black girls like us

look. i am not abusive to my kid. not even close. and neither is her father.

she is a happy, healthy three year old. she speaks three languages, loves to dance middle eastern style, and explains to strangers that ‘mama is from america’ but she is from bumblebee (the name of her preschool).

but, us american society, history, government is abusive to black children.

and egyptian society and government is abusive to black children. i know this cause i worked with sub saharan african refugees in cairo. i worked with ex child soldiers and teenage sex workers from sudan, refugees from eritrea and ethiopia. they are stuck here in limbo, cairo, legally segregated from the rest of egyptian society, not allowed to attend public schools, hospitals, racially profiled by the police, making 150 dollars a month is a considered a good job, living in ghettos, and struggling to either be repatriated or moved to europe, the usa, or australia.

they have been my teachers, my students, my friends.

some of them are mothers, and many of them didn’t have a real choice in the matter.

a lot of them look like me.

a lot of them don’t have the luxury of child free spaces, because many of them are children, themselves.

i know what abuse is. i grew up with it, day after day, year after year. and there are times when i would rather have my daughter with me at a bar, than with a babysitter that i barely know.

i work really hard so that my daughter knows that she is a person. because it is rare for black girls or women to be allowed to be people, a full fledged person, in this world.


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27 Responses to black girls like us

  1. Keri says:

    I never comment here but I just wanted to say thank you for writing. I have enjoyed and learned from your writing. Thank you for being so strong. You sound like an awesome person. =) Your daughter is very lucky to have a mother like you.

  2. Shoshie says:

    Aza sounds awesome, and I’m so, so sorry you had people accusing you of child abuse, all for one post that I knew would be controversial, but I didn’t think made any controversial points.

    “i work really hard so that my daughter knows that she is a person. because it is rare for black girls or women to be allowed to be people, a full fledged person, in this world.”

    This is really well-said, sad, and true. And it needs to change.

    Thank you for your calls to action. They’ve really made me think.

  3. Aaminah says:

    just a lot of YES to this…

  4. Daomadan says:

    Yes!

  5. Lisa says:

    Beautiful, Mai’a. Really beautiful words.

    You make me want to be a better mother…

  6. Roschelle says:

    Inspiring and beautiful. You not only make me want to be a better mother but a better human being – more sensitive to the plight and struggle of my fellow world citizens, ESPECIALLY those who’ve been and are being oppressed and denied basic human rights.

    you are awesome :)

  7. Kristin says:

    Maia & all the fabulous commenters who have been challenging white folks in the way we need to be challenged – thank you. I’ve been following without posting, really dismayed by the derailing that went on in “ain’t I a mama,” and glad to see the much more productive direction that the posts are taking now. I’m a mama, and reading maia’s posts is really, really painful. What’s worst of all is watching this violence and injustice going on and not exactly knowing how to address it. Because solutions coming from the individual are not going to be successful. I can recycle every single bottle till the day I die and the systemic destruction of our environment will still go on. Watching the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and knowing that communities of color are disproportionately affected – that hurts. We dropped our second car and that felt good, but it’s not enough. We have to find solutions as a community, and community is one of the things that’s most broken under capitalism. We need to organize and build community. And it’s not middle-class white liberal women who need to be the leaders of that. I’d like to see these conversations turn toward ways that women can organize (and are already organizing) to fight racism, capitalism, environmental destruction, and class warfare on communities of color. How can these conversations build toward something?

  8. Lauren says:

    Yes. Wonderful.

  9. Samantha b. says:

    I really appreciate your stubbornness in the face of all the crap you’re getting. I believe it is a trait your daughter will come to cherish dearly as she matures.

  10. Ducky says:

    I’ve been following your posting, and some of the drama that’s gone along with it. I was uncomfortable at first, ‘cuz you were talking about things that are WAY outside my comfort and knowledge zone – scary place, that “out there”. But I kept coming back. And rereading. And telling my brain to shuddup, it didn’t know what it was talking about, and rereading again, and rereading again. It’s been a long time since I’ve been challenged to think so far out of my brainbox, and it’s actually been kind of emotional for me, but I really, really want to thank you for what you’ve had to say. You’re an example of what a mama should be.

    With all the life experience Aza’s had at three (so much more than most people I know have had in their lives) she is one helluva lady – and of course, so are you.

  11. Allison says:

    There is no way aza won’t grow up to be a total badass.

  12. prairielily says:

    I see that this post got a better, if quieter, reception… hopefully some people were able to open their eyes and see what you’re talking about.

    Thank you for coming to Feministe and sharing your thoughts. It was absolutely needed, even if not everyone is ready to face their privilege.

  13. Athenia says:

    I have a question/comment.

    I had a friend who, when her first child was born, was very against the idea of babysitters. I kinda took this personally because I babysat a lot when I was younger (started when I was 11!) and I think I was a mighty fine babysitter. I babysat my brothers–my brothers’ friends. I have wonderful memories of people who babysat my brothers and me. They have become family.

    So, can’t radical motherhood include babysitters? I mean, if the community doesn’t have the right to childfree spaces, then why can’t we ask the community to help watch that child?

  14. Sitara says:

    lots of <3 to this.

  15. victoria says:

    maia, thank you for writing, speaking, and living. ever since you began writing on Feministe i’ve had beautiful dreams. clear water, flight, shining leaves in every hue and shade of green and yellow, a sense of peace for once. the world seems brighter when i know you’re under the same sky. thank you so much. i hope we can meet and work together as radical amis one day.

  16. blue milk says:

    Hooray for this post! Gives the whole child hate thing we saw happen here recently some much-needed perspective. Hello, mothers and children have some bigger problems to contend with than whether you feel uncomfortable about our presence in your coffee shop.

  17. Aaminah says:

    Athenia, who said that we “can’t” have babysitters? but a lot of women can’t afford babysitters. or wouldn’t feel comfortable leaving their children with other (esp not well-known) ppl. or just prefer to have their children with them and do their own mothering of their own child wherever they are. also, not everyone wants to babysit – and invariably what ends up happening in “activist” circles is that a certain group of women is pushed into babysitting and unable to participate in any other way.

  18. Sisou says:

    I don’t have children. But when I read this I im-ed my Boyfriend. I said another reason why I could not have children is cause I could not handle leaving them with a babysitter. I could not trust day care or family for that matter.

    One cause I experience too much abuse at the hands of babysitter. When I stayed with family I hated it. And only I feel ok with my mother. Period. Not to mention that we live in a world where child abuse in commonplace. So, yeah I can see why some mothers don’t want a babysitter…

  19. Aaminah says:

    i think there is also something… telling… in the suggestion that women “should” leave their kids with someone else. not only does it perpetuate that children “don’t belong” certain places, but it is really telling a mother that she shouldn’t always mother her own children. for many woc, we are already “suspect” all the time in regards to our mothering skills. whereas some women can leave their children in daycare all day or with a nanny while they pursue a career, poor women and woc are constantly guilted for having to make use of childcare or for leaving our children with family while we work (even as the state requires us to work and denies our agency to stay home and be homemakers/mothers). so maybe for some of us, babysitters are simply the last thing we should want. we want our children with us. we don’t want to push them off on someone else all the time. even if there was a trustworthy, low priced option (which is hard to find), why shouldn’t we have our children with us?

  20. Emily says:

    There is absolutely nothing in Mai’a’s OP that even suggests that babysitters are never acceptable, for herself or for others. Mai’a specifically described one situation as a choice between having her daughter with her and leaving her with “a babysitter that I barely know.” Suggesting that she stated that radical motherhood can’t include babysitters is an EXTREMELY uncharitable and defensive reading of the post.

    I appreciate Aaminah’s comments about why we should not attack or belittle mothers who want to keep their children with them, but I think it’s also important, especially here on Feministe, to say that Athenia’s interpretation of the post is not supported by the text and jumps to the conclusion that Mai’a is somehow “attacking” her or her life experience when that too is not supported by the text.

  21. Anna says:

    Mmm this is wonderful. Keep writing, I love to hear everything!

  22. Athenia says:

    Emily: There is absolutely nothing in Mai’a’s OP that even suggests that babysitters are never acceptable, for herself or for others.Mai’a specifically described one situation as a choice between having her daughter with her and leaving her with “a babysitter that I barely know.”Suggesting that she stated that radical motherhood can’t include babysitters is an EXTREMELY uncharitable and defensive reading of the post.I appreciate Aaminah’s comments about why we should not attack or belittle mothers who want to keep their children with them, but I think it’s also important, especially here on Feministe, to say that Athenia’s interpretation of the post is not supported by the text and jumps to the conclusion that Mai’a is somehow “attacking” her or her life experience when that too is not supported by the text.  

    I am not trying to “attack” Maia. And I realize there are people who can’t afford babysitters (Although I was never paid for babysitting my brothers and my mom had to beg her mom to go to camp so she wouldn’t have to watch her siblings). And I realize there are people with varying options for childcare. I get that she wants to change assumptions about childfree spaces.

    I just don’t understand why “I barely know you” constitutes being radical.

  23. Nanette says:

    Athenia, I agree with what everyone has said regarding mai’a’s post, and what she actually said and didn’t say within it about babysitters. Also, I am not sure how you can come to that conclusion after reading her other posts on mama/mamihood and all the rest.

    Anyway, I also want to add that, with many women of color there is also the issue of the value of children, and mothers. Aaminah put part of it very well, but the other part is that children of color and especially Black children, are not valued in U.S. society (or French or Egyptian, or many others.). Well, let’s see what I’m trying to say here.

    White children are thought of as valuable in society (not monetarily, but that too of course, as adoption prices will attest two) but they are innocent and fragile and it is a shame or a tragedy or a horrific thing when one is harmed or even made to cry unnecessarily. And there are (in general) consequences if one is harmed, legal and societal.

    Black, Brown children are given little value in society, are never innocent, are not fragile and, if they are harmed, kidnapped or even killed it is a rarity that there are societal consequences even if there are sometimes legal ones. The death or harming of Black or non-white children is just “something that happens, and what can you do with those kind of people who don’t even care about their own children, don’t even love them enough to keep them from harm, or take care of them?”, etc.

    Many parents have trouble leaving their children with someone other than themselves or close family members – many, of course, do not. But, for all the stories of the filming of abusive nannies and stuff (and there really have not been many of those – though one is too many) most white women are (even if subconsciously) secure in the knowledge of the value of their children and the consequences to those that harm them, especially if the person harming them is of color, that there is less concern about leaving their children with someone else. They are also somewhat secure in the knowledge that if something does happen, say an abusive babysitter, that most times sympathy will be on their side and many will be concerned for the child and the mother and the family, and will work toward helping them heal.

    For non-white parents the scenario often does not work like that, especially in the U.S., where harm done to a child of color – even if not by the parent – can result in blame and punishment of the parents as well as the chidren. Children’s Protective Services visiting and sometimes deciding that that, because the mother is outside the home for whatever reason, the child should be removed from the home and given to someone else is one frequent scenario.

    So, there is a whole lot more to consider, as a parent of color, besides whether the babysitter is nice or not.

    I do want to make clear, also, that I think white children *should* be valued and thought innocent and fragile. It’s just that all other children should be as well.

  24. Aaminah says:

    Athenia: I just don’t understand why “I barely know you” constitutes being radical.  (Quote this comment?)

    uh, i think you are emphasizing the wrong thing as the radical act and missing the point of Mai’a’s post. being uncomfortable with leaving your child with someone you barely know isn’t what is being put forth as “radical”. it’s keeping your child with you, against all the suggestions & demands that you leave your child with someone else or effectively stop leaving the house yourself, that is radical. going about our business and sharing our lives with our children is what is radical.

    as i already said, yes radical motherhood can include babysitters. but it doesn’t have to. and it certainly would be not just “not radical” but downright stupid to expect mothers to leave our children with people we don’t know. why on earth anyone is taking offense to the idea that if we were to use babysitters we would want them to be people we know and trust is beyond me. but you know, this isn’t about you. Emily is right. Mai’a raised a specific circumstance.

  25. Katie says:

    Just wanted to add my support and appreciation.

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