By: Amerah Shabazz-Bridges, BSW
Recently, I read an article via the Internet entitled, New Study: Black Women Have Highest Rate of Children with Different Fathers, written by Abena Agveman-Fisher. When I first read the article, my blood pressure rose so high I wanted to scream, “Nobody asked me. Nobody surveyed me. I am a Black mother who has children by, not with, different men. The article did not ‘tell’ my story in its entirety.” My second reaction was to write the following comment:
Let me give another side of this “picture.” Being a MOTHER of children with different men was a tough place for me—a tough place for my now adult children. Just a brief story of how I come to have these beautiful children: This is my truth—no excuse—just my truth. When a young girl grows up without important knowledge of herself...her body...about sex, the pill, condoms, or abstinence—and no role models, she will make unhealthy decisions—looking for love in all the wrong places, i.e., sex—because that’s all she learned...the message was...if you want to get and keep a man you gotta have sex with him. Well, she “finds” the man...then, she gets pregnant...and by the time she is 7-8 months along, she and that father break up. Then, she starts “going” with another man...oops, pregnant again, you break up; another whatever, another pregnancy—and the vicious cycle continues. And therein is where society kicks in and gives her a label. And the sad thing about it all is she keeps on trying to find a husband and father for the children she already has, because society says we must have a husband, white picket
fence, and two and a half plus children to be a normal unit in society. And nobody knows what normal is. And what really gets me is all the folks who point their finger at these mothers who are sleeping with Mark, Tom, Dick, and Harry. They don’t get pregnant or they have an abortion...but they are still having sex, though! But if there is no evidence (like a pregnancy), the finger pointing starts. We must continue to educate our girls AND boys about the challenges of being sexually active before they are prepared to take care of a child.
After posting my comments, I still was not satisfied. I needed to tell another side of the story—my story in more detail.
I was not underemployed, considering the era I was born in and the type of work I was doing. I was a maid. And there was status in being a maid, depending upon “who” you worked for. Keep in mind, 56 years ago, living in the muddy bowels of the deep south, some of the Black parent(s) of some of these Black women were not educated in the institutions of higher learning, and what they learned from their parent(s) was what they passed down to their children from generation to generation. With each generation, they “did better when they learned better.”
I did not understand why my mother reacted to me the way she did when I went to her and told her I had started my period. (Menstruation was not a part of my vocabulary at the time.) Her reactions, when I told her that my period had started, left a lasting “print” deep in my soul. The conversation went something like this: Me: “Mama,” I said scared to death, “I started my period today.” And as quickly as the last word left my mouth, she responded with a look of disdain on her face, “Whatcha telling me for?” Luckily for me, my sister was listening (because she was the one who told me to “go tell mama”), walked over to me, put her arms around my shoulders, and said, “Come on, Fluggie, I’ll take you to the store to get some Kotex.” Kotex? What in the world is Kotex? There never was a conversation about menstruation, periods, or sex...ever.
Later, when I was older and having my babies, my mother shared how when she was 12 years old, her mother told her, “When you get ready to ‘be fast,’ you better get married,” and when she started her period she said that she did not tell her mother. Every month she said she would go down to the creek, get in the water, and try to wash the blood off. She said she felt dirty, over and over and over, until finally she became ill. Now, this is when her mother told her that babies came from tree stumps. Sometime after that episode, my mama got married, and pregnancy followed. Mama said that she did not know what was happening to her body. She was not feeling good. She told her mother, and her mother told her she was going to have a baby. Mama said that every day until the baby was born, she would go down in the woods looking for tree stumps to get her baby. Eventually, she learned babies did not come from tree stumps. Thus, the “miseducation” of this Black woman began.