The Politics, Threat and Appeal Surrounding Black Motherhood

I am young – barely in my twenties – with countless time and opportunities at my fingertips. I plan to travel, create, grow within my field, build myself financial security and be in a stable place before I bring a child into this world.

But as all of this is happening, I think often about the type of parent I will be.

Sometimes I get excited about having the opportunity to raise a black child.

I have a rich cultural heritage and a strong support system within my Black community that stretches nationwide. There is a sense of pride that stems from common oppression. Furthermore, I am not only proud to be black, but I am proud to be a Black woman.

Much of this pride, I’ve had to learn on my own in life. The thought of raising a proud, resilient, and informed Black little girl or little boy seems like such an honor. I get to raise a leader.

But there are the other times, like now,  where I am confronted with fear and exhaustion. When in life will I have to explain to this child that they – we – are at a disadvantage from birth?  How closely will I have to overlook what they’re being taught and by whom?
I can’t count the number of times an elementary school teacher taught me an altered version of history or social sciences. Or made an inappropriate comment that caused me internal self-hatred. These same teachers, even went to unnecessary measures to physically reprimand me for something as simple as talking to a friend.

Memories like those – things I never had the heart mentioned to my family – and hope for strength if I ever found out anyone were to do anything similar to my future child.

I think of the fourth grade teacher in Texas who posted a status update on Facebook, publicly encouraging school segregation so “[Blacks] can hurt each other and leave the innocent people alone.” She ended the rant with the hashtag #notaracist.

I think about the Black children in her classroom that must adhere to this racist woman as an authority figure and swear that no child of mine will ever have to be subjected to this. But how can I be so sure?

It will pain me immensely the day that I realize my Black little girl does not recognize her features as beauty. It will infuriate me to hear her young friends and their parents amusingly call her “bossy” or “sassy” when she dares to speak her mind.

And it will enrage me the day that someone dares to attempt to discipline my Black little girl or little boy in a way that is dangerous, shames them, or causes them mental anguish.

I dread the conversation surrounding the past murders of innocent black children and how, God forbid, it could be them.

I dread the talks I will have to have with them about how to behave in certain atmospheres. The same things my family told me tirelessly before I managed to listen. In more subtle words, “Don’t let your white friends get you into trouble.” I’ll have to train them to jump over hurdles to be polite in order to simply be acknowledged with decency rather disregarded, or worse – fatally confronted.

With every fiber in my being, I do not want to raise a child that is subservient to an oppressive force. But I also don’t want to have to bury them.

One day, my child won’t be seen as such and will be subjected to a world filled with horrors awaiting them if they aren’t careful enough. These are lessons that I cannot afford not to teach.

Never mind the struggles that all parents face regardless of the intersection of race, class, and gender. I’ll handle those. But I have little to no control over the things my child will experience in this world – things beyond my reach that will shape them, mold them. That frightens me.

I will not and cannot stand by complacently as my child is discouraged – as I was by so many authority figures – from doing the extraordinary because they were expected to fail from their very conception.

I won’t have the patience to politely assimilate when someone feels the need to comment on the appropriateness of my child’s natural hair – the kinky curls and coils that grow right from their very own head.

I won’t stand for my children to be misinformed and under-educated; to not have reliable teachers with their best interest at heart; to not have access to basic needs and opportunities.

Because I won’t stand for these things, I know that I’m going to have to fight.

But how many battles? Because I cannot afford to lose a single one.

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