Childhood

Mothers, Children, and Dollar Signs

A widely acknowledged fact is the exploitation of black women’s reproductive labor during slavery.  Enslaved black women were often raped in part to satisfy the sexual desires of slave owners, but it was also done, in large part, to create additional laborers for the support of the slave economy.

slavesale

Credit: National Humanities Center

 The children of enslaved black women were often separated from their mothers and sold off to work on plantations.  The ages at which children were sold off to work on other plantations often varied from plantation to plantation.  Needless to say, many mothers never saw their children again.  All for profit and material gain.

Fast forward to the 20th Century and the separation of black mothers and children continued to be a source of revenue generation.  With a renewed focus on welfare reform and a determination to significantly reduce what many perceived to be entitlements, federal legislation was enacted to terminate parental rights and expeditiously place children, who were determined to be in an unsafe environment, in foster care.  To be clear, such action was not a result of pure altruism on behalf of state and government entities.  Instead, the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 facilitated federal incentives to state agencies for the expedient removal, parental termination, and placement of children in foster care.  Unfortunately, the application of the legislation has not been exactly colorblind.  It has been documented and revealed that black children, in comparison to white children, are disproportionately removed from their homes.  This remains true even when white children experience the same issues as black children within their homes.  Simply put, efforts are made to keep white families united while black families are dissected – and dollars are pocketed. (more…)

Childhood Should Not Be A Privilege: The Projection of Adult Stereotypes on to Black Girls

Intersectionality theory asserts that individuals experience varying degrees of oppression and marginalization due to social factors or constructs such as race, gender, class, etc. that work in a reciprocating and cumulative manner. Accordingly, the simultaneous effects of racism and sexism are part of the lived experiences of women of color on a regular basis. This, of course, is nothing new as scholars including Kimberle Crenshaw, Patricia Hill-Collins, Angela Y. Davis, bell hooks, and Melissa Harris-Perry have all eloquently examined the relationship(s) between and among social constructs used to label and subjugate women, people of color, and/or low income persons. In deed, in her highly insightful and influential work, Black Feminist Thought, Professor Patiricia Hill-Collins elucidates what she termed the Matrix of Domination – an invisible yet unavoidable socially manufactured system of power that disproportionately impacts women of color. In Black Feminist Thought, Professor Hill-Collins explains that “controlling images” of black women perpetuate stereotypes that negatively impact the manner in which they are perceived thereby influencing how they are treated on a day-to-day basis. Common “controlling images” or stereotypes of black women include but are not limited to the jezebel, mammy, sapphire, welfare mother, etc.

Although such is the reality for black women, unfortunately, it seems that such is the case for black girls as well. During the 2013 awards season, Quvenzhane Wallis, then 9-years old, received much deserved attention upon her Oscar nomination (more…)