Friday, May 28, 2010

Daycare Subsidy and the “Good Single Mother”

image The New York Times has an article up about slashing daycare subsidy…Please check it out and see if you can spot the elephant in the room.  Go on, I’ll wait I promise.

Did you see it?  How about if I give you a hint? Welfare Queen.  That’s right, now that we are talking about White single mothers that are having difficulties, somehow the struggle is noble.  Why oh why do I have to make everything about race?  We’re all women right?  Except that Black and Latino mothers are considered irresponsible breeders.   When they go on welfare, it is to live high on the hog and become a drain on the system whereas; when  a White woman is forced to depend on the system it is the equivalent of a Shakespearian tragedy.

So, on a recent afternoon, she waited in a crush of beleaguered people to submit the necessary paperwork. Her effort to avoid welfare through work has brought her to welfare’s door.

“It doesn’t make sense to me,” she says. “I fall back to — I can’t say ‘being a lowlife’ — but being like the typical person living off the government. That’s not what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to use this as a backbone, so I can develop my own backbone.”

As the American social safety net absorbs its greatest challenge since the Great Depression, state budget cuts are weakening crucial components. Subsidized child care — financed by federal and state governments — is a conspicuous example.

Black and Latino mothers have been dealing with this issue for generations and they have yet to get any kind of positive affirmation for their struggles.  Day care has traditionally not been a problem for White women because we were raising their children while our kids were left to fend for themselves. Even today, rich/middle class women still hire WOC to watch their children as they attempt to break through the glass ceiling.

The economy has taken a downward spiral, and those that normally would have managed to get gainful employment due to racial privilege  now find themselves sharing the same historic struggles of POC.  Suddenly, the systematic factors that help to sustain poverty are the issue and not the individual.

The New York Times could easily have told this story with countless WOC, and yet a White woman was selected to humanize the story.  The choices that the media make are not merely coincidental or race neutral.  The media often serves to frame a narrative in a very specific light.  Reading this it is obvious that something needs to be done to help single mothers, and it is equally obvious that the good single mother is deemed to be White.

I found this link at Feministing in their “stories we missed” section. The linking sentence states: “As if we needed more depressing news about why this is not and never was a "hecession."  Here we have a feminist site supposedly dedicated to intersectionality, and once again the only site of oppression that they could find is gender.  It is easy to ignore race when you are White.  Whiteness as the default becomes internalized and even though they claim to be fighting for justice, they miss the obvious because it is not in their best interest to see how their actions perpetuate White supremacy. It’s the vagina sisterhood, as long as it does not mean pointing out purposeful erasure of women of colour.

So there you have it.  The good single mother as told by The New York Times, reaffirmed by a feminist website.  The systemic barriers that have been built into the system were never meant to cause an issue for Whiteness, and this is specifically why stories like this are suddenly getting the press that they are.  I certainly have sympathy for this woman and her struggles, but the convenient erasure of WOC only proves that almost any marginalized identity can suddenly be created as a symbol of injustice, if we put a White face on it.

 

 


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