All moms have a complex and important job when raising children, but a variety of factors that can make that job more difficult exist and depend on a number of things. Things like finances, access to child care, and caring for a special needs child can all present a unique set of circumstances. And then, of course, there’s race and ethnicity. While some might want to act as though race isn’t important, the truth is that moms of color have to deal with painful things that white moms just, well, don’t.
By now I think it's safe to assume that, today, in 2017 and thanks to President Donald Trump's administration, things are becoming more and more difficult for people of color. But, honestly, things have always been hard for us. Granted, there’s a certain faction of individuals who are feeling empowered thanks to the messages, policies, and statements coming from the White House, like the so-called “alt-right” Nazis, the KKK, and such. But when you turn on the news and hear about a horrible atrocity committed against people of color, know that those atrocities have taken place at an alarming rate way before Trump was sworn in as president.
For example, black folks were being killed by cops way before there were body cams. And the prisons were full of black and brown folks way before white folks saw 13th and suddenly felt “woke.” There are so many other difficult things that people of color, and parents of color, have been dealing with for some time, and, to be honest, most white parents were able to simply ignore it all if they wanted to. These are just a fraction of the painful situations I have either dealt with myself, as a woman of color, or know too many people who have:
Higher Chances Of Losing Our Lives For Our Babies
Pregnancy-related mortality statistics show that black moms are three times more likely to die giving birth than white moms in this country (except in North Carolina), according to Vox. There are likely many factors involved in this elevated maternal mortality rate, including the fact that moms of color (especially black, Latinx, and Native American moms) have higher poverty rates, according to the United States Census Bureau. Poverty makes it difficult to obtain quality (and often life-saving) health care.
Higher Chances Of Losing Our Babies
Statistics show that Latinx and black mothers experience higher rates of pregnancy and infant loss than white moms do, according to a conducted by Andrew J. Healy at Columbia University Medical Center. It’s a terrible reality.
As someone who lost a baby myself — and who feels that loss might not have occurred (or perhaps not in the same way) had I had better access to quality prenatal care or had I been taken more seriously as a pregnant woman of color in a heavily white hospital — it’s a bitter pill to swallow.
Working Hard To Raise Our Kids To Be Proud Of Who They Are...
My son is half white and half Latinx, and while I’m fine with him being raised “American," if you will, I really want him to understand and appreciate the Latinx part of his culture, too.
Growing up a first-generation American in the United States was a struggle for me. I didn’t understand, nor did I care to understand, the importance of my Latinidad. It felt “inferior” to white culture because it was “different,” and I hate that I felt that way. These days, though, I go out of my way to connect with it. I can only hope to instill an appreciation for our culture in my son, and to be proud that he is part Latinx as well.
... And To Not Feel Ashamed Of Their (Non-White) Parents
As a kid, I wished my parents were white. Or at least, “more American.” I wanted them to speak english without an accent and to be less overprotective and to make meatloaf for dinner like the kids on TV. While I am certainly more “American” than my folks were, I do still look very Latinx. I hope that my son will never feel shame that I might look different than the white moms of his white friends (who make up the majority of his school).
Worrying Our Loved Ones Might Get Harassed By Cops Unnecessarily
In general, being a person of color here means your odds of being harassed by police increases. In fact, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, "a higher percentage of black drivers (13 percent) than white (10 percent) and Hispanic (10 percent) drivers were stopped by police during 2011."
Between stop and frisk policies and generally being pulled over for “driving while black,” people of color are routinely harassed at levels white parents might not always understand. As a mother of color, you’ll worry that this will happen to you or your child someday.
Teaching Our Kids How To Interact With Police So They Don't Get Shot
According to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, black men are three times more likely to be killed by police using force. Because my son is half-white (and at least, for now, mostly white-passing), I’ll be having a few different conversations about how to interact with police officers with him. For one, I’ll explain how to deal with police authority figures to stay safe — but I know it won’t be as necessary and as extensive for him as it would for a black mom and/or black child, or a Latinx person who is not as fair-skinned as my son.
For another, I’ll explain to him why it’s so wrong that this has to be said, and what he can do using his half-white privilege in the world to help others. Mothers of color have to prepare their children from the beginning on how to deal with authority figures. And even if they do, sometimes and sadly, it still doesn't matter.
Explaining Why People Might Say Hurtful Things Based On What We Look Like
Having to explain to your kid why a classmate used a racial slur, or why a friend isn’t allowed to come over (because their parent is, well, racist), is not a pleasant experience. It's the kind of experience many parents of color might end up experiencing with their kids at some point or other, though.
I recall complaining to my own mom about kids teasing me by using a slur used by white Latinx that was specific to insult more indigenous-looking Latinxs. This was nowhere near as bad as what other parents may have to contend with, though.
Having People Ask Us If We’re Our Child’s Nanny
I’m not entirely sure if this ever happens with white moms who have children of color. But as a Latinx mom with a mixed child who has much fairer skin than I, I have experienced this exact thing. And that’s not mentioning all the folks who I know look at us a little funny, essentially trying to figure out my relationship with my son.
Struggling To Find Books & Other Media For Our Kids That Positively Reflects Our Culture
I try to find my son books and cartoons and such that better reflect a wide variety of people, and try to seek out ones with strong Latinx characters. Unfortunately, I often have to go out of my way if I want to be successful. There’s Dora the Explorer, Go Diego Go, and Handy Manny, as far as cartoons go, which has been great in recent years for Latinxs. But I know it will only get more and more difficult
Worrying That Our Loved Ones (Or That We) Might End Up Deported
At a time when U.S. Immigration and Customs' so-called ICE raids are a real fear for many undocumented persons in this country, and when xenophobia continues to run high, worrying about our loved ones being sent away is a true experience that most white moms don’t have to contend with. Worse still is the fear of having your children taken from you, as many undocumented people of color are currently fearing, either because they may be picked up and deported, or because their children will.
According to the Chicago Tribune, half of the 675 immigrants targeted by Trump's approved ICE raids had either a traffic violation or no criminal record whatsoever. They're families, just like yours, being pulled apart and sent back to the very countries they fled in search for a better life for themselves and their children. Recently, Border Patrol officers arrested 2-month-old Isaac Enrique Sanchez's parents, Oscar and Irma Sanchez, while they were waiting in Driscoll Children's Hospital for Isaac to receive life-saving surgery. That is something most white mothers will never, ever, experience.
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