Week 6 Day 1 Discussion Question 2

Patricia Hill Collins discusses the controlling image of the “Bad (Black) Mother.”  Discuss her analysis in relation to the anonymous short narrative, “Having a Baby Inside Me Is the Only Time I’m Really Alive” (1964).

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  • March 15, 2022 at 2:08 pm
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    Collins discusses the stereotypes surrounding the “Bad Black Mother” (BBM); she writes “They are often single mothers, they live in poverty, they are often young, and they rely on the state to support their children” (131). Collins also includes that “they allegedly pass on their bad values to their children who in turn are more likely to become criminals and unwed teenaged mothers” (131). Collins talks about how images of the “crack mother” is often used as a prime example of a BBM, and she notes the connection that society often makes between images of the BBM and punitive social policies (such as Reagan’s War on Drugs”). This reminded me a lot of the readings we did on fetal rights and cases similar to Adam Dorris’s. The theme of mother-blaming is seen again and again throughout this course, although is in this instance Collins describes how mother-blaming can be radicalized.

    In “Having a Baby Inside Me Is the Only Time I Feel Alive,” the anonymous author discusses her experiences as a young black woman living in a Boston welfare project in the 1960s where she raises her children. From the outside, one could argue this woman fits the the racial stereotype of the BBM that Collins defines; however, her piece highlights many of the systematic societal issues that contribute to her struggles. Many of them are similar to the struggles that Adam Dorris’s biological mother faced. The anonymous author describes how these alleged BBMs DO take proper care of their children. She writes: “I take the best care of my children. I scream the ten commandments at them every day, until one by one they learn them by heart – and believe me they don’t forget them.” She says that it’s when her children become of school age that she loses control over what her kids are exposed to. They have an unfair societal advantage: policemen racially profile them, they live in school districts without an adequate number of teachers or materials, there isn’t enough work, etc. Adam Dorris’s mother faced similar systematic issues on the Indian Reservation that this anonymous woman faces in the welfare project. It is not that these mothers don’t want to or try to take care of their children to the best of their abilities, but there are so many external factors that exist out of their control. Michael Dorris’s book and the BBM stereotype similarly ignore these unjust, external societal factors, and instead resort to mother-blaming.

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