After being told it was the duty of educated Black women to get married and procreate, ESSENCE editor Demetria L. Lucas was taken by surprise. Is motherhood a choice or responsibility? What does The Talented Tenth have to do with it?
By Demetria L. Lucas
A curious idea was posed to me, and by extension, all Black woman like me. A woman, Dominique (not her real name), suggested that it was my duty as an educated, sensible, African-American woman to get married and procreate.
Her idea in a nutshell:
Back in the day, WEB Dubois proclaimed that we need to rely on the "Talented Tenth" to move us forward as a community. I would argue that the so- called Talented Tenth is failing our community. We are no longer getting married- or believing in marriage- and we are no longer reproducing (at the rate of other folks in the community).
The people in our community that need to produce the most are not and the people who need to stop producing, multiply like there is no tomorrow. What will happen to future generations?? We complain that there is a lack (in particular) of well mannered, educated AA men. But if we are not getting married and having babies and in turn, raising well-mannered, educated AA men, who is to blame?
Maybe we should re-think our position on not having children. We need more future [offspring like us] than not.
This idea is the result of Dominique's BFF's most recent visit to the Ob/Gyn in which her doctor, a white woman, "begged" her to start multiplying. The Ob/Gyn hoped not to offend, then told her patient that more educated, professional AA's need to start having babies and need to start having them soon, to balance out the craziness in the Black community. What, the doctor wondered, would become of African- Americans if all of the educated folks continue to be baby free?
Uh... I resent the idea of being told what to do with my time and my body by anyone, and that includes my gynecologist (unless it's a health concern.) I don't need my own kid to know that having a child isn't like buying a car or a house that you can sell when you're tired of it. Raising a child is a monumental responsibility (time, emotion, finance, etc.) and should only be done when and if you are ready- that goes for Black professionals and anybody else too.
And two, I'm not so keen on the idea of popping out a baby without a husband just to benefit the race. I also don't like the additional pressure on women to reproduce. I think we all get that enough once we hit about 25 (or 30 if you're in the NorthEast.)
Also, doesn't this idea wreak of elitism and classism? Isn't all very "stop 'them' from taking over us?" I mean, we're talking about ideas from the 1900s!! - literally. DuBois's original article about the Talented Tenth was published in 1903.
I thought the masses would see things my way and this was some fringe thought of one wacky doctor and an otherwise sensible woman who'd bought into the idea... until I started talking to people who agreed with both of them. My best friend, Tariq, a single Black professional with no children in D.C., was the first unlikely soul to hop aboard.
I can agree with that [idea] It's our duty to continue the legacy, so our kids can have something. It's how you build old money. We can counteract all the "'Shika's" and "Tanya's" kids who are the first in the family to go to school. We can build continuity by having kids, it uplifts our "race."
Another single, Black professional female, not only co-signed the idea but pointed me to a blog post, "1984 and More: Spreading (the right) Seeds" by VerySmartBrothas which harshly endorsed the idea as well.
In summary it read:
My mom lamented the fact that neither I nor any of my close friends have any children yet, but these fertile hoodrats are popping out kids by the bushel. How will Black America prosper if people like you (educated, no record or missing teeth) are waiting longer and longer to maybe get married and maybe have one child while D-Block and Chardonnay are producing a new seed every 14 months?
...If this trend continues, we (the very smart Brothas and Sistas) will make ourselves extinct, or at least so overrun by swarms of oddly-named hood spawn that extinction wouldn't seem like such a bad idea.
Educated, sensible ladies, do we have an obligation to the race to find husbands and reproduce? Or is this idea just plain nuts?