Black women and Motherhood



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Dimensions of Diversity

Black Women and Motherhood
Hill Collins, Patricia. "Black women and Motherhood"
One aspect of family, MOTHERHOOD, has also been criticized in Black families because it differs from the concept of motherhood that is associated with the "ideal" white family.
Black mothers have been accused of failing to discipline their children, of emasculating their sons, of defeminizing their daughters, and of retarding their children's academic achievement.
Hill Collins criticizes white male scholars for blaming Black mothers for the deterioration of Black families

-- these scholars cite high rates of divorce, female headed households, and out-of-wedlock births as causing deterioration


Hill Collins criticizes white feminist for not challenging white male scholars' depiction of motherhood -- white feminist only challenged the view from a white perspective which did nothing for Black women


Hill Collins provides for us a Black Feminist view of motherhood for Afro-Americans
-- the concept of motherhood is of central importance in the philosophy of both African and Afro-American peoples
-- the norm for Black mothers is that mothers should live their lives of sacrifice
-- motherhood can serve as a site where Black women express and learn the power of self-definition, the importance of valuing and respecting themselves, the necessity of self-reliance and independence, and a belief in Black women's empowerment.
I. Bloodmothers, Othermothers, and Women-centered Networks

A. Bloodmothers

- biological mothers are expected to care for their children
-- but African and Afro-American communities have also recognized that vesting one person with full responsibility for mothering a child may not be wise or possible
B. Othermothers

-- women who assist bloodmothers by sharing mothering responsibilities-


-- traditionally othermothers have been central to the institution of Black motherhood.


C. Woman centered

-- this centrality is not characterized by the absence of husbands and fathers.


-- men may be physically present and/or have well-defined and culturally significant roles in the extended family and the kin unit may be woman centered
-- centrality of mothers is not predicated on male powerlessness
-- organized, resilient, women-centered networks of bloodmothers and othermothers are key in understanding this centrality
-- Grandmothers, sisters, aunts, or cousins act as othermothers by taking on child-care responsibilities for one anothers children
-- In African-American communities these women-centered networks of community-based child care often extend beyond the boundaries of biologically related individuals and include "fictive kin"
-- African-American cultural value placed on cooperative child care traditionally found institutional support in the adverse conditions under which so many Black women mothered
-- young women are often carefully groomed at an early age to become othermothers
-- some of Black women's status in African-American communities stems from their actions as mothers in Black family networks
-- they derive other power and status from contributions as community othermothers
-- community othermothers -- work on behalf of the Black community by expressing ethics of caring and personal accountability which embrace conceptions of transformative power and mutuality

-- this community based child care is an arrangement that is different from the white family "ideal"
-- according to Baca Zinn, this community based arrangement was socially constructed by social and economic forces
-- this is a creative form of family that arose because it is a way for Black families to cope with their oppressive situation


-- if this is the case, what factors may have contributed to the "creation" of this arrangement?
-- Hill Collins argues more strongly that women-centered networks have been culturally passed on to Afro-American from their African ancestors
-- she points out that community based child care arrangements exist in other cultures that too have come from African descent; such as: Caribbean and other Black societies
II. The Personal Meaning of Mothering
-- Black motherhood can be rewarding, but it can also extract high personal costs
-- the range of Black women's reactions to motherhood and the ambivalence that many black women feel about mothering reflect motherhood's contradictory nature
-- many Black women have children they really do not want

-- when combined with Black community values claiming that good Black women always want their children, ignorance about reproductive issues leaves many Black women with unplanned pregnancies and the long-term responsibility of parenting


-- the pain of knowing what lies ahead for Black children wile feeling powerless to protect them is another problematic dimension of Black mothering
-- Black children are at risk:
-- nearly 40% of all Black mothers receive no prenatal care in the first trimester of pregnancy
-- 1 in ever 8 black infants has a low birth weight
-- infant mortality - remains twice that of white infants
-- during 1st year of life, black babies die from fires and burns at a rate 4.5 times greater than that of white infants
-- pediatric AIDS has doubled between 1986 and 1989
-- more than 75% of children with AIDS are Black or Hispanic
-- mothers also pay the cost of giving up their own dreams of achieving full creative ability



-- despite the obstacles and costs, motherhood remains a symbol of hope for many of even the poorest Black women:
"to me, having a baby inside me is the only time I'm really alive. I know I can make something, do something, no matter what color my skin is...."
-- mothering is an empowering experience for many women
-- children affirm their mothers

-- in a society that denigrates Blackness and womanhood this affirmation is incredibly important for mothers and is part of the reason they keep becoming mothers


III. Mothers, Daughters, and Socialization for Survival
--> daughters learn to expect to work, to strive for an education so they can support themselves and to anticipate carrying heavy responsibilities in their families and communities
-- these skills are essential for their own survival and for those for whom they will eventually be responsible
--> despite the dangers, mothers routinely encourage Black daughters to develop skills to confront oppressive conditions
--> Black mothers are often described as strong disciplinarians and overly protective; yet these same women manage to raise daughters who are self-reliant and assertive
--> unlike white women, symbolized by Agood looks@ and Awaist-long hair@, Black women have been denied male protection. Under such conditions it becomes essential that Black mothers teach their daughters skills that will Atake them anywhere@
--> for far too many Black mothers, the demands of providing for children in interlocking systems of oppression are sometimes so demanding that they have neither the time nor the patience for affection
-- and yet most Black daughters love and admire their mothers and are convinced that their mothers truly love them
--> make a point of setting aside time to teach the daughters lessons to help them survive

-- like the Saturday nights that were for doing the daughters= hair; this is when the mother would share stories with the girls





IV. Motherhood as a Symbol of Power
--> much of Black women=s status in African-American communities stems not only from actions as mothers in Black family networks but from contributions as community other mothers
-- Community Other Mothers - def. - work on behalf of the Black community by expressing ethics of caring and personal accountability which embrace conceptions of transformative power and mutuality


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