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December 29, 2008 / VC

Queering Black Politics: Reconsidering the Black Single Mother Argument

blackmotherplus2

RE: Daniel Moynihan, Bill Cosby, et al, and their argument that black women birthing babies without husbands is the reason for dropout rates, poverty, and crime. Two words: played out.

I don’t wish to argue about whether or not black women are having children without being married, or whether or not it is occurring at a rate that is disproportionate to white women. I’m also not concerned about the supposed increased happiness and longer life spans of married people, or whatever.

I’d like to dialogue about what I perceive to be the problem of discussing black politics and “black issues” as though black people are one homogenous group with identical desires, family structures, and ideals. Black politics are not white politics in blackface. The old habit of acting as though black life is a poorer colored version of middle class white life has never been appropriate and it certainly is not now. The thing is, the American family is becoming increasingly queer. And this applies not only to the black family — although that’s primarily what I’ll be referring to in this post — but to families across racial groups. We are still having conversations about issues as though the Eurocentric “ideal” of the nuclear family is the norm and the model, and it is not. We have to accept that different family structures exist, are prevalent, and do work, and confront the fact that the discourse and policy propagated by the nation-state make it extremely difficult for queer families to survive.

Queerness in the black community — black folks are gay, not all black people are married, there are many multi-generational black households, and so on — is either ignored as though it doesn’t exist or referred to only as deviant. Why are we blaming single black mothers for the problems of a failing educational system and poorly designed social welfare programs that are supposed to act as some kind of end-all? Why do we have so much trouble turning to the state and looking at its role in perpetuating structural violence against non married (non heterosexual) households?

goldengirlsThe 2000 census showed that the nuclear family now makes up just less than 24 percent of families in the United States. While in 1960, when nuclear families made up 45 percent of all households, the lie that the average American family was nuclear may have been closer to the truth, it is now merely unabashed rhetoric intended to generate a perceived norm and inspire conformity. What is more, the number of households that consist of people living alone or with people who are not related (which are curiously being called “nonfamily households”) make up about one-third of all households.

I want to point out that nuclear black families do exist, and have in the past, alongside other family arrangements. Before Moynihan declared in 1965 that the problem with black america was that “nearly one-quarter of negro births are… illegitimate,” and “almost one-fourth of negro families are headed by females,” 74 percent of all black families were maintained by a husband and wife, and 22 percent were headed by women. Interestingly, by 1982, almost two decades after the implementation of policy that followed his report, black families maintained by married couples had dropped down to 55 percent, and single mother households rose to 41 percent. (Check Survival of the Black Family by K. Sue Jewell.)

The principal problem with the argument that intergenerational crime and poverty are due to the prevalence of single black mother households (aside from its sexist undertones) is that it centers blame on the family structure itself — which is queer — as opposed to the state-sponsored hostility that incriminates that family structure and makes it so difficult for single-mother households to survive. The fact of the matter is, through policy, the nation-state systematically discriminates against single-mother households and other queer domesticities that are not husband-wife-child. There are federal and state policies that not only encourage marriage, but also actively discourage other forms of love and commitment by granting multiple economic and legal privileges to married couples. These privileges include sick leave to care for a partner or child, crime victims’ recovery benefits, and access to things such as annuities, pension plans, Social Security and Medicare. Because single mothers are excluded from the rewards and protections of heterosexual marriage, and left only with the prospect of becoming entangled in the cobwebs of the U.S. welfare system, their families end up suffering more severely from substandard economic conditions than ones that mirror the nuclear mold.

smilingmanandgirlThe same is true for other queer domesticities that do not reflect the heterosexual patriarchal norm. The United States government’s pro-marriage policies are similarly hostile towards people who cohabitate, but are unmarried (be they heterosexual or not), and towards people of queer sexualities. In all but five states, queer couples are outlawed from sharing a union that is recognized by the state. And of course for the couples that do acquire such a union, their rights are only recognized within the boundaries of that state. If you’re a gay married couple in Massachusetts, you’re fine, but as soon as you drive into New Hampshire your marriage is no longer recognized by, nor protected under, the law.

Unmarried couples and their children are at an extreme economic, social, and legal disadvantage as a sheer result of their supposedly aberrant family structure. In such families, children do not have automatic access to the resources, benefits, and entitlements of both parents, such as employer-provided dependent health care; couples and their children are not protected by social security against a variety of risks such as survivor benefits in the case of death of a spouse; and partners are not acknowledged as next-of-kin in the case of medical emergencies. Through its unfair treatment of queer sexualities and domesticities, the nation-state has essentially transformed civil rights into privileges, granted to citizens based on the assumption of performed heterosexuality. It is an assumption of heterosexuality because while heterosexuality is inferred from marriage, similar to love, it is not a necessary component of marriage. There are marriages that exist for convenience, and for the sole purpose of receiving the multiple benefits conferred upon spouses by the state and federal governments

greatmigrationfam1 All of this being said, it is important to acknowledge that black people have queer domesticities and sexualities. In terms of queer domesticities, single-mother households are just one form of black queer familial organizaiton. K. Sue Jewell writes about “serial families,” which is the movement from one family structure to another. Examples of this would be a black female and her children returning to her family of orientation following a divorce, or black men and women traveling from town to town establishing temporary living arrangements with various black families during the mass migration of blacks to the North. There are also what have been called “familial constellations that exist as autonomous units or within families” such as a single-parent family that exists within a nuclear or extended family structure. Furthermore, there are multigenerational houesholds in which the grandmother is the primary caretaker of the children, or where there is a group of sisters raising children together, etc

Re: sexuality – not all black people are heterosexual. I’ll assume I don’t have to cite examples to prove that.

My point is that queering the black agenda (and the national agenda) is necessary. There are privileges that many queer American families are being excluded from, and like it or not this includes black families. The right to see your loved one in the hospital should not be contingent on sexual preference nor marriage status. The partners of single (black) mothers should be able to claim the child on their employer health insurance. Households headed by uncles and grandmothers should be able to file joint tax returns. If one partner dies, the other should be granted automatic inheritance in the absence of a will. These are rights that are kept not only from queer people of all colors, but also from nonqueer people who do not reap the benefits of acting as a nuclear family.

I’m not trying to say that queer family structures are invariably functional, just as I don’t believe the nuclear family is. I’m also not trying to belittle wife-husband-child (nor “husband”/man on his own, since I’m sure I’ll be accused of that as well). I’m trying to reconsider and rephrase some popular arguments. We talk about absent fathers without mentioning the prison-industrial complex. We talk about single-black mothers more than we talk about anti-queer federal policy.

The problem is not that people are different. The problem is not that girls aren’t marrying. The problem is not that black women are reproducing. The problem is that the dominant ideology governing what is socially acceptable and legally rewarding works to systematically discriminate against queer ways of life, including unmarried lifestyles, living without a pronounced male head of household, or being a single parent.

No, the black family does not always resemble the patriarchal nuclear family that has been deemed the most successful and productive. Yes, black single mother households have increased over the last four decades, and yes, a number of black children come from single-parent households. We should use these realities to question the formation of exclusionary norms, rather than to lambaste black morality with underlying aspirations to assimilate. Discourses around proper sex and family structures have regarded black families as violating social and moral code, while social welfare policies and pro-heterosexual marriage policies have cunningly made maintaining queer family structures particularly economically onerous. In order to constructively organize (and queer!) black politics, we cannot ignore the presence of black sexualities and domesticities on the periphery of dominant discourse, and the role of nation-state in perpetuating and punishing this queer positionality. We have to affirm our family structures, and redirect our criticisms towards the nation-state and its undeniable role in policing sex through criminalization of the black queer.

38 Comments

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  1. brownblackandqueer / Jan 6 2009 1:51 am

    thank you.

    sincerely.

  2. ding / Jan 7 2009 11:01 am

    this was truly awesome. i’m throwing it up on Bitch, Ph.D.

  3. Orange / Jan 7 2009 12:23 pm

    This is a terrific essay. (Came here from the link at Bitch Ph.D.) I’m white/straight/married/with a kid, so society pats me on the back and says “good job.” I know a lot of people whose family structures are queer in one way or another, though (singles, same-sex couples, single moms, multigenerational households, etc.) and you’re exactly right—all sorts of tax and governmental benefits accrue to me and not to them, punishing them all.

  4. North / Jan 8 2009 11:48 am

    I loved this! I also wonder if you have ideas for specific policies. You mentioned a bunch of privileges that should be extended to non-traditional families: do you think there should be any restrictions on how tax benefits are claimed or on who can visit someone in the hospital? I ask that as a serious question because I don’t have a clear answer to it for myself. How do you know who the partner is in the absence of a will? What about people who don’t have a single primary partner? What if someone misrepresents himself/herself to get access in the hospital?

    One thing that seems pretty clear to me is that you should be able to pass on inheritances to people without triggering gift taxes even if that person isn’t your relative, unless it would otherwise be subject to estate taxes.

  5. Rob / Jan 9 2009 2:26 am

    The principal problem with the argument that intergenerational crime and poverty are due to the prevalence of single black mother households (aside from its sexist undertones) is that it centers blame on the family structure itself — which is queer — as opposed to the state-sponsored hostility that incriminates that family structure and makes it so difficult for single-mother households to survive.

    Yes, this must be sexist. Otherwise, if the problem really was with single-parent households, the arguments used to blame problems on female-headed (known as matrifocal) households could be applied identically to “patrifocal” households. The absence (as far as I can tell) of such implies that sexism must be involved. You touch a bit more on this in your 2nd-last paragraph.

  6. denelian / Jan 9 2009 5:32 am

    i followed the link from feministe.
    i am cherokee, and while i did not live on the rez, i spent lots of time there. there are many families that include other adults in the household – mainly grandparents, but brothers/sisters of parents, cousins – sometimes there would be a veritable “clan” (if that doesn’t seem to be too ironicly worded ).
    i did this myself, sort of. after my sister and her husband had a child (and i became disabled shortly therafter) i moved in and was the primary caregiver for my niece – but because i was over 18 but not married, no one had any “rights” reguarding me (and that was an issue at one point, when i had to be hospitalized and the hospital wouldn’t recognize my sister as someone who could speak for me.) we eventually filed power-of-attorneys, every which way, but… if we had been recognized as a FAMILY to start, we would have avoided some medical emergencies (seriously. one hospital refused to accept the power of attorney that i held for my niece. she had a broken arm, and we sat in the waiting room for EIGHT HOURS because my sis and her husband were out-of-state…)
    my mother is raising my other sister’s children. she raised two of my cousins. i raised my other-other youngest sister from 14 on. and every one of these family situations were considered suspect, persecuted, belittled and unworthy.
    why does the government work so hard at making life even more difficult? the whole situation is absurd – the “nuclear family” is a product of commercials and sitcoms; it certainly isn’t an idea based on a majority reality.
    thank you for addressing this. “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”?

  7. tql / Jan 9 2009 10:01 am

    I have a couple of issues with this piece.

    In this piece, I feel like in using the term “queering of the Black family” you are conflating single mother hood and gay and lesbian families. Though I understand the point you are trying to make, I do not think it is a valid comparison.

    Part of the challenge of single motherhood is precisely the fact that it is one person raising children. One person – with a single income and their own physicial, emottional, and spiritual resources to fall back on – is solely responsible for raising a family is and will no doubt be a challenge. In a gay/lesbian family, there are presumably two people involved in parenting and can share the load of parenting, thereby making it considerably easier to parent than if one is doing it alone.

    The second issue I have is that you casually dismiss the 20% shift in Black married families and single mothers. Why is that not something of importance to look at and question? Instead of trying to lump single motherhood and decreases in Black marriages as an example of the “queering” of the Black family, why not look at those things separately and try to understand and address the challenges that arise from this shift.

    I can understand the reticence to do so b/c such analysis often starts at the individual and results in shaming and blaming Black single mothers. But, I think the issue of the decline of Black nuclear families and rise in single motherhood is an important issue to look at in and of itself and it is imperative that we come up with means of analysis that goes beyond blaming and shaming, and looks to solutions and providing an alternative framework for analysis. I think you tried to do that here, but it fell short.

  8. Bach-us / Jan 9 2009 1:07 pm

    This is why Diary of a Mad Black Woman didn’t sit well with me.

    Do you have any thoughts on how the privileges of marriage/nuclear family become liabilities when trying to escape domestic violence? Automatic permission for hospital visits (and school visits/pick-up) is problematic in those cases. I think the issue is related to the exclusionary norms you write about here, but I understand the desire to keep the thread on topic.

  9. Thealogian / Jan 9 2009 1:33 pm

    tql, I don’t want to try to speak for the author (who would probably do a heck of a better job than me), but “Queering” is precisely the right term for looking at family structures that do not follow the nuclear, heteronormative experience. Even if the majority of single mothers identify as heterosexual, that does not mean that they are living orthodoxically–hence, they are living in queered living arrangements. Queer isn’t just meant to identify gay and lesbian individuals or living arrangements, but rather all living arrangements that are not typical of the presumed nuclear, hetero, male-headed household.

    I hope that that extended definition helps you understand.

  10. the black scientist / Jan 9 2009 2:23 pm

    welcome everyone – it’s almost everyone’s first time so that’s cool. thank you for coming by and sharing your comments. it is very much appreciated and i do hope yall stick around. :)

    north – i also wonder about policy changes. i have ideas but i’m cautious to make suggestions without having done the proper research. i think that the first step would be for the government to make civic commitments to universal health care, social security, affordable housing, etc. making these “benefits” available to everyone would relieve a lot of the undue economic and emotional stress that many families feel already. other than that.. in regards to the absence of will, i think of something akin to common law marriage in some states. perhaps cohabitation after a certain number of years should qualify a unit to be considered a ‘family’. most common law marriages in the U.S. exclude a lot of families though because the ‘marriage’ of course is based on a conjugal model.
    rights like visiting someone in the hospital i think should be determined by the individual. you should be able to name your sister or whomever as someone you want to be able to see you in the hospital and make decisions for you etc. i think even married people should do this. as for ppl who don’t have a primary partner (ie polyamorous relationships) – choose one? lol i know that might cause some tension or hurt feelings, but what can ya do? when it comes down to dying, you don’t want two heads bickering about whether or not you’d want to be fed boysenberry yogurt or pureed carrots. and i think the problem of potential self-misrepresentation would exist anyway, right?

    tql – i meant to make a note about how i’m using the word ‘queer’. i’m not using it as a synonym for lgbt and its not even necessarily gay related. broadly, i’m using it to indicate something that is not normative (particularly as it relates to the ‘personal’/household sphere). thats why i reference not only ‘lgbt’ lifestyles, but other diverse family arrangements that do not reflect the patriarchal norm and are therefore ‘queer’.
    while i don’t see the point in making general comparisons for the sake of determining who has it harder (lgbt parents vs. single mothers), i wonder why you felt it necessary to differentiate between lgbt two-parent families and other two-parent families. isn’t your general argument that kids w/ 2 parents are better off?

    honestly, this piece isn’t really about why there has been an increase in single black mother households, although i do think that’s a viable and worthy conversation. the reason i mentioned the stat was to ward off the notion that black families have been majority ‘different’ since the slave ship. and also maybe to suggest that there’s a correlation between single mother households and the social welfare policies of the johnson administration. it seems as though single mothers are often cut off from welfare benefits once they have a partner (if, for example, together they don’t meet the work hour requirements for a household headed by two people) although they may still be well below the poverty line. that aside though, the number of single mother households have increased across racial lines. so in what ways is the black family specific, other than that black mothers have been deemed responsible for the problems of black america and the black family rendered ‘dysfunctional’?

  11. Jordi / Jan 9 2009 5:41 pm

    Thank you. Thank you very much. Can I link this on Jordi the Mighty?

    • the black scientist / Jan 9 2009 5:57 pm

      please do. i’d be delighted. :)

  12. idyllicmollusk / Jan 9 2009 9:10 pm

    Come here from Feministe. LOVED IT.

    “Through its unfair treatment of queer sexualities and domesticities, the nation-state has essentially transformed civil rights into privileges, granted to citizens based on the assumption of performed heterosexuality.”

    This sentence packed a lot of punch for me!

    “We are still having conversations about issues as though the Eurocentric “ideal” of the nuclear family is the norm”

    Well, and it really is as prevalent there either. Again, they have an “ideal” that is often not practiced in reality, just like the US. The term “nuclear family” itself wasn’t even coined until 1924. It often wasn’t economically feasible until after the World Wars.

    And if you think about it, returning WWII G.I.’s were given government assistance to buy homes in new-fangled suburbs, and to get college education, and to essentially gather the basics to establish a “nuclear family” based on a single income. Was there racial discrimination when these benefits were dispersed? I don’t know, but it’s certainly possible. But given this extra help, it was this generation, who produced the Boomers, who reached high rates of nuclear family formation and defined the American Dream as the suburban, white-picket-fence ideal.

    Our society’s weird obsession with one family structure seems to have no purpose. I mean, WHY? Why just one structure? Do we really have “proof” that it is so much better than all the others? Because it seems that any studies about negative outcomes for alternative family structures in our society would be inherently poisoned since we are so phobic of single-family, multi-generational, queer, and other structures that they are automatically disadvantaged and can’t be studied in a truly comparative sense vis-a-vis nuclear families.

  13. Lauren / Jan 9 2009 9:24 pm

    Hey there. I linked this on Feministe and wanted to tell you that this is so fucking important to single mothers everywhere. Thank you so much.

  14. osolomama / Jan 10 2009 10:43 am

    This is brilliant and you have put into words what I’ve been struggling to say. I have first-hand experience with some of these non-normative family types. I’m single, lived with a string of unrelated people in my 20s and 30s (yes, they were households–not waystations on the way to something better), almost married but didn’t, came to motherhood through adoption, now live alone with my child. Over the years, it’s become obvious what has supported our family and what has destabilized it. Supports: quality public education, nationalized health care (I live in Canada), being educated myself and having the freedom to work at home, support from family and friends. Destabilizers: pricey child care, the death of close friends and family members, relationship or financial woes.

    I agree with you that the time for the exceptional legal privileges of marriage may be over. Have you seen any of Nancy Polikoff’s stuff on moving beyond marriage? There’s an interview here: http://www.bookslut.com/features/2009_01_013862.php

    By the way, we also follow the fatherless thread on my site. Drop by any time.

  15. Marianne / Jan 10 2009 11:15 am

    “rights like visiting someone in the hospital i think should be determined by the individual. you should be able to name your sister or whomever as someone you want to be able to see you in the hospital and make decisions for you etc. i think even married people should do this. ”

    The problem here isn’t so much that people don’t have the right to name whomever they choose as their medical power of attorney, I think anyone can do that. And the problem isn’t just about who can visit who in the hospital, which is why it makes me so mad when politicians frame the gay marriage argument this way (“while I don’t believe in gay marriage, I do believe committed partners should be able to have visitation rights” and blah blah blah) it’s about surrogacy law. There are generally no conflicts when the person who is ill is not ill enough to stop them from making their own decisions, the problem comes in when the person is not able to make their own decisions and HAS NOT named anyone else to do so. Then the surrogacy laws take effect and as you so rightly pointed out in your essay, those laws discriminate against any arrangement other than the “nuclear” family one. So, I don’t think a solution would be to just have the individual able to determine who they want to have see them in the hospital…the surrogacy laws need to change or people in queer families just need to be able to get married, because you can’t ever count on people to think ahead enough to name a power of attorney.

    Thanks for the essay….I very much enjoyed it.

  16. pillowcasestudy / Jan 11 2009 8:34 pm

    This is entirely terrific.

  17. Burl / Jan 11 2009 11:56 pm

    I certainly agree that people should have the freedom and choice to form what ever kind of families they want to AND be entitled to the same kinds of benefits as so-called “traditional nuclear” families. What I disagree with is your assumption that “queer families” includes single motherhood. Queer families have chosen their lifestyle and I think it is stretching to say that most young Black women are actively chosing to be single moms because they think that is what is best for them. I just can’t imagine Black girls saying that when they grow up, they want to be single moms. So, trying to equate single motherhood into your “queer families” theory does not work.

  18. the black scientist / Jan 12 2009 4:02 pm

    burl –
    i think we have a misunderstanding about how i’m using the word queer. by ‘queer’, i don’t mean gay or lesbian necessarily, i mean nonnormative. it’s about living or expressing on the “margins.” the word ‘queer’ can be considered a tool with which to analyze how ‘normal’ is constructed. single motherhood is ‘queer’ because it is not part of the constructed norm.
    that aside, i think you are trying to say that lgbt folk ‘choose’ their sexuality and i find that to be a problematic assertion.

  19. Burl / Jan 12 2009 6:33 pm

    Hi Black Scientist,
    I understand that your definition of queer is NOT narrowly defined as gay and/or lesbian couples. I’m also NOT arguing that gays and lesbians choose their sexuality. What I am arguing is that what you called, “non-normative” families, are typically families that people have chosen on their own terms. A Black father that decides to ditch his responsibilities as a father and leaves may very well create a “non-normative” family, but it ignores the mother’s choice. There are single moms that don’t choose this situation and are thus “non-normative” by no choice of their own. This is different from other non-normative families that have chosen their lifestyles.

  20. the black scientist / Jan 12 2009 11:23 pm

    burl,
    i want to thank you for reading the blog and engaging with the discussion. i really appreciate your comments. even if we never agree on anything (not saying that’s the case :) its with the dialogue that we grow, and i want you to know that your thoughts are appreciated.
    in response to your comment, having a choice is not a requisite for being queer. so while it’s true that some single mothers might not have chosen to be single mothers, that’s a little beside the point. i think it’s important not to generalize in this situation though, because every family is different. not all single mothers are victims of circumstance. and some queer families might not choose their familial arrangements (they might be driven to create a new domesticity due to economic situation, for example). so, you’re absolutely right that the circumstances that create single mother households are not always the same as those that create other households, but i was never saying that they are the same. i’m saying that they are discriminated against through policy. apples aren’t oranges, but they still deserve to be called fruit.
    also, when it comes to discussions about structural oppression and poverty (both of which intermingle with discourses on single mothers), i find talking about ‘choice’ to be a slippery conservative slope towards an attribution of pathology.

  21. Keori / Jan 15 2009 12:57 am

    This essay is made of so much win. For a long while my non-heteromarriage-normative household was myself (divorced), my best friend (leaving an abusive husband), and her baby, my godson. I was the primary breadwinner, and we had a hell of a time figuring out economic safety nets based on the fact that, despite being a family group, we weren’t sanctioned by law. How on earth does THAT benefit anybody besides insurance companies?

    Something else you brought to my mind…the disgusting sexist overtones of the whole patriarchal heteronormative white, middle-class suburbia 2.5 kids utopia that people like Moynihan are convinced is the end-all, be-all to life, the universe, and everything. Why is it that when I lived with my mother during my parents’ divorce, she was considered a failure, but when I lived with my father when she went back to college full time, he was considered a damn hero? WTF? Granted, she was a lousy parent and abusive, but that reflects on her as a person, not as a woman.

    Ugh, this stupid patriarchal shit makes me so angry. Which is why I’m so incoherent.

    If you feel like taking a gander at it, read “The Fifth Sacred Thing” by Starhawk. It’s a post-apocalyptic type novel set in San Francisco after climate change has killed modern life as we know it. The city’s humanity is a beautiful thing to read about. That vision of all human beings as equal, working hard to live in harmony with each other and the planet, is gorgeous.

  22. morris90 / Jan 18 2009 1:57 am

    Looking for information on Single Black Women Adoption, came upon your blog. Black Scientist you just said what I’ve been trying to say for years on this very subject. You just expressed what I was trying to say for years. Will continue to check out your blog.

  23. day / Feb 16 2009 10:47 pm

    peace. i read the essay/ and just scammed thru some comments. and after all is said and done, about the politic the biggest problem is dispelling this myth of ‘single motherhood.’ there’s no such thing. there’s not one woman who’s ‘out here on her own’ or really ‘raising two kids, job AND school, lalalala BY MYSELF blah blah blah’.

    single mothers/ have really become another archetype like sapphire, like jezebel. because there is not one woman who raises a child by herself. there’s the grandma who babysits and the next door neighbor who made sure aint nobody rob her and the cousin who brought in the furniture and the bus driver who let her on the bus for free to pick up her kids. and the daycare people that let you pay late and the teachers who give ur kid a snack.

    i can go on. but u get my point. they might not put “food on the table for 18 years” but, they do SOMETHING and it counts! there’s a loss of community. and the media/books/whoever continues to convince people they are ‘on their own.’ to the point where woman are proud to be ‘single mothers’ to the point where ‘they dont need a man, i’ma go head have this baby anyway.’

    don’t need man? whatever, good for you.
    but feeling/ believing/acting as though you are alone?
    problem.

  24. O Solo Mama / Feb 17 2009 8:04 am

    Um, I raise my child by myself. I have no parents. I have no family members who help out in the way you describe. I am totally responsible for this family, and earn the total family income. If I’m late with bills, I get docked just like everyone else. Like married couples, I appreciate public education and health care but I also pay for it with my taxes. So please point out to me how I am getting some kind of break and “the single mother” doesn’t exist.

  25. the black scientist / Feb 18 2009 8:39 pm

    peace day, thank you for the comment, although i’m not sure that i understand your point. how can you really say there is ‘no such thing’ as single motherhood? is the bus driver giving my child caffeine supplement gum twice a week really making me any less of a single mother?

  26. Burl / Feb 19 2009 8:17 am

    I believe he is referring to the “It takes a village” mentality.

  27. day / Feb 28 2009 9:53 pm

    definitely referring to the takes a village idealogy which we so often forget.
    and while the thought that there is no single mother/ might be extreme and hurt feelings. its true. the so called single mother is no savior/ and is not doing it alone. whether that help is a higher power or the bus driver/ who no doesn’t get gum. but does help your child get to school.

    and like i said/ that counts.
    as a woman, growing up with only my mother. believing or playing this super single mother role can trip people into thinking that they don’t even need help. has young girls jumping out like a ‘single mother’ is something they should aspire to be/ when they can really just be themselves/ and that’s more than enough. i have too many girlfriends who get pregnant on purpose with the PLAN to be a single mother. like its a walk in the park, or like its a career-
    we are losing our agency to create our own superhero capes outside of motherhood. we can do more than have babies. and don’t read that as an attack on women who are raising children on their own.

  28. the black scientist / Mar 2 2009 5:06 pm

    “we are losing our agency to create our own superhero capes outside of motherhood. we can do more than have babies.”

    word. i dig this. it’s interesting because a lot of young girls aspire to be mothers. it’s just that usually that dream also comes with a husband and a home in the country. i can’t relate in general, but i agree that we shouldn’t mythicize single mothers as simply another stereotypical black female caricature.
    at the same time, i don’t see how saying they don’t exist is useful. single mothers exist in the same way single fathers exist. single parents exist. and perhaps we don’t mean the word “single” as in solitary, but all language is contextualized.

  29. Slagle / Aug 6 2009 4:07 pm

    nice and informative post….keep up the good work and please be sure to inform me of updates!

  30. how to really build a solar panel / Dec 1 2009 8:28 am

    I added your post to my college report. Regards

  31. David / Nov 1 2010 5:24 pm

    Why do black girls have children they can’t afford? Where are the fathers? Why is the father gone by the time the pregnancy is over. who should pay for their children? Why do white girls have abortions when they get pregnant or become losers. No one is saying to keep your legs closed but we are saying when you have a child as a teen you should look after it or the congregation that encouraged the keeping of the fetus should.

  32. Alisha M.Gray (@angelmommie) / Sep 11 2011 10:33 pm

    Thank you so much for a very intellectual and informative article. I am a single parent, adoptive mother, scholar, and loved reading your article. This was an excellent Sociological depiction of what has happened w/in Black families; esp. re: Black Single mothers. I also addressed this w/in a recent thesis paper, & discovered that the history that is being ignored, actually began long before 40 yrs ago. It began right after slavery in the 1850′s. Single Black mothers were less visible, because as you stated..we are ‘queer’ in nature w/in Black families, & often operate through extended families. That is one reason why the Patriarchy is killing us. Our families structures were initially different, stemming from Africa, and purposely manipulated by societal laws, pressure, and hate-aimed at undermining both Black men and women’s authority. Patricia Hill Collins, “Work, Family and Black Women’s Oppression” describes this perfectly. Black Single Mothers are devalued; while simultaneously being given more responsibility. You are correct, that we need to change this Wh.Supremacy, patriarchal way of thinking, and we need to change it now. My paper is located on Blog. The link is on my profile; if anyone wants to read it. Good Post.

  33. Inquizative / Jun 3 2013 6:48 pm

    I like to keep things simple, the more single black mother households, the unsuccessful family. The nuclear family has declines and so has the rare of high school graduation amongst children, especially black males. The more single black woman households the more urban crime committed by black youths. The more single black woman households, the more poverty. Should I continue? I am not saying there should be all traditional “nuclear families,” however their should be more fathers/husbands in the home and j guarantee you their will be less you boys walking around with their pants sagging. It is impossible for a mother to do a fathers work AND vice versa, Statistically, please don’t try to make isolated points on successful black mothers and children they are statistically the minority and you know this. Please black women, stop thinking you can be fathers, you don’t see men trying intentionally to be mothers! For child’s sake, men aren’t sperm banks, they should be used as daddy’s, just ask your children.

Trackbacks

  1. Reconsidering the Black Single Mother Argument. « PostBourgie
  2. Go here… read this. « don’t do that
  3. The things that go through my head » Blog Archive » Is the Government Biased Towards Heterosexuality?
  4. » Queering Black Politics African American Studies

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