While hosting Saturday Night Live for the first time, multi-hyphenate Keke Palmer announced she was expecting her first child. This feels like an especially joyful moment for us 90s babies who grew up watching her on TV and in films.
Palmer is dating Darius Jackson, brother of Insecure actor Sarunas Jackson. Other than a few now-deleted Instagram posts here and there, the two have been notoriously low-key about their romance since they started seeing each other last summer.
For the most part, public response to Palmer’s announcement has been positive, and it’s been beautiful to watch her bask in the post-announcement glow. But hang around on social media long enough, and you’ll find out that any good or wholesome news is usually swiftly followed by negativity — and this time, the trolls made Palmer’s marital status their target.
Comments on Facebook and Twitter have ranged from backhanded compliments about how the news would have been “even better” if the couple was married, to outright condemnations of Palmer’s choices, with some even calling her a single mother.
This bizarre fixation with whether or not Palmer is married is just another way that Black women’s bodies and lives are constantly policed, even by other Black people. “[Palmer’s choice] affects the community because a lot of the decline in society can be traced to kids not being raised in 2 parent households,” wrote one Twitter user. Not only does this comment assume that Palmer and Jackson won’t stay together, it’s also demonstrably untrue. Studies have shown that more than anything, Black children, in particular, need access to resources to thrive, not just more physical bodies at the house where they live.
Plus, if unwed parents were such a scourge on the Black family, why is it that all the negativity about their arrangement has been focused solely on Palmer’s direction? No one ever suggests a pandemic of “baby fathers” when they see an unmarried Black couple announce a baby. Still, somehow there’s always a slew of self-styled online child psychologists waiting in the wings to tell us everything that can go wrong when a Black woman gets pregnant out of wedlock. And suppose there’s any doubt in your mind about this bias. In that case, I urge you to look at how concerned everyone is about the welfare of Palmer’s unborn child, while Nick Cannon’s reckless and unrelenting fathering has become a social media punchline.
Now, is there a conversation to be had about the higher rates of Black mothers who are actually single compared to other demographics? Absolutely. The reality is that thanks to the compounding effects of mass incarceration, the wealth gap, and the yet unshakeable legacy of family separation during slavery, many Black relationships are doomed to fail (or never even start), creating a stereotype that Black families don’t stay together.
The fake “concern” that people have for women like Palmer who choose to do life on their terms is not only misogynistic; it’s also anti-Black. White women who conceive with non-married partners are never told that they’ll end up single, nor are they pejoratively called “baby moms” if their relationships do end. Just look at how differently the world talks about Kylie Jenner and Blac Chyna, two very single mothers in the same extended family. People like Kimora Lee Simmons, J-Lo, and Heidi Klum are also praised for being able to carry on these “unconventional” relationships with their exes and for being “great at co-parenting.” Meanwhile, unmarried Black mothers are consistently looked at with scorn even when the fathers of their children are still in their lives.
Still, calling an arrangement like this “unconventional” feels like a tacit acknowledgment that they’re doing something they shouldn’t be or that partnerships like this are uncommon. That is not statistically true. The most recent estimates show that roughly 40% of births in America happen outside of wedlock. And in the black community, the number is 69.4 percent.
But regardless of how common it is for unmarried people to have kids together and how far we’d like to tell ourselves we’ve come as a society, this type of dynamic is still heavily stigmatized and shouldn’t be. Marriage doesn’t always come before a child’s birth — sometimes, it doesn’t even happen at all, and that’s perfectly okay.
Jackson and Palmer are over the moon about their new baby; ultimately, that’s all that matters. After the announcement, he shared a sweet tribute to her on his Instagram Story, where she sits at a table, cradling her baby bump while throwing up the peace sign. Jackson captioned the photo “2023” with a red heart emoji. It’s an innocuous photo with subtle but meaningful gestures and one that encompasses everything she deserves now — to be happy, loved, and carefree.