Nomalanga: Who Has The “right” To Call Out Baby-Mamas In The Black Community?

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tanya fieldsBy Nomalanga Mhlauli-Moses

In my younger days, I remember laughing with a friend at how so many Black people become so insulted if someone said  “your mama!” to them. I reckon the reason why some may have, and maybe still do, perceived that as such a big insult is because many people realize that mothers are essential to our survival and are often the ones who make many sacrifices so that everyone can be taken care of. Most people respect their mothers and they do not want anyone to disrespect them.

While it is true that we must respect our mothers, this does not mean that they become immune to being “called out” when they make choices that are detrimental to themselves and/or their children. For as long as I can remember, anytime I or anyone has said or written anything that addresses the issue of single parenthood and directed their communication towards Black women, there is sure to be a nasty backlash. The backlash is often full of accusations about being judgmental, arrogant or not understanding the Black woman’s predicament. Some outraged women (and men) will often try to deflect the conversation and turn the attention to “dead-beat” fathers.

So called “dead-beat” fathers should also be “called out” but their behavior or undesirable conduct should not give us women an excuse to take attention off of ourselves and what we need to do to improve our choices and decisions.  Single parenthood is an epidemic that can no longer be ignored, excused, rationalized or justified.

If a woman made the decision that she wanted to undertake the long and often challenging journey of parenthood on her own and then went to a “bank” and was inseminated and had her child or children and then went on to adequately take care of them and provide for them, I can respect that. I don’t agree with her choice because there is a lot of research that shows that children are better off in two parent homes than they are in single parent homes, but  I respect her right to live her life the way she chooses. Of course there are other scenarios where a woman can choose to become a single parent by making an agreement with a man and documenting their agreement so that he does not have a child support case on his hands years later. There are also women who become widows and a few who are backed into corners in which the only way out was divorce and then single parenthood. The point I am making is that I respect a woman’s right to choose single parenthood, if, in fact that is what she wants and is capable of managing and I also understand that a small minority of single mothers did actually make responsible decisions.

The issue that I an running into, over and over again is that of a woman who has made a series of very irresponsible decisions, such as random “hook ups”, often without taking the necessary precautions to avoid an unplanned pregnancy,  and has become a single parent as a result of those decisions. It is even more horrifying when this behavior is done over and over and actually becomes a pattern. Do we all make mistakes? Of course we do! The issue is not whether or not everyone is entitled to make mistakes and not be shamed, blamed and criticized in a cruel manner; it is whether we are willing to admit our mistakes or not. The issue is whether or not we can call a spade a spade and then do what needs to be done to make sure we do not make the same mistake again, or in the case of many Black women, over and over again.

One of the things that I have done in the last five years is serve as a personal accountability coach to women ranging in age from 17 to 35, and sometimes even beyond 35. What I know for sure is that you can not change what you do not acknowledge. Even at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, you must stand up and say “I am an alcoholic” before you can proceed to make positive changes to overcome, manage or teat your alcoholism.

The complex part of irresponsible single parenthood is that  most of us grow up hearing “children are a gift” and so it makes it challenging to say that a mother made a mistake when she fell pregnant unexpectedly and without planning to. I agree, children are a gift to their mothers but the bigger question is, is a mother who staggers irresponsibly into motherhood and does so repeatedly, while fully aware that she has neither the maturity, nor the financial resources to adequately care for her child, really as much of a gift to that child as he or she is to her? Does a woman have the right to point fingers at the man who co-created a child with her and call him a dead-beat if she does not point that same finger at herself? He may be a dead-beat for running away from the responsibility of raising a child but isn’t the mother as much of a “dead-beat” for allowing him to plant a seed in her womb before she got clear about who he was and what his intentions were?

When many of us stand up and say, “My people, we have a problem. Let’s talk about it and try to solve it” we are accused of saying something along the lines of “you people are a problem”. And that “you people” often means Black women because we have the highest rate of unplanned pregnancies.

I think the problem is that women like  Tanya Fields, (a single mother with five children, with three different fathers) as well as many other single mothers is that they take anything that is said personally. It’s not about her, or them; it is about a behavior pattern that is destructive. You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge and as long as people are being defensive and are explaining, justifying and rationalizing behavior that needs improvement and change, change and improvement become almost impossible. Just as you can’t step out in public with your zipper open and then get mad when people point it out to you, you; we can’t afford to get mad when the issue of single mothers is brought up. Walking out with an open zipper was a mistake and continuing to pretend that you meant to have your zipper open, rather than admit the mistake does not fool anyone anymore than a woman with a series of unplanned pregnancies fools anyone by pretending that “everything is okay”.

I know first hand that Black women can be strong, resilient and independent but coping, surviving or managing to “make ends meet” is not the same as living a purposeful, thriving and rich life that includes making the best decisions for yourself and the people you love.

We can not, on one hand, say that poverty and destruction in the Black community need to be resolved while we refuse to have meaningful dialogue about how and where we went wrong, where we still go wrong and how we continue to contribute to our own destruction and devastation. Every person who refuses to take a step towards self improvement loses the right to indulge in angry rants about what President Obama or anyone else has not done or will not do for them.

Whoever takes it upon themselves to do the right thing and lift the Black community out of poverty, mass incarceration,  and many other social ills needs us to meet them half way and the only way to do that is by first taking responsibility for our choices and decisions, reflecting on where we went wrong and demonstrating a willingness to make some positive changes.

Nomalanga helps Black women thrive in their lives and careers. She is a Social Commentator, an Editor at Your Black World , a former College Professor and Mrs. Botswana. Visit Nomalanga’s Facebook page or Follow her on Twitter

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10 Comments

  1. How many Father’s not in the family unit or household, how many generations in 1 family of single Mothers must there be before we view the problem as her & not him. Many scholars & sociologist speculate more Black Men are forced out or pushed out of the family unit than those who abadone them. Because many of them go on to fatherly provider roles to other families & children successfully

  2. Normalanga,You are correct.The forces in this world does not allow all of us to have children and bring them up alone. We can look at the results,killings by men who either do not want the woman to have children or the woman for jealousy or the man not giving money will and other causes will not let the father have a relationship.But look in the mirror,we chose the good and the bad.Then unless you are a homosexual you still want a man in your life and you want that man to assume the daddy role.So you end up with 5 kids from 4 different dads.And still looking for a man for love and companionship which is natural.But one in the situation fails to realize this world does not support this lifestyle. When you finally get your Walmart job or even your highly professional job. Who is there for the kids Do you have the energy factor to do both. Want about the school activites and outside programs necessary to raise a well rounded child.You cannot do it alone.You are not respected. Your peers cannot help they are struggling like you. Your sons and daughters reach out to gangs to give them the attention you alone cannot do. You are angry and frustrated, confused and tired as to why this life scenario is not working.This is just one of the barriers you experience. But on the other side due to incarceration,death by shooting of good black men the numbers are not there.I see this in other races due to poverty and lost of family structure.

  3. Nomalanga, I applaud you in serving as a coach for young women ages 17 to 35. The problem I have is singling out Tanya. More importantly, how do you think her five children feel in having their mother criticized and humiliated in a public forum? There are other ways to address the problem, such as through your coaching, education, and family support.

  4. The question I’d like to ask is: Why is it that when we speak to specifics
    concerning the black woman and her irresponsibility when it comes to
    making poor choices about parenting the black man is always at fault?
    Even though the specifics of the conversation have been clearly defined,
    It somehow vilifies the black man even when the subject of the
    Conversation is not about him. Is it just me? ” holla atcha boy”!

    • I believe you’ve misread her writing, Derek. She’s specifically saying the WOMEN are making the mistake of having casual sex, then having kids, without the WOMEN first establishing whether the man is actually interested in her for longterm, first.

      So, she’s not criticizing men whatsoever, but rather women, for not ensuring a longterm relationship, a/k/a marriage, before engaging in sexual relationships and the creation of a child.

      She’s actually very pro-black man in this piece.

  5. clarence atkins on

    Of course, all that you say is true my sister. this is true but I have to agree with S’ann; why single out Tanya? Is she a fictional person?

  6. Listen ladies, I am a single mother of 21 year old college attending twins. While I am single, I was not a single parent. I chose the man that I knew would be the father of my children based upon how I was raised. Unfortunately we did not last but he was a great man in their lives. He is the provider and his family was also. I say this because I know of nothing more disgusting as a woman that would constantly keep having kids without stability. We women have made great strides in life becoming leaders of corporations, raising white America’s kids, and many of our kids have been neglected because of women having to work harder. Then the Blackman in all of his glory, chooses to not care for his seeds, is the reason why our youth are running rampant, without pride or love of self. So while we say that children are a gift from God, we have to realize that we have to take RESPONSIBILITY of our children. Before these kids go to school their first teacher is always mama. It bothers me that women are struggling and they really are. But look at all of the other cultures. Even the Mexican man will not abandon his family. Look at how hard they work, for no money, no education, but you will see the woman with a baby in the belly, one in the stroller and probably two walking, and the man is still in their lives. Our Black men should be ashamed of themselves. They are misrepresented so much in the media that many impressionable young men think that is the real way a man should be. So many of our black boys, including mine, has chased white women because they feel that the white woman will be easier to live with and that they will not have to struggle with them. I am appalled at women who feel that it is normal to let men in and out of their homes that are not marrying them, that do not have a plan for their children’s future, and that feel it is okay to not have standards and morals. No one is that naive. We have to take our asses out of the strip clubs also, we need to stop watching reality shows and stop chasing paper dreams. I WROTE DEADBEAT, BECAUSE MEN AND WOMEN HAVE DESTROYED THE CULTURE. Yes we can blame politicians, entertainers, educators, religious leaders, for helping destroy our race, our culture and our history. But when you know better you should do better. People died for us to have education and we do not take advantage of. I am the product of the welfare system going wrong. I did not want welfare nor did my family but if we needed it we used it. We did not live off of it. We all obtained our degrees, we own our businesses and our homes in my family. We embraced our Nigerian grandfather and halfbreed grandmother and took their morals and standards and values and made sure our bodies were worshipped. There is something I will never forget my grandmother saying, a good man takes care of his children’s children. I remember her saying my grandfather came to this country and worked three jobs. My dad used to say never ever let a man take advantage of you. Never walk the streets, come home with a dry purse and wet underwear. In other words, he said a man respects a challenge and he will respect you more if he has to work for it. So what happened to the men that believe in building a nation? What happened to the men that said I will take care of you and protect you and guide the way my children should go? Ladies, protect your virtue. Stop laying up with these men that you will not see as your husbands. It is not cool to keep having a house full of children, you have no education no money and you expect tax payers to help raise them. It is not fair to THE KIDS. WOMEN STAND UP AND BE WOMEN FIRST, AND IT TAKES MORE THAN A WOMAN TO RAISE A CHILD AND A WOMAN SHOULD USE HER MIND BEFORE SHE LOSES HER MIND www.***.com HELP ME SAVE OUR SEEDS with my anti violence pillows OUR CHILDREN ARE WILDING BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT BEING RAISED WITH MORALS, STANDARDS AND LIMITATIONS AND THEY ARE PICKING UP SADISTIC TRAITS FROM PEOPLE THAT SEE THE SHORTCOMINGS IN OUR CULTURE SAVE OUR SEEDS

  7. The author is right. So what if the single mother she spoke about directly is offended and her children embarrassed. Was she embarrassed when she had them? It’s time that we speak out about the ills of community — those things that we ourselves can control and choose not to. Thank you Nomalanga for having the courage to speak out. We need more voices of truth and less passivity and coddling.

  8. @Freeda parenting is a tough job and it takes a village even to raise one or two children. The truth of the matter is “we all, as a community,” have a responsibility to be an example to our children and to “train up a child in the way [s]/he should go. “ (Proverbs 22:6).

    Conversely,publicly throwing stones at Tanya and her children is dead WRONG! Those children do not deserve to be publicly humiliated; they did not ask to be here. Regardless to the situation, the fact is, that is their mother, and the Word of God says to “honor thy mother and thy father.”

    Moreover, this discussion reminds me of the Biblical story involving an adulteress woman found in John 8: 1- 12, which states, “[S/]/He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” Not one person could throw a stone at the woman because they were sinners, too. The only person left with the woman was Jesus and HE told her to sin no more, not YOU, Nomalanga or Melissa.

    Moreover, many women and men have had pre-marital sex numerous times; they just did not get caught with child or aborted the child, which is the real issue at hand.

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