I Was ‘Black While Mothering’ Today…
My husband and I have three gorgeous children. Our oldest will be six next month. Our youngest just arrived last month. We were married in 2006 after dating for three years. We are college sweethearts. Next spring, we will celebrate our eighth wedding anniversary. And, if you did the math, that means that all of our children were born in wedlock. They were planned. They were and are wanted. They are the best things God has ever blessed us with. Ever.
But, everyday, living in Orange County, California, I am reminded that my story, though beautiful and non-unique, will never be what is expected or assumed of me. Every side eye I get, every judgmental stare shames me. Yes, shame works that way. It can be evoked even from people who have nothing to be ashamed of. Why? Well, because I’m black. It’s just that simple. Being black while (insert most things) can result in shame, personal harm, or even death. For me, it’s usually shame. And, sadly, it has become another one of those ‘things’ I have normalized.
From the picture above, you may notice that I am taller than my husband. At six feet four inches tall, I am taller than most people. He and I started as best friends and never thought of dating until our love smacked us each in our respective craniums. Me being taller than him has never been an issue mainly because he is the foinest thing I have ever seen on two legs. I like to think he thinks the same thing about me. But, beyond that, my husband is a brilliant, understated man. He endures my insane ways and manages to do it with a genuine smile. And, he is the absolute best father I could have ever wanted for my children. Everyday he tries to improve himself and our household. We each take our responsibility as parents incredibly seriously. Sometimes too seriously. But, our kids are worth it to us.
We both grew up without our fathers in the household. For different reasons and circumstances, we both struggled for years with having positive relationships with them. And, for me, I have had a long bumpy road with my parents. I am proud to say that, today, all is well for both of us.
But, because we haven’t had the picturesque life everyone hopes for, we have a deep desire to be the best parents possible to our children. We have an incredible appreciation for our mothers (and other single mothers out there) because they worked so hard to make us who we are today. Our parental tenets are our love letters to each other everyday.
So, one would think everything is perfect behind this picket fence? Right? It would be safe to assume that since we did everything the “right” or “conventional” way, we never deal with marginalization or judgment. Right? Wrong. We endure it everyday. Even simple daily chores are intimidating and even scary at times.
Orange County is predominantly white. It has the highest population of Republicans in the country. And, blacks are a tiny minority here. My husband grew up here, just about five minutes from where we bought our home. The city of Orange, in the northern part of the county, is right next to Anaheim – known for its hockey and baseball teams. It is fair to say we are a long way from Kansas (in some alternate universe where Kansas is a utopian society of hipster black folks like us). We knew all this when we chose to put our roots down here. We wanted our kids in good schools and safe neighborhoods. But, we never considered the racialized byproducts of that lifestyle. And, we never thought about what it would be like to be the only black family in our neighborhood.
What’s it like for my family at the local park? Well, the kids always have fun. I usually stroll up to a park filled with children. They are usually white and Asian. And, while all of the parents speak to one another, they rarely speak to me. After living here for almost six years and visiting the park over 100 times, I can count on one hand the number of times someone spoke with me jovially at the park. And, I can count on two hands the number of times other children did the same with my children.
Whenever I take the children to the park alone, without my husband, groups of women never return my glance or smile. Instead, they look at me once and return to their conversation. I have had people glance at my ring finger hoping to disprove their core thesis developed in their mind about me. When they see my gorgeous wedding set, I see the relief flow over their furrowed eyebrows and wrinkled foreheads. “Oh, so she isn’t one of the ‘them’,” I imagine them reciting in their minds.
But, when I’m pregnant, I don’t wear my wedding set. It’s then that I become the welfare mom. I become the uneducated moocher sex-machine only good for procreation. The furrows and wrinkles don’t go away. Instead, they become scowls and whispers. I’ve even had an older white male shake his head at me in disapproval. Truthfully, we aren’t even in the nicest part of Orange County. That part is reserved for millionaires and would-be reality TV stars. So, the judgment seems a little obtuse. But, it permeates nonetheless.
The weirdest thing about our trips to the park (which is a three minute walk from our front door) is the reaction to my children from the other kids. And, maybe I shouldn’t say children. My oldest son is extremely gregarious and people – of all races – are drawn to him. My daughter, on the other hand, is a very tall two year-old who doesn’t have a complete command of the English language yet (as would be expected of her cohort). She is playful, smart, and sweet. And, though she is taller than most two year-olds, we relegate her to the same structure as other kids her age.
Usually, when we arrive, the structure is just busting with 2 to 5 year-olds. On the slides, the stairs, they’re everywhere. But, within about ten minutes of my daughter climbing on, the structure seems to clear out. The eyes from other parents and children are impossible to miss. Its like they are all wondering, “Is she going to play here? Where does she live?” Sometimes I just want to scream, “We are from here too. We live right there. Look, you can see our house. It has four bedrooms. We have two cars. We have good jobs and 401ks. I went to USC for goodness sake!” But, I never say that. I just try to have tunnel vision, staring at my kids to keep the eyes out of my line of sight.
Today was no different than usual. Unwelcoming glances greeted my daughter, my newborn son, and I as we strolled leisurely into the park. Me, clad in an out-of-season sun dress, side bun, and caplet. Baby girl in a turquoise ensemble and purple furry jacket and hat. We certainly didn’t look low brow or suspicious. Before we left home, I made sure to put on my wedding bands. And, it seemed like it might actually be a good visit because an Asian man with his small child and stroller waved at us on our pre-park walk.
But, as we entered the park, the stares started – mainly from the white moms. They watched us walk-in never returning my smile. And, as my daughter played, they slowly cleared their children away and moved toward the swings. I endured it for fifteen minutes before making up an excuse to get my baby girl to get back in the stroller to go home. That was when things got a little different than usual. As I walked along the walkway to exit the park, the two unwelcoming young women from before watched me leave. I glanced back to see if we had left anything to find them both surveying us as we walked past their diaper bags on a nearby bench.
I wondered what they were looking at. I thought, “Maybe I just caught them looking at their own bags.” But, I knew better. They were looking at the black mom. They were watching to see if I was walking to the nearby homes or getting in a car to drive to some “other” neighborhood. They were watching to make sure I left their place of solace and sanctity. They were just watching. Cause people like me need to be watched.
I have learned to just wait until my husband comes home to take the kids to the park just so we will all have an enjoyable experience. But, I don’t think I will ever shake the feeling that I just don’t belong here even though, for all intents and purposes, I do. I pay my mortgage and exorbitant property taxes. I have wonderful neighbors (who are white and Asian) who are welcoming, jovial, friendly, and downright pleasant. But, 100 of them will never outweigh the scorn of a few.
Mothering while black in Orange County is one of the hardest things I do everyday. I find myself apologizing for things I have never done, explaining away offenses I am guiltless of, and running down my list of accolades to prove I am a fit mom. Going to the grocery store sometimes feels like standing before a platoon of soldiers waiting to knock me down to size. I feel shame all the time.
This, like many things, is something that whites may never understand. These underlying judgments are of the same ilk as those responsible for Renisha McBride, Trayvon Martin, and Jordan Russell Davis. They make it so that I never want my husband to grab the mail after dark. They make it so that I avoid malls and parks without the protection of my boo. I never mean for my children’s playtime, or our running errands to become social experiments. It just happens that way. These are the ‘things’ I’m talking about. These are the things.
Want More Convos Like This One?
Jenn M. Jackson
Latest posts by Jenn M. Jackson (see all)
- We are tired of watching us die - June 12, 2020
- Parenting Black children during quarantine is a different kinda thing - May 6, 2020
- We can’t exist anywhere so let’s just drop the “while Black” - May 12, 2018
- Reckoning, the Combahee River Collective, and Black Women’s History Month - April 2, 2018
- And then there are the ones we left behind… - March 14, 2018
Wow this is a fantastic post. It goes to show you no matter if a black person is educated or a productive member of society, stereotypes prevail in the minds of racist.
Jenn, as much as it saddens me, it never ceases to amaze me how judgmental people can be. I can completely identify with your feeling of being shamed; not only for being a Black woman, but, for being completely nonconforming. For longer than I would care to mention, I lived my life walking on eggshells and trying to fit in (which is extremely hard for any woman over 6 feet). Finally, I made the conscious decision to live my life being genuinely true to myself and my spirit. I have a body full of tattoos – not because I’m some deviant but, because I love them and I find them as beautiful an accessory as some find makeup and jewelry to be. I decided to “loc” my hair as a tribute to my Caribbean heritage and because I was so tired of all the other styles that never quite felt “me” enough. I have worn men’s clothing since the 7th grade because that is what made me feel beautiful and attractive. Whenever I walk into any “conservative area,” I immediately become the center of attention. I’ve been scolded in restrooms because women have incorrectly assumed that I was some man coming to attack them. And no matter how frequently or infrequently these experiences happen, the feeling of isolation is like no other. When people do give me the chance, I’m often met with their backhanded compliments of “Wow, you’re really from Oakland? I’ve never met anyone as articulate as you…” Or, my favorite, “You went to UCLA? Let me guess, it was for a basketball scholarship.” (For inquiring minds, I was admitted solely on academic merit) I’ve heard several white counterparts try to explain that racism and discrimination don’t exist. Of course, I beg to differ – not just on principal but, because while I love being a Black lesbian woman, society would NEVER let me forget that is what I am. Every day of my life is a social experiment. Or, maybe I am the social experiment.
I’m not a mom but after going to college in the OC, I experienced it a great deal. I. Cannot. Stand. Orange County. They all live in this “bubble” if you will and hate when “we” try to infiltrate it. I think this is just common in the OC for someone black period. It’s absolutely disgusting that in 2013, people don’t realize there are black doctors, lawyers, engineers, and entrepreneurs and can buy a home wherever they damn well please. I try to limit my time in Orange County because lawyers and jail are too expensive.
First time reading your blog and let say very well written and powerful. I commend you for one for sharing your story because unfortunately in our community it would seem like your family came straight out of a Cosby show fairy tale, when in truth there are lots of black families that don’t fit into a stereotypical and statistical scenario. So thanks for sharing your background and lifestyle.
I also want to say I feel your pain for being prejudged because you are black while in Orange County, but may I ask you a question? Do you ever introduce yourself to these people who are judging you or try to strike up a small convo while your kids are playing? I know you probably like why would you and they are giving you nothing but negative feedback, I just believe they are ignorant and you can adjust that for them.
Introduce yourself and let then catch your vibe. And you are definitely not doing this so you can get on their good side or make yourself belong, because these type of people have issues way deeper than racism I tell you that. These people are “privileged” and feel that have better rights and they see you and wonder why are you breathing the same air. These historical civil rights ages are over, but some people still think this is “The Help Era” and we as people need to be a little more bold and challenge them that those days are over.
You didn’t conform to a statistic because you kids were born in wedlock and your happily married in a suburban area. You weren’t trying to become whitewash or fit in, you are trying to live the American dream like a normal person. An as an American (which has NO race) you are entitled to do what you want where you want. And so introducing yourself to them will flash that I their faces. That you belong there or anywhere, and you are black but human nonetheless. A human with feelings and a family who just wants to play like theirs do.
Sadly some whites just don’t get that simple idea.i hope the next time you go to the park, greet them with kindness and shock them. They are always afraid of the unknown so make yourself known.
This is a serious tear jerker. I commend you for writing what so many of us feel. I commend you for continuing to go to that park.
As a new mom and new to staying at home I work hard at exposing Zoë to the things I feel are important and the things I didn’t really get a chance to enjoy as a child. We are signed up for mommy meet-ups and we enjoy story time and building blocks at the library. I am the one mom of color that attends weekly. The other women of color are nannies. Although most of the moms embraced us a few never did. But even with the moms that have embraced us on more than one occasion I have been asked “what do you do?” Or “what does her dad too?” My reply has been “I am a stay at home mom like you. If you mean what I use to do then…” And/or “he works.”
Continue to enjoy your time with your children and husband.
I completely understand. No, I do not live in OC (or on the west coast for that matter) but I identified with every single thing. I remember my fingers swelling for both of my pregnancies to the point where I couldn’t wear my rings. I wore it around my neck, but it doesn’t help. I considered getting a fake set in a larger size until my hands returned to those of a human’s. We live in a P.W.A. (predominantly white area), which means each and every park or community tot class is full of salt and my babies are the only flecks of pepper in the batch. I get the stares, but I force myself to say hello. I don’t have much of a choice. My son seems like the stereotypical loud black person. He has Autism, and not he’s not on the quiet side of the spectrum either. He will let you know when he doesn’t like something, or when he wants something. He’s huge for his age. HUGE! When people look at us, I know what they’re thinking. This WOMAN and her UNRULY child don’t belong here. Why is he acting like that? Because of his size and build, they see a 7 year old who doesn’t listen to instructions. Realistically, what they’re watching is a 3 year old who has a hard time communicating a real conversation. Therefore, my commands go right over his head. I look like a bad parent and he looks like a bad child. I beg my husband to come with us to parks and tot class, but he works nights and is tired by morning.
So, I deal with it on my own.
Wow sis, this post is so thought provoking. But dishearteningly sad. As an educated, successful mother and wife…..I so know what you are going through. Keep your head up hun….just know that the majority of society are good, peaceful and understanding human beings. The minorit
This is a great post. I’m sorry you have to experience that. I’ve been there a few times myself. There’s nothing worst than having someone turn on their car alarm or pull their purse closer. I hope things get better for you. It is so wrong for them to judge you and your family.
Come play at our park. I’ll hang out with you! In all seriousness though… I grew up in a very small, mostly white town called Alta Loma. My next door neighbor was black and 4 years older than me. Her Mom was divorced but she was/is an R.N. And put her daughter through college. My neighbor is one of the best people I have ever known. Strong willed, intelligent and insanely funny. She was voted homecoming queen and I thought she was the coolest person in the world when I was growing up. Today, she is a wonderful wife and mother of two as well as a teacher in a boys home. Her race never seemed like an issue to me growing up. Everyone loved her. Then I moved to Orange County. Now when I see a black person walking down the street, they seem very out of place. Almost suspicious. This is simply because there are not very many in the area for some reason. But let me tell you… My daughter goes to a public school in Anaheim and guess who the minority is? Her. The school is 95% Hispanic. Totally fine. But she is going to know what it feels like to be looked at different and even treated different. Heck, she already is. But you know what the cool thing is? Rather than her fitting in with everyone, we get to teach her lessons about other cultures and that she will be a stronger person when she grows up because of it. She will have more tolerance (in my mind anyway since she’s only 6) and she will hopefully have an open heart to not judge based on color but rather be welcoming to all who want to know her. I know it has to be hard being a black family and a very educated black woman. But please know that those Moms at the park are the ones missing out. They are ignorant and missing a huge opportunity to get to know a smart, clever and God loving woman and her family. I pray that you can one day have that feeling of being safe and welcomed in your own neighborhood park. Being white, I have never had to endure those harsh judgments and I have no clue what that feels like. But I can promise you this: My mind has been more open and my heart more honest because of things I have learned from you. Please Keep doing what you are doing.
I understand what you are saying, but you can say it without passing judgement on unmarried mothers. Whether you choose to conform to society or not, nobody should be subject to that sort of scrutiny. Being a “welfare mom” does not decrease the likelihood of them being good mothers and nuanced, educated(yes, educated!) women. THAT is what we need to be telling people, instead of shouting from the rooftops trying to qualify ourselves as good Negroes.
Gosh. Girl you got me shedding tears on the internet. Though I’m not in your situation I felt every word of what you wrote. It’s sad that black people have to go through life being judged harshly. That every time we find ourselves in certain settings we have to prepare our minds for the possible racism/B.S. I wish I had a remedy that would instantly make this go away, but making sure that your children have what you and your husband believe is the best life is most important.
Perhaps you could try Kiwi’s method?
I’m so so sorry that you have to deal with this. I’m sorry that any of us have to deal with this. It’s embarrassing that human beings act this way and teach their children to be the same way. It’s ridiculous that you and your husband experience this on a daily basis and that you have to go through so many different thoughts to even feel accepted. Ignorant people aren’t worthy of your time.
I really enjoyed this post. Very well written. Unfortunately, living in Atlanta, GA, I experience the same scrutiny when I’m out with my son.
I too live in Atlanta and am glad to say that I don’t face that judgement/ shame regularly though it is still something that is deeply ingrained in my head from years of living in a racist society. It comes out in things like dressing nice when I go shopping in certain malls or certain stores so that I will look like I belong and can afford what’s being sold there, so that i don’t look like “one of those” that you referred to in your article. What your article did force me to think about and acknowledge in myself was the looks I give to the single black pregnant mom pushing a baby stroller down the street with 2-3 other children following behind her. It’s usually not one of disgust or scorn as you made mention of these white women giving you but rather a look of shame and sadness which I must admit is itself a form of judgement. I am judging them because of how they make me look to other people. I am judging them for the mistakes I presume they’ve made in life without knowing anything about their situation. I am ashamed because I know how their kids are struggling academically and behaviorally (since I work at the local elementary and high schools)and I don’t want my child to be viewed that way by others. I hate that I think that way! My fear of being judged and looked down upon has actually caused me to judge. It’s internalized racism like the whole light skin/ dark skin thing. The big difference though is that when I see these women I want to help them not shun them! Isn’t it crazy that racism has caused us to feel shame on both sides…shame from the looks we get from white people and shame for the way we internalize it and then in turn give those same looks to our own people.
Wow. I can relate to some extent. That’s one of the reasons I don’t like “Mommy groups”. It just seemed like a bunch of grown up mean girls who need support of other former mean girls now that they have to take care of somebody else. Luckily, while my neighborhood is majority white, the people here are cool. There are a few mothers who are standoff-ish but that’s their problem. I’d rather not be bothered. I have to say, my husband made the majority of the friends we know at our park and he is white. But since he was with our older son at the time who is obviously biracial, they knew his wife was black, so perhaps they had no choice to be cordial to me if they already knew my kid.
My car pool partner is white and she and I met at the park when our kids were under 1. We just casually started talking when our sons were in the bucket swings. We were even pregnant at the same time with our second and didn’t know it until we were both in the last trimester (I didn’t get out much). She is really nice and definitely not a mean girl which is why we get along so well. Sometimes it’s just a matter of saying hello; I always have, just to be cordial and never got a stank face, except at the first and last mommy group I went to. I can’t blame it all on race but I understand your situation being in an all white area. I can’t wear my rings right now because they are too loose and I had to go out with my kids today without my husband. I knew that some people in line were waiting for me to pull out an EBT card at the checkout, I could feel the eyes, but I would have had something for them. I have a pretty smart mouth so I’m ready for anything. I almost dare them to say something in a way because making assumptions about anyone based on stereotypes is just stupid.
Argh! How frustrating, but not surprising from what I understand of OC. Foreign to me! I grew up in San Francisco and now live in Oakland. I am white and went to a school where I was the minority, less than 3%. It was….far less than perfect. I also eventually went to a school where no one was a majority, and I mean No One. It was less than perfect too, but mostly in a good way. My children are in such a school now and while being in an urban area has it’s problems(oh, who am I kidding? This is Oakland, we have problems I’m sure they broadcast on the news down there) race, social class, economic class, sexual orientation even gender identity–these are not them at our school or community (they do exist here, I am not naive). Growing up in a diverse, accepting (I despise the word “tolerate”. I tolerate traffic) community, I’d hear stories from individuals ostracized in towns they were born in for what they looked like, what they believed in, who they loved—never their character—and I’d want to grab them and take them home.
You know, in Oakland the buzz to leave “because of the schools” is strong. But my kids and others like them—an active parent or two, really that’s all it really is–are doing as well as their peers in richer, “safer” communities. AND they get to experience culture, LOTS of culture and really amazing food :-). The kids here that you don’t hear about on the news, that get good grades, take advantage of the fantastic programs the public high schools have to offer, go on to more Ivy league schools and more UCs than tony Piedmont and Orinda, but you never hear about that. You and your husband are steadfast in your drive to see your children succeed. Why would you doubt your ability to accept the challenges in a more diverse environment? I know it’s challenging; we live it everyday. You’re in Southern California and I know finding the right niche in school, community and housing is every bit as hard as it is here, But, it’s worth every effort to not have to deal with those isolationists. Leave them to themselves like they deserve. Seriously, a lot of their children will go away to the city and realize how skewed the world they were raised in is and not come back. Maybe you downsize, maybe you give some stuff up. What I have noticed is more accepting, progressive areas are more expensive, have more obvious social problems as opposed to the insidious ones and the housing is smaller. But commute times are shorter, the galleries and museums are closer, there’s far more amenities and the food is better. A lot better!
And the ones who aren’t “comfortable” among others that don’t look like them? Leave them to each other. They’re slowing being left to peck themselves to death and you and your children don’t have to pave that path. Good luck to you and yours. You’ll do fine no matter where you are.
I am sorry you had to experience this feeling of rejection. However rather than try and change the situation you fed into it.I know racism exists and maybe they are racists or maybe they are just mean girls who grew up and became mean woman.Maybe they would stare and move away from anyone who was not in their clique regardless of color. You are formulating reasons for their actions based on your past experience not on your knowledge of them as individuals. They may be doing the same thing. Somebody has to be the better person and break down the walls and start building bridges.No guarantees it will work but at least it is the mature thing to do. Also who says you would all get along if you were the same color. Like a group of black woman never made a lone black woman feel an outsider
Thanks Kari! LOL. It really is a more reflective post. We are really happy and have a great church community. But, I think that is why this is so jarring at times because it is antithetical to a lot of our other networks.
We’d love to do a play date with you guys:)
Thanks for visiting. I definitely speak to and interact with some folks at times. It depends on the situation but this post was really me reflecting on that experience and sharing it so that others can do the same.
Come back again:)
Thanks for visiting.
You are totally correct in your assertion that I have no clue exactly what these ladies were thinking or why they behaved in a way that I perceived to be racist. Since this is my blog, they don’t have the opportunity to speak their truth. That’s just the nature of editorial writing.
You raise some great questions as well. There is no guarantee that we would be friends if we were the same color.
But, this post isn’t really about that is it? It is a reflective post about the inner thoughts that many black women have when in this type of situation. This is the internal narrative for many women. Whether justified by real racism or not, this is the narrative. That, to me, is the most poignant and salient point of the piece.
Thanks again for stopping by:)
I definitely speak and interact sometimes. I am very outgoing and I have a huge personality. But, sometimes, you just want to not have to do anything extra. Sometimes, you just want to be…normal.
And, that was why I wrote this. I wanted to show the lengths I have gone to at times just to run errands or take my kids to the park. I think it is particularly salient because it is a task that most people would deem mundane and passive. But, for many black women, simple chores result in a cavalcade of feelings, an onslaught of unwanted emotions.
I find that incredibly interesting.
Thanks again for stopping by:)
Thanks for visiting Nikia!
I think you may have misread the sentiments there. I am not saying that those are my judgments, I am saying that those are the judgments of others and because of them, I have contorted and conformed in some ways.
I was raised by a single mother and so was my husband. We have two of the best moms ever made.
I was playing with point of view there to say that certain fallacies are projected onto black women (whether true or false) and we respond in a variety of ways. One of those ways is to, in essence, shun ourselves. It is sad but true nonetheless.
Thanks for stopping by!
This is a very interesting, thought-provoking post. I’d love to do a partial re-post of this to my site Baby and Blog (http://babyandblog.com). Let me know if that’s okay!
Feel free to do a partial repost with proper linkage and citation. Thanks for asking ahead of time:)
Omg although I don’t have kids or live in USA I can totally relate,I’m so glad that you done the article it was almost if you were speaking for me.
I live in a predominantly white area in UK and I often look after my niece and the white mothers seem to systematically single me out as the black person,welcoming each other but hardly me,it doesn’t affect my niece because they love her and allow their children to play along with her but with me they are more reserved.
I would be lying to say it doesn’t affect me because I’m human with feelings and nobody likes to be the outcast,I realize that their attitude is part ignorance and part fear but I also feel as grown women they are wise enough to know that their behaviour will give you a complex about who you are,I personally don’t go out out of my way to say hello but I’m friendly and cordial to all,I believe that just because you are a black women you don’t always have to pander to the whims of other people because then you are giving their actions more power you are also holding yourself at a disadvantage by having to be the one that submits purely because you have black skin.
You could always turn it around by taking back the power and that is by rising above it like I do now,it’s a battle of wills when you know some will never accept you but it’s sadly life and while there will always be people like this,it’s not your problem it’s theirs.
It does make me question everything about being black ,being in environments every day where the issue is more apparent and you can’t run away from it and I wonder when the day will come when your not judged by color,sadly I don’t think it’s on this time,what really grates on me is that blacks seem to be the only race that is grouped as different in regards to other minorities,they seem to get more acceptance,hey, never mind..
I can relate to this. I had my first daughter at 25 years old. I had a masters and was married for 2 years before giving birth to my daughter. I was in the hospital room with my newborn, while my husband stepped out to get lunch. A white nurse came in and we struck up a conversation all of the sudden she says “are you going to finish high school because it’s hard out here for single teen mothers especially when they have to rely on the government to take care of them.” I couldn’t believe she had the audacity to say something like that to me. Yes, I looked young but so what! What gave her the right to judge me and assume that I was a single unwed teenage mother and on welfare. Seven years later, I still get the looks and comments of a single mother with kids(I have a six month old now) I have the same experiences as you. I decided a few years ago, that I don’t care what these white women “assume” about me. I’m not going to make sure I have my wedding ring, so I can prove that I fit in with them. I’m not going to go out of my way to let them know that I have a husband, a couple degrees, a career, own my own house twice over and probably make more money than them. Let them stare with their judgmental eyes. I don’t care anymore. It used to hurt and I useD to make sure I wasn’t seen as “one of them” BUT I am one of them. I am judged just like “one of them.” It doesn’t matter how many degrees I have, how many years i’ve been married,how much money I make, the house and area I live. I’m always going to be “one of them” in the eyes of these woman that don’t know me. I’m okay with that! because I know who I am and I don’t have to prove anything to them. THEY ARE NOT WORTH IT TO ME!! Black people try to hard to fit in with these judgmental people. We want to make sure we’re not seen as a hood rat, a thug, or a unwed, unemployed, single mother. I’m tired of trying to prove myself! Let them assume I’m a walking stereotype.
This sort of thing happens even on military bases. White moms have literally snatched their child away from mine after their child came up to ask mine to play. This has happened on several occasions.My child is very observant so he notices their behavior and it, of course hurt his feelings. He asked why they aren’t allowed to play with him and, being the parent I am, I am honest with him about how some people are. It’s aggravating.
Going places without my husband and people’s reactions are equally frustrating. It’s silly to think that we have to have our husbands by our sides every time we step out into public with our children or else we are “welfare queens.” Our husbands work for pete’s sake, like every other husband in the freaking world. It’s silly.
The only thing we can do is just teach our children not to let other people ruin their fun.
Forgive me if you have already discussed this before, but have you thought about joining a black mommy group? I had to start my own after I moved because I was experiencing the same thing you did. I am the only black SAHM everywhere I go during the day and it does get demoralizing to be constantly stared at and/or ignored sometimes at the same time! I usually experience it at story time because the other moms know each other and even though I am friendly and try to strike up a conversation, it usually goes nowhere. Honestly, now I just ignore them because I know the deal. Now that I have a little group of black moms, I actually look forward to going to the park.
Wow. This is so sad. Fortunately I’ve never lived in the US and see it as anything but a dream. Raised in Jamaica, having spent time in the UK, China/Hong Kong and Australia, I’ve seen racism against black folk several times. Sadly, the majority of those times have been because being very light-skinned and often mistakened for some sort of South American/Mediterranean/whatever race, people have assumed that there’s no ‘darkie’ [the actual term one man used when I was inches away from him in an elevator] in the room and they can release their vitriol. On those occasions the shock rendered me speechless. Then I thought- I should do something, but if I let my temper get out of hand and reveal my racial heritage, does that then confirm the stereotype? How do I rise above it and challenge someone? What about when I overheard it in another conversation which I wasn’t part of? Do I butt in? How do I disarm this vile person’s ignorance with wit? Will it actually make any difference, or will they always have their tunnel vision?
You ask important questions in your comment. I think people often fight with themselves when this stuff happens. I know I do. I think it really comes down to what the intention is and if it can become a teachable moment for all parties involved.
Thanks for visiting!
First of all excellent post. This one and the follow up post where you discussed plagiarism and the comments received. Moving to Orange County two years ago, has been one of the hardest moves I have ever done. Exactly because of what you mentioned regarding the playgrounds and I am white, blond hair, green eyed mother. I watch mothers and fathers talk to each other and children playing in groups and never feel welcomed by them at the park, “i am the outsider” and treated like a leapard. I always smile and try to start conversations with parents but because I might not be wearing the same clothing, or have the hair style, or body shape,age, or go to the same church as the flavor at that moment at the park, I get ignored and sit alone and my child is not welcomed to play with the other kids. People reading this might think I probably have punk rocker hair,tattoos and piercings, not at all I am pretty clean cut just a little over weight from my pregnancy. I have put posts seeking other mothers too make park play-dates with in mommy groups on FB and other avenues and after two years have exactly two friends I can meet up with at the parks and have our kids play, getting two friends was a hard process. Thank god for those two friends, they are amazing and down to earth but sadly like me have moved to OC in the last two years and many times call me up saying “do you notice people/women in OC are …..” confused just as I how different people are here. I have lived all around the world, and before moving to OC lived in Northern California and Silicon Valley having 100s of friends anywhere I moved, making friends easily and honestly in OC what you wrote so resonated with me because it was finally something I can say “wow someone gets it and sees what I see”. That being said, I live in Rancho Santa Margarita, not far from Orange and we go to the Irvine Regional Park and other parks in OC all the time and would be happy to met up. Have a great day and once again excellent post.
As traumatic as these experiences are for you – the mother, just imagine how your children will be affected one day. At 10, my mother moved us to an all-white neighborhood. Before that I had been in fairly mixed schools. I fully expected to come into this new school and make friends, that was far from reality. I was one of maybe 3 black children in the whole school, and I felt ostracized. Even though most of the kids weren’t racist, or at least didn’t try to be. But the ones who were made my experience horrible. My sister and I had to endure racist neighbors, racist teachers, racist parents. It totally changed my personality. It made me hostile. At some point you have to decide that you are either going to completely ignore the intolerance (and instead view it as jealously or trivial), or get away from it. But from the sound of it you’re becoming quite paranoid from it. Just remember who you are, and remember why they really hate you. It has nothing to do with your skin because they spend hours at the tanning salon to look just like you. They hate you because they are not you, and their envy is what forces them to act up. Remember that and those mothers will never bother you again.
Brandy – the mother – http://justmeandyoukid.com
Excellent treatise of a very difficult subject. As a professional, college educated man in many US cities, I have endured similar treatment. My bi-racial child is now experiencing some this as a straight “A” high school student.
Your writing on this difficult and painful subject is beautiful. This sounds so hard. Thank you for sharing your experience.
I can’t help but wonder what would happen if you initiated a conversation with the parents, have they rejected or ignored your ‘hello’? Your children are going to good schools, school children invite one another to birthday parties, how can you actively ensure your children will have opportunities to socialize with their peers? Have you participated in any play groups where proper introductions would be made? At this moment, for the first time ever, affluent white people cannot utter racist sentiment, even among themselves, with impunity. Intolerance is perceived as a developmental disorder and about as socially desirable as a cold sore, no one wants to be associated with it. Just as an experiment, toss all these preconceived notions aside and just try conversing with the parents, introduce yourself and your child. That is your home, your community, your tax dollars keep that grass green and trimmed, take what is yours and participate in that community. What other people think of you is really irrelevant when it’s presumed. I would love to give you a huge hug and go to the park with you. That’s not possible so you’ll have to give yourself a huge hug, go out there and interact with the scary strangers for the kids sake. No one gets to reject you in your hood, don’t ever give them that option again.
Honestly, Orange County is one of the most racist places I’ve traveled to in my life. And I have been everywhere (Alaska, every New England and Great Lake state, Montana, Wyoming, Louisiana, Virginia, West Virginia, Mid-West, Eastern Seaboard, overseas, etc). You couldn’t pay me to live there. And the whole having a Mexican-servant-caste-system always weirded me out too.
I know racism is all over America but something is seriously wrong with those SoCal people. I don’t know if it’s because they have even more of a pathological fixation on the superficial or what. I would honestly prefer living in some middle of nowhere place (I have a black cousin who lives in the countryside in Tennessee and LOVES it) than O.C. Yet the O.C. likes to fancy themselves as more enlighten and living better lives than the rest of the country. Rubbish.
Very well written article. I would like to say that sometimes “good schools” are not the most important things to young black children in regards to educational opportunities, especially if it leaves our children marginalized due to race.
I honestly would not live in that community. I am also a married black mother of two black children. I have had similar experiences when I went to events with my daughter, mostly soccer leagues in metro Atlanta. Unfortunately, the ones that are the best organized IMO are the ones that are the least diverse and we did get a lot of stares like “what are they doing here” and I know people wondered how we could afford the league since there is a very large poverty-stricken black population in Atlanta that even black people like to ignore there.
That said, I would not raise my kids, especially my daughter in an overly racial environment. High test scores do not mean that kids will get the best education at those particular school. I am a believer in educating the “whole child” and I would not send my girl to such an environment. There has been studies performed that show that black males don’t fare as poorly as black girls in less diverse environments.
It is also sad that you feel so out of place. I am a very outgoing person and I talk to everyone. I made lots of friends in that soccer league even though some of the parents did talk about stupid IMO racial things like how they visited a school that was majority black and how they were “so shocked” at how well behaved the kids were, like our kids are all animalistic hooligans or something and I did tell that guy that all the black kids I know are well behaved and I don’t know why it would be surprising to see some that are. But I have also been in places where some people are stand-offish and won’t speak to me. FWIW, these were mostly Asian people. Some have even told me that they didn’t want my daughter, who was also 2 at the time, playing with their kid. One at Chuck-E- Cheese of all places! Also in metro Atlanta. I was told she couldn’t ride the 3 kid carousel with the little Asian boy even though there were 2 empty places. So when he was done, I put in my tokens and invited him to ride again with my daughter if he wanted and his mother looked like she was upset with me because the little boy took me up on the offer.
I’d like to take the job erythromycin stearate 500mg wiki “I cannot take Tommy Robinson or Kevin Carroll's announcement seriously until they reject their fascist views on Islam and Muslims and would caution other organisations celebrating this announcement as a massive personal achievement.”
I’d like to open a business account generic synthroid The African Union Special Summit of Heads of State and Government, held under the theme, “Ownership, Accountability and Sustainability of HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Response in Africa: Past, Present and the Future”, which opened on Monday at the International Conference Centre in Abuja, Nigeria ended on Tuesday by adopting the Abuja Action Plan Toward the Elimination of HIV/AIDS Tuberculosis, and Malaria in Africa by 2030.