Marriage isn’t quite what it used to be regardless of race

I am in faux vacation mode; I call it faux because regular readers know I stay busy like a field hand in 1887. However today aside from dealing with email for an hour, I pretty much chilled on the beach with my kids and had no intentions of writing anything tonight.

That was until I checked in on twitter and saw several of my tweeps spitting nasty fire over this post. Wowzas! Seriously you have to read it but if you aren’t inclined let me paraphrase, the long and the short is that Black folks are dysfunctional and don’t value marriage. Sure, a lot of Black babies are the result of pairings between unmarried folks but the fact is in 2012 most babies born to moms under 30 are also the pairing of folks who aren’t married.

In the US alone half of all marriages end in divorce and those that stay married are looking at some new and shall we say interesting ways to stay legally married…open marriages anyone?

Marriage is a lovely thing but in a society that sells it as fairy tale, it’s no wonder so many marriages fail, marriage is work. I have been open about the fact that my own marriage dodged some bullets this past year, hell last year this time I was pretty certain that I was headed towards divorce #2. My own parents were married until death ended that union and they logged in 30+ years, in the end it was a solid union and they loved each other but there were a lot of frankly painful and messy years wedged between the I do and the death certificate.

When it’s good, marriage can add so much to one’s lives but it’s not a cure all and when we think of marriage as a tool that can better one’s plight in life, well that is a recipe for disaster. We live in a different world, one where marriage doesn’t necessarily mean it will turn one’s economic fortunes around. When I think of Black marriage specifically I see many reasons why it doesn’t happen, for starters while if it’s a recession for white folks economically, it’s been a straight up depression for Black folks for many years. Finances are a huge factor, let’s face it, two broke folks marrying isn’t always a great idea especially in a world that many years ago decided to dole assistance out only if a man wasn’t present…

I admit I could go on with reasons but fuck it, I am tired but I will say that lack of a legal piece of paper doesn’t preclude two parents from being active and involved in their kids’ lives. I stumbled upon this piece last week and of course no one talked about it, it’s so much easier to see the negatives than the positives. Turns out many Black men are quite active in their kids’ lives even if they aren’t married to the mother of their kids. I admit this jives with my own anecdotal stories.

In the end love doesn’t need a paper and while marriage offers with it many privileges and rights, marriage done wrong causes a world of heartache. While studies like to fixate on the woes of Black folks, the lower marriage rates are really across the board, so let’s not act as if Black folks are any more dysfunctional than any other group.

Nope, it’s not us versus them at all

As a blogger you never know when you are going to write a post that just strikes a nerve with your readers, but it seems my last post was the one that did it. It seems that I am not the only mother who also blogs who is wondering where the hell is my place at the table? Granted I knew that but in the past day I have heard from many women, mostly mothers, many women of color but some not. One of the common traits that we all share is that in the larger dialogue of motherhood and mothering that exists online, in print, on the big screen and basically everywhere is that if you are not a white, heteronormative middle class mother, we are all left wondering where do we fit in.

Earlier today I had a great conversation online about that last post and someone I wasn’t familiar with but who had read the piece asked a very real and valid question, and I will attempt my best to paraphrase without losing the intent. If mothers of color for example form their own blog networks, publications, etc. aren’t we in essence creating an us versus them mentality? I am sure on the surface that might seem like it but the very short answer is no, not at all.

In seeking to see more of us, us defined as anyone who isn’t in the white, heteronormative, middle class box, we are seeking spaces where we can share and disseminate information. Spaces where we are not tokens, spaces where we don’t always have to explain ourselves, spaces that our sheer numbers will allow so-called brands and advertisers to know that hey, we are a viable group to work (after all we are just entitled as anyone else to earn money from our stories as anyone else) with and most of all a space where we are supported.

My eldest kiddo is 20, just finished his sophomore year of college and is home for the summer. Yesterday he made a comment that stood out to me, that brings home the need for spaces where as moms outside that so-called normal box we can have a space to mull ideas over. A few days ago I wrote in this space about a situation I am dealing with that involves a local mentally ill individual who seems to have decided I am a nice target to harass. I ended up going to the local police station and in short fashion was told that until he actually breaks the law, there is nothing they can do and they advised I steer clear of him. Duh! I have been doing that for 2 effin years. Anyway my son upon hearing  the lackluster reply I received said, “Mom I told you the cops aren’t shit, being a white guy must be nice since this guy can stalk you and others and nothing is done yet I get stopped and carted home in the back of the cop car because they think I look like a suspect.” As a parent what do you say to that? He’s absolutely correct!

I share this tidbit because when you are raising children of color especially boys who will turn into teens and later men, the mindset you have is completely foreign to most white middle class heteronormative women. Remember Trayvon? We were all heartbroken over the senseless killing of Trayvon but for any mother raising a boy of color, Trayvon’s story cut to the core because we all know our boys could be the next Trayvon. It was more than a sad story, the shit was personal.

What about women who struggle financially? Women who don’t have partners, women who have a female partner, disabled Mamas? It’s easy to realize that many of us are missing from the larger narratives that currently exist when we are talking motherhood.

So it’s not about creating an us versus them scenario, it’s about taking charge and saying we don’t need someone to give us space but maybe we need to create one where we have space for all of us who currently don’t have a tribe or space.

There comes a time when it gets too tiring and too painful to wait to be recognized instead you gotta do you and create what you need now!

Yep, we want a place at the table too! Mothering while brown…imagine that?

Sometimes you read an article that just speaks to your soul so much that you think the author snuck in your brain and stole your thoughts. That’s the case with this piece I read late last night by Kimberly Seals Allers, Ms. Allers basically summed up many of the thoughts that I have had recently when it comes to the growing motherhood dialogue in this country. Hell, my most popular post ever on this blog was when I talked about Babble’s lack of diversity, there is a huge dearth of voices when it comes to mothers of color talking motherhood and the reality is, our experiences are not valued. The thing is there is not a shortage of mothers of color talking; the problem is our voices don’t get the same play that our white counterparts get.

That truth was brought home a few nights back when I found myself engaging with several other moms of color on twitter, all highly successful women in their careers who are passionate in their mothering and who also happen to be bloggers and writers. From where I sit here on the ground I often thought many of these women were further up the writer ladder than me but they all admitted to feeling hemmed in, that our stories never get the same credit and exposure as our white counterparts. That while we don’t hold any animosity for our white counterparts, but why in 2012 is there not a Black Dooce?  A Black Pioneer Woman or hell a Black Bloggess? Sure the powers to be will put a few of us on the list of “tops” but by and large none of us are trading in our day jobs to write full time, and that for the most part if any of us were looking to turn our passion for words and mothering into a living, we’d be on steady diets of rice without the beans.

Needless to say reading Allers piece brought that point back home for me. Allers is correct in that the reason for the lack of true diverse representations in motherhood is that by and large Black motherhood is considered an anomaly. The expectations are that we are breeders and loud mouth bitches and clearly the few of us who do it well are the exception and not the rule.

The larger question for me though is how do we change the larger dialogue so that we do have a place at the table? Lately I find myself wondering that rather than begging to be squeezed in at table that doesn’t seem to want us, maybe the answer is to get our own table. Then I am reminded that resources are needed and that’s where we face a downhill battle. Even in the blogosphere, the most popular bloggers conferences are short on diversity, and while there are conferences and spaces for bloggers of color, too many times due to a lack of resources they lack the ability to reach out. Hell, I only discovered the Blogging While Black conference mere weeks before it happened and I am not the only one…yet everyone knows of BlogHer. Some years back there was a list of top Black bloggers but it fell by the wayside, maybe we need to bring it back and somehow let brands and others know we are a powerful block too.

In any event, we are more than simply Mammies, Sapphires and Jezebels are stories are equally worthy of being heard, on the big and small screens as well as in print and we are equally deserving of earning a living from the telling of those stories as our white counterparts.