Resisting the War on Black Single Mothers
The 2010 census reported that 40 percent of births happen out of wedlock. This number is even higher for Black women and other women of color. When it comes to white women, the single mother narrative is becoming increasingly positive, but increased acceptance, understanding, and support has yet to be extended to single Black mothers. In discussions on closing the racial opportunity gap, blaming systemic inequities on absent fathers and the inadequacies of present mothers continues to be deemed an acceptable viewpoint across the political spectrum.
In 1965, Daniel Patrick Moynihan demonized Black mothers in his (in)famous report on Black America: “A community that allows a large number of men to grow up in broken families, dominated by women, never acquiring any stable relationship to male authority...that community asks for and gets chaos.” Fifty years later, Black women raising children outside of traditional definitions of a nuclear family continue to be subject to demonization, criminalization, and damaging stereotypes casting them as “welfare queens” and “unfit mothers.” Instead of labeling Moynihan’s vision as sexist and outdated, decision-makers celebrated his vision as we marked the 50th anniversary of the Moynihan Report in 2015, with outlets such as the Washington Post publishing pieces titled, “Was the Moynihan Report Right? Sobering Findings After the 1965 Study is Revisited.”
In reality, Black women are the primary breadwinners in a majority of Black households. If we truly seek to uplift Black communities, we need policies that support mothers who are present and raising their children. We need to bolster the social safety net and combat the earnings gap so that all Americans have a shot at creating a financially secure life for their family -- regardless of whether that family fits the patriarchal model deemed as the norm.
Join us for a critical conversation as we explore an intersectional understanding of single motherhood. How can we expand this discourse to be inclusive? What unique challenges do single Black mothers face? How can our communities best support them? And how can we foster an intersectional conversation about single motherhood that encompasses the diverse experiences of all single mothers?
Executive Director & Co-Founder, AAPF
Professor of Law, UCLA & Columbia
Founder, Just Solutions
Co-Founder, the African American Policy Forum; Professor of Political Science at Vassar College
MODERATOR: Barbara Arnwine
Founder, the Transformative Justice Coalition
What You Can Do To Help
Building the Capacity to Create Change
Know the issue. Understand the political environment:
Prepare yourself to be an Advocate:
- Write, call or email your state's Department of Labor and urge them to adopt and find ways to implement the following research-based policy recommendations from #HDD 2016:
- A minimum of 16 weeks paid family leave
- Make subsidized, regulated child care accessible
- Share a photo and the story of the war on Black single mothers and resistance, using the hashtag #StandingUpForMom and #WhyWeCantWait.
- Does this issue resonate with you personally? Share your story of single Black motherhood or being raised by your mother to build awareness, community, and support.
- Look to our 2016 social media guide to get ideas for sharing across platforms.
Surround Yourself with Resources to Learn and Share:
- Heidi Hartman's article on Moynihan's (in)famous 1965 report titled The Negro Family: The Case for National Action
- CNN Reports: mom arrested for leaving nine-year-old daughter alone in park
- Proposed legislation in Illinois could make life even harder for single mothers. Coverage from Chicagoist
- Why We Martyr Single Dads But Demonize Single Moms (And What To Do About It), Everyday Feminist article about countering the double standard
- Victoria Law on 35 years of demonization and criminalization of Black women in the winter 2016 issue of The Public Eye
- The Attack On Black Single Mothers: Outrunning Stereotypes, Carrying the Burden, Denene Millner's article on My Brown Baby from Summer 2015
- Census Data on custodial mothers and fathers and their child support