for a simple touch or wept at a passing glimpse --but we have and we continue to. 

When we rail about inter-racial adoption, because once again White women are better prepared to raise our babies, White women point to the high number of Black children in the system as proof of why their guardianship is infinitely better.  It is not the Black woman or the Black mother that has failed, but the very institution that you use to help you steal our babies.   The cost of adoption is exorbitant, and how many poor and working class families are excluded on that basis alone? Yet, the problem is not the system we are told, the problem is that we don’t want our own babies.   White women  ignore their own self-interest, because the end result is that it grants them access to our children.

It’s ironic that Whiteness creates and maintains racism and yet believes that it is best able to teach Black children how to negotiate it.  Oh I know you have Black friends, and have read the “I have a dream” speech, but you cannot know what it is to be victim to the system that allows your  children to be under educated, exploited and demeaned everyday -- even as they are taught to love everything White and hate everything Black.  You cannot know, because you are a part of the problem and no matter how many times you listen to the Tom Joyner morning show, or read Maya Angelou and feel uplifted, you can empathize but never truly understand.

I don’t want to settle for your version of the best interest of the child, because Whiteness continues to ignore the best interest of Black children.  You indoctrinate them, reduce them, and rob them of their childhood, all the while proud of the fact that you read O Magazine and can quote Audre Lorde.  The best interest of the child is to allow Black mothers the opportunity to raise Black children.  The best interest of the child is to educate them, even as you fill their lives with love.  The best interest of the Black child involves teaching them their history, and preparing them to deal with a White supremacist state -- but then realizing all of the aforementioned would mean truly owning racial privilege, and that is something Whiteness has never been interested in doing.

Editors note: The image used in this article was painted by Andre Ajibade, who is an excellent artist.