Beyonce announced her pregnancy via Instagram on the first day of Black History Month to—almost—everyone’s delight. But just as quickly as the of joy, excitement, and celebration circulated across social media platforms so too did the judgment, anger, and hate. One publication called her announcement “tacky,” while others argued that people who cared about Bey’s pregnancy should focus on “more important” topics like politics or the state of the Black family, as if it’s impossible to discuss more than one thing at a time. While ‘Yonce seems to evoke a strong negative reaction in many, her experience is not unique. Black mothers, whether they’re famous or not, always seem to be under attack.
Beyoncé has been on the receiving end of disrespect and hate since she came on the scene, but the jabs seemed to intensify after she became a mother. From people alleging she faked her pregnancy with Blue and the change.org petition calling for someone to “comb Blue’s hair,” to the recent backlash over her beautiful maternity photos, Beyoncé can’t seem to catch a break. But she’s not alone.
Another famous Black mama that has been at the center of unfounded hate for Black motherhood is Ciara. The singer received so much criticism and disrespect for calling off her engagement to rapper Future, who is also the father of her son, that she sued him for defamation of character. Although she later dropped the lawsuit, Ciara continues to be subjected to name calling and irrational hate for finding happiness in her relationship with her husband Russell Wilson. Despite Black women deserving real love too, as a writer argued on EBONY last year, when it comes to Black mothers, many people don’t agree.
The truth of the matter is public ridicule is not reserved for Black mothers who are celebrities. We see especially visceral reactions of hate and judgment for Black mothers that have lost their children to state sanctioned violence and or extrajudicial murders by law enforcement officers.
Not only did Lesley McSpadden have to deal with the untimely extrajudicial killing of her son Mike Brown by police officer Darren Wilson—who was not held accountable for his actions—she also received a lot of backlash for “not raising her son right.” The unfounded argument was that her assumed lack of parenting was the reason her son was killed in the first place.
However, the opposite is true.
In her book, Tell The Truth and Shame the Devil: The Life Legacy and Love of My Son Michael Brown, McSpadden speaks to being a young mother who, despite experiencing various forms of violence, created a way to raise Mike in a community of love and joy. Years later when Mike felt the world did not value his life and finishing high school wasn’t worth it, McSpadden used the same love, joy, and community to motivate her son to graduate a few short months before he was killed.
Similar acts of diminishing Black motherhood were used against Tamir Rice’s mother, Samira Rice. Tamir playing in a park across the street from his home where he was killed was somehow a topic for ridicule and an example of “poor judgment” on his mother’s behalf. However when non Black parents who exercise “free range parenting” allow their children to do the same it is not a topic of national scorn, it’s considered another parenting option.
Gender presentation and sexual orientation complicate the hate Black mothers receive even more. Recently popular YouTuber Domo found herself at the center of hate for being a Black pregnant lesbian, whom some would describe as masculine. An Instagram post showing off her her pregnant belly received many hateful comments, some even calling her “too masculine to be pregnant” or arguing she “must be a confused stud.” Domo shut down the hate by posting a beautiful photo of herself, smiling and showing off her belly, with the caption, “I am a woman. I am a woman who has always wanted a child. I am a woman who likes to dress how she pleases and doesn’t give two sh-ts about your stereotypes. Who cares if I like to wear snap backs and joggers? Who cares that I’m not the ‘normal’ look of a pregnant woman.”
The disdain for Black mothers is not reserved for a specific “type” of Black mother. However things like lower financial means, age, martial status, number of children, gender presentation, and sexual orientation can intensify the hate their families receive. Despite all of this Black mothers continue to thrive, love, and raise families that are creative, joyous, and innovative.
It’s time that we realize #BlackGirlMagic comes from #BlackMamaLove and celebrate both.
Gloria Malone is a writer, speaker, activist, and consultant. She is also the creator of #NoTeenShame, a movement that helps teen parents receive equitable access to resources and support. Follow her on Twitter @GloriaMalone