There are some things about motherhood that all moms can relate to. From changing diapers to sleepless nights, all the joyful “firsts” to all the tantrums and tears, we can find solidarity with others moms. But because I'm a Black mom, there are things people feel fine saying to me that they would never say to literally anyone else. So, truth be told, there are some aspects of motherhood that aren’t universal.
It should go without saying, but us moms aren't a monolith. We have different jobs, live in different cities with different levels of access to different resources, have different incomes, and have different cultures. And all of those aspects our identity impact our lives as moms, so while motherhood can feel like a universal experience... it really isn't.
This was made painfully obvious when I was 30 weeks pregnant and switched OB-GYNs due to racism. The only people who understood my decision were other Black moms. I was made obvious again when I was at the hospital while preparing to give birth, and the nurses were making inappropriate, racist comments. Those nurses had no idea they were, in fact, being racist, but when I spoke to other Black mom friends they shared similar experiences.
These are the moments that make something as simple as finding a mommy-and-me event stressful. I don't know if the moms I come in contact with will truly understand, claim they understand, or be the people who feel free to say in appropriate things.
So, with that in mind, here are nine things that people feel fine saying to Black moms that I, for one, would love to never, ever hear again.
“Are You The Nanny?"
I’ve been the nanny before. When I was, I’d say yes and I didn’t think much of it because every child I’ve ever nannied for was white. When I hear it now, however, I know it’s because of assumptions made about Black women.
(It’s also important to keep in mind that there are diverse families in which parents and children look totally different for a number of reasons.)
“Is That Your Child?"
Asking someone if the child they are with is theirs is pretty much only acceptable if someone is worried about a child’s safety in some way. Like, for example, if a child is acting like the person in their presence is a stranger. And even then it's difficult to be sure, because kids throw tantrums and act out when they don't get their way or are in some type of mood.
When people say this to Black moms, it’s usually because their child doesn’t “look Black.”
“What Are They Mixed With?"
First of all, what an assumption to make. Second of all, why would you need that information?
This question is deeply rooted in anti-Blackness and always makes me feel so uncomfortable. The "what" in this question is also incredibly dehumanizing and not at all OK.
“I Love Their Complexion!"
I’ve gotten this one so many times and it’s fascinating to me. Every time someone makes a comment about my baby's complexion I just awkwardly say “thanks,” while silently wondering what would happen if I asked "why?" instead.
“My Kids Don't See Color"
I’m sorry to hear that. I’m raising my kids to understand that diversity is a beautiful thing. Race is construct, but color is something we can see and it’s OK to embrace our differences. We aren’t living in a post-racial society, and it makes me nervous when people say things like this for that very reason.
“I’m Not Black, But I So Understand"
In some ways you probably do, but if you’re not Black you don’t understand what it’s like to be Black. Even if we share multiple identities — like queerness, income level, or health diagnoses — there is still a racial aspect to our lived experiences that makes them inherently different.
"It Doesn't Hurt That Bad!"
During my emergency transfer to the hospital while in labor, I experienced such high pain levels I thought I was going to die. In fact, I did almost die. But when I was crying in the emergency room, multiple nurses told me that my pain was all in my head.
Studies show that Black people are systematically under treated for pain compared to white people, and I'm not the only Black mom who was ignored while in pain at the hospital.
"Who's The Baby Daddy?"
Whether you mean this as a joke or not, and especially if you're not a friend, this is super inappropriate and racist. Just don't say it. I've only heard this one a few times, each time from someone I barely knew, but that's still more times than I ever should have heard it. And even if you hear a Black mom use the phrase "baby daddy", that doesn't give you license to repeat it to them.
"You're Not Like Other Black People"
Full stop. Not only is this comment racist, it also perpetuates the idea that Blackness is a monolith. It's not. Black people aren't all the same and it's annoying when people say this while hiding under the banner of kindness or, somehow, acceptance. Especially when it's said to shame other Black moms.