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Are Single Mothers the Norm?

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Nialong Laurynhill Erykahbadu 400
Why is everyone up in arms about single celebrities having babies out of wedlock?

Last week, pictures of a very pregnant, bikini-clad Nia Long hit the Internet. Of course, bloggers and commenters alike wondered who the father was. Nia cleared up speculation, confirming for People.com that she was pregnant by her boyfriend, San Antonio Spurs player Ime Udoka. She added, “This is the most exciting time in our lives. Words can't explain how thrilled we are by the new addition to our family. We feel truly blessed and appreciate all the well wishes and prayers.”

Well wishes and prayers?! Maybe from a few (including Essence.com), but the most common reaction was condemnation (“She's immoral!”) and name-calling (“Another baby mama!”).

This is the reaction every time a Black, single celebrity gets pregnant. Just weeks ago, Lauryn Hill revealed she was pregnant with her sixth child. Ms. Hill was called everything but a child of God, especially when her longtime boyfriend (the father of her five other children), Rohan Marley, revealed via Twitter that he was not the father.

Before Lauryn, we threw vicious daggers at Erykah Badu, when she conceived her third child by a third man, rapper Jay Electronica. The personal attacks became so bad, Badu wrote an open letter on the site Okay Player defending her decision, saying, “The fathers of my children are my brothers and friends. We have a great deal of respect for one another and always will.” She (hilariously) added that anyone who did not like it could “kiss my placenta.”

I wonder what all the highfalutin faux-concern is really about. It's not like we have any reason to believe any of them are unfit mothers or that we'll end up paying for their “irresponsible” actions. As a matter of fact, we don’t have any personal investment in how their kids turn out. The outrage really isn't even about morals. If it were, we'd also call non-Black women such as Angelina Jolie, and Kourtney Kardashian “baby mamas,” instead of humanitarian, and non-traditionalist. So what is this fanfare about?

I'll assume folks believe condemnation will curb behavior, but we've been doing that for centuries, and as of 2010, 72 percent of Black children are born to single moms. Maybe we believe that by harshly judging other Black women's decisions (which don't even remotely affect us), we can create distance between “them” and “us.” So that when the outside looks in, we show them that we're somehow "special" or "different" from the general population, deserving more perks (whatever those are) for having babies the “right way.”

Folks are going to have babies before or without a ring whether we like it or not. Of course, a healthy, stable marriage is ideal (for most), but if the folks we are talking about have the means to raise their children in a healthy, productive environment (as all of the women mentioned above do) — whether it’s co-parenting with a boyfriend, or even an ex — what are we really complaining about?
 

Demetria L. Lucas is the Relationships Editor at Essence Magazine and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: Your Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single life (Atria), which is IN STORES NOW.
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