If I had more room I would title it: 10 Things to Stop Saying to Black Mothers Because We Are Ready to Go the Hell Off and Your Tears/Meditations/Prayers Are Not Enough.
Honestly, and since this is my blog I can be honest, I am exhausted. And NOT by racism. At this point, I am genetically wired to navigate the levels of racism and microagressions that are a part of American life. [Insert disgusted face meme]. The wear and tear of generational trauma are too vast and complex for this blog and I don’t feel like breaking down what that looks like right now because like I just said, I am exhausted…
What has been continually problematic for me is the language being used towards me as a mother, a black mother in particular. It often comes from well-meaning lips of white mothers, who have the uncomfortable churning of racism in their guts and they aren’t equipped to know what to do with it.
Instead of stewing in that, they attempt to “comfort” me and also soothe their own ego. No one wants to feel complicit in white supremacy. [Pro tip: We all are.] It leaves me with a bitter taste in my mouth and because of my own self care, creating peace for my boys and my precious time, I often nod and move on.
I have time today.
I am going to lay out a few truths so we are all working with the same information.
There has never been a time in the history of these United States that a mother like me, a black mother, has had the rights and protections over her body or the bodies of her children. NOT EVEN NOW. Not even close in comparison with a white mother. Their safety and justice, in the case of their harm, not only hang in the balance, it has been proven for the entirety of the history of this country that no one will be held accountable. No one will even bat an eyelash. This point is not up for debate, so save yourself the time. That in itself, makes mothering black children highly stressful on a level you will not understand unless you are faced with it. It influences how we talk to our children and discipline them, passing trauma because we want them to be safe. That, however, is another post.
This post is for educational purposes but mostly for my sister-mothers. I see and LOVE you. We are powerful enough to raise strong and free children . Our commitment to it is an act of revolution. We are not a monolith so I do not speak for anyone but myself…
1. “I understand.” Because you don’t. You dont know what it is like to know that no matter what you teach them, how much you prepare them the world would easily destroy them like an animal and there would be more concern or fanfare if they were actual animals. We don’t need you to pretend to know what that feels like. Sometimes you can just listen. And if you understood, white women would have marched in the street like they did against the latest elected official the first time a black mother had to bury their child because a white man murdered him in cold blood and returned to life as if it was nothing. But that didn’t happen. It never does. Black Mothers watch their children leave home every day with that in our hearts.
2. “We just need to pray/meditate/vibrate higher and love each other more.” Because that’s just code for I don’t know what to do, but I am not going to change anything about my own patterns within the system of white supremacy. I am too complicit/cowardly/apathetic for real action but I still want to seem like I care. The intentions of love, meditation, prayer and more are the most powerful of forces. Black people’s continued existence is proof of that. All of it must be backed by action. I believe the good book says, “Faith without works is dead.” So, GET TO WORK on being involved in changing legislation, dismantling systems and educating yourself on what others are already doing.
3. Anything about hopes. Like, “I just hope my children are learning to treat others as equals.” or “I hope a change comes.” Let me ask a question. Do you impart hope in teaching your kids to read? I hope he learns to read, even though I am not reading to him, he doesn’t see me reading. He’s never even seen a book but when he grows up I hope he will love all books. [Insert sideeye emoji]. So in terms of white supremacy you will have to actually work tirelessly to break those patterns for yourself and your kids. They will have to see you standing up and fighting to understand their own responsibility. White supremacy IS this country and invades the minds of children as soon as they can watch television or you. I hope you do better by your kids .
4. “I am so tired of this conversation.” Word?! Me too!! Your ability to move on to kittens and new recipes for casseroles is a sign that you don’t understand. [See #1]. This is literally life or death for me, my boys, my family. It has been for centuries. So don’t expect me to have sympathy for your sensibilities. Don’t try to make me seem like a Debbie Downer for asking others to respect my humanity and stand up on the side of right when my humanity is being assaulted.
5. Another MLK quote. Because you are most likely going to pick quotes that make you feel safe and soothed. Such a unique luxury. And I can’t blame you. School taught you of a sweet, docile Martin who wanted peace. So understand I respect the man who gave his life fighting for equality. He was hated, reviled, stalked and murdered for beginning to lift a veil for poor white people. His work was uniting them with the civil rights movement in a way that threatened the grip white supremacy has on white people. Nothing infuriates me more than folks trying to smooth over the discord of racial tension with an MLK quote, taken out of context with no knowledge of his change in views. Here’s one for next January:
“I’ve come upon something that disturbs me deeply. We have fought hard and long for integration, as I believe we should have, and I know we will win. But I have come to believe that we are integrating into a burning house. I’m afraid that America has lost the moral vision she may have had. And I’m afraid that even as we integrate, we are walking into a place that does not understand that this nation needs to be deeply concerned with the plight of the poor and disenfranchised. Until we commit ourselves to ensuring that the underclass is given justice and opportunity, we will continue to perpetuate the anger and violence that tears the soul of this nation. I fear I am integrating my people into a burning house.”
– Martin Luther King Jr
6. “Can you explain/educate me?” NOPE. This internet is big and vast with unlimited resources. I take my time and read about history. I watch documentaries and lectures, all while loving and raising my boys, running a business and teaching. I do not have the time or energy to spoon feed a grown person information that is readily available EVERYWHERE. Conversations I can have. But consider bringing something to the table to discuss. I will not be a Mammy, giving up my energy and doing emotional labor because the information makes you uncomfortable. There are enough articles with full bibliographies of resources to educate yourself. There are people teaching and holding conversations for the purpose of reeducation. Be responsible for yourself.
7. “If we all just work together.” Because black people have been working to get along, all along. If not the world would look alot different. At one time black people outnumbered white 10:1. If we were violent monsters instead of humans stripped of every dignity and human experience, slavery would have had quite a different end. The work to end white supremacy is not for black people to do. We didn’t create it. We are not benefiting from it. We are busy trying to stay alive and not lose our collective minds while other people sit on their hands with their mouths shut. If you see what needs work, get it done. The first job might be examining what racism really is and how even the best people play a part in holding up.
8. “I don’t say anything because I don’t want to say the wrong thing.” Code for, I would rather be silent then be corrected or austrisized, even though I claim to care about others. For you there is safety in your silence. Silence in the face of injustice is wrong and violent. We are all going to mess up. Accept that. Say something and listen up when you are comforted with the impact of your words. Say, “I don’t know what to say but I am going to educate myself.”[See #6] . Then get to work. Check your family and friends, neighbors and co-workers. As you educate yourself you will begin to see how white supremacy presents on a daily basis. And then you can begin to educate. The reality is white people are most likely to listen to other white people. That’s how white supremacy works.
9. “I don’t support white supremacy, but…” But means to negate all that was stated before. Don’t defend free speech to me when that speech has claimed the lives of my people for centuries. Don’t defend the rights of white supremacists while ignoring mine. Just admit to yourself that you do support white supremacy because it makes you feel safe and secure. I already see you.
10. “Don’t be so angry.” Lol. I will continue to honor my anger because it propels my action. I laid in bed the night Trayvon Martin’s murderer was acquitted with red hot tears streaking my face. I was three months pregnant with Palmer. I was angry at myself for thinking that bringing a black baby into the world made any sense. My anger only grew as the same people who couldn’t wait to congratulate me on my baby couldn’t even acknowledge the injustice Sabrina had to endure in losing her baby. And every time, it’s the same. So I get to be angry. Call that black privilege. I don’t let it consume me, it fuels my work.
If you are in your feelings, good. Stop turning off the basic human components of yourself. FEEL that discomfort to know what living inside the construct of racism kind of feels like. Connect to that dis-ease. Let that uncomfortable churning spur you towards action. Sitting on your hands prevents you from living as a full human being so walk away from the narrative of speaking up to help other people. Everyone is oppressed. White supremacy has white folks bound up on their own level and until you help yourself uncover it, you won’t help me or anyone else “overcome”.Pin It