What does a fictional mother like the one played by Mo'Nique in "Precious" and the real mother of 5-year-old Shaniya Davis have in common? They both encourage "Americans to see black motherhood as a distortion of true motherhood ideals," says Princeton professor Melissa Harris-Lacewell in an essay published in The Nation. Both women serve in a "long tradition of pathologizing Black motherhood" and encouraging "Americans to see black motherhood as a distortion of true motherhood ideals."

Essence.com
Dec, 13, 2009


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"Bad black mothers are everywhere these days," writes Melissa Harris-Lacewell in an essay published in The Nation. "With Michelle Obama in the White House, consciously and conspicuously serving as mom-in-chief, I expected (even somewhat dreaded) a resurgence of Claire Huxtable images of black motherhood: effortless glamour, professional success, measured wit, firm guidance, loving partnership, and the calm reassurance that American women can, in fact, have it all."

Instead, in the media and on the big screen Black mothers are depicted as "monstrous" and abusive, a practice dating back to slavery.

Harris-Lacewell notes two Black women in the news cycle around the time she pens her essay. One, Shaniya Davis' mom is arrested for child trafficking. The other, Alexis Hutchinson, an army officer and single mother, refuses deployment to Afghanistan because she cannot find suitable care for her son. Both, says Harris -Lacewell, serve in a "long tradition of pathologizing Black motherhood...The sickening acts of Shaniya's mother become the story that underlines and makes tangible, believable, and credible the jaw-dropping horror of Mo'Nique's character."

What's your take on Harris-Lacewell's assessment of Black motherhood in the media?

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