The little girl had to be about two, not much more, and she had this little purse thingy that she was absolutely fascinated with—much more so than the high school football game her mother had dragged her to. I noticed her waving it in her mother’s face, an attempt to get her mama to play with her. The mother? She wasn’t having it.
“I don’t want to play with that,” she snapped, without even looking at her baby.
When the little girl gave another feeble attempt to get her mother’s attention, the lady was all sharp edges and thunder: “I said, I don’t want it,” she seethed through gritted teeth. “Sit it down, shit.”
Now Nick missed all this, but my heart just sank when baby girl wandered away from her mother and her two friends, and started trying to get my husband’s attention. He happily obliged her attempt to join her in playing with the purse. I chimed in with compliments on her shoes and telling her that I loved her afro puffs—something, anything, to make her smile. To deflect from the fact that her mother was acting the donkey toward her baby girl, who was looking for some motherly attention on a Friday night at 10 p.m., when she should have been home in her pajamas, in her crib, sleeping in Heavenly peace.
Peace wasn’t on her mother’s mind. Neither was kindness, particularly when it came to her daughter. Still, though I was disgusted by her behavior, it wasn’t at all surprising. I know Black moms love our babies and that we care for their every need just like any other mom—even and especially when we have to make a way out of no way. But my God, the cursing, the beating, the emotional abuse that I see some Black moms unleashing on their children in the street, at the mall, on public transportation, in school, out in public, hurts me to my core.
Now I’m not stranger to the mean mom. Y’all need to ask about my mom; she’s legend with “The Look” and, yes, the switch. With her, children were to be seen, not heard, and any misstep, no matter how slight, might incur the wrath. She was a great mom. But mean as all get out until I got older and had babies of my own. And she wasn’t alone: I grew up surrounded by Black mothers—women I loved and who loved me back—who were just plain mean. For no good reason.
When I had babies of my own, the same was true. I couldn’t help but to notice how white women and especially Latina women would coo and ooh and ahh and practically knock over shopping carts and small children to peek into the girlpies’ strollers, but Black women would damn near run in the other direction, like my daughters were shrouded in some forcefield of cooties they didn’t want to catch. This was true not only of single Black women, but of Black women with children of their own. All-too-many just seemed like they didn’t like children. That’s a feeling that’s lasted all these years later, but manifests itself in a wholly different way today: if I wrap my daughters in a warm embrace, speak to them with kindness, laugh with them and love on them in public, folk look at us as if we’re glittery unicorns—some mythical creatures caught in a Cosby-esque time-warp.
Now, to be clear, I don’t think every Black mom is like this—by any stretch. And, of course, I know that human beings can just be mean to other human beings, regardless of color, background, ethnicity and everything else that makes us uniquely us. But we seem to take it further than most.
It just leads me to ask, where is the love? Are Black moms collectively meaner than most—and is there a reason for it? Tell me your thoughts in the comments section.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.