Black Moms Do More Than Cook, Cuss and Beat Kids

Essence.com blogger Janelle Harris challenges stereotypes of black mothers, especially those reflected in the "Sh-- people say" viral videos. The many black mothers who defy those stereotypes should be celebrated.

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In a blog entry at Essence.com, Janelle Harris takes on the stereotyping of black mothers, especially those recently arising from the "Sh-- people say" viral videos. She reflects on her own experience to point out that black mothers have a long history of commitment to family.

Finally, the “stuff so-and-so says” says mania has died down. Everybody and their cousin’s nephew had a video. Stuff Malaysian cooks say. Stuff tall kayakers say. Stuff Macy’s shoplifters say. My all-time, hands down favorite, though, was the one about what White girls say to Black girls. Back when I was a teenager who fooled around and thought a little too highly of myself, my mother knocked me down a peg or two by moving me from the city to Amish (and redneck) country in Pennsylvania, where I had the distinct experience of being one of seven -- count ‘em, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 -- Black kids in a student body of more than 1,600. So that video was especially hilarious to me because I’ve been on the receiving end of just about all of those comments more than once during my Misadventures as Representative Black Girl.

The real hilarity behind those videos -- even though they are wrought with stereotypical, borderline offensive potshots that put the subjects in the comedic crosshairs of their creators -- is that there’s at least a little bit of truth behind them. But some of them went way over the top, and that includes one I watched about Black moms. It was one of the drier ones I’ve seen so I didn’t make it all the way through before I clicked it off, mainly because it depicted our mothers as belt-wielding and crass-talking. And it would have been completely forgettable, had it not been for #Blackmomscatchphrase, a trending topic on Twitter last week that basically saddled us with the same sweeping generalizations as the video did. Dang, I thought to myself, do Black mamas say anything that doesn’t involve threatening physical harm? ‘Cause word on the street is we can’t communicate with our children without making cutting remarks or breaking some poor child’s spirit (or worse).

I am a Black mom. And my mom -- she’s a Black mom, too. And so was my Nana. And never not once did my mother address me with a three, five or twelve-letter slur (I’ll let you figure out what those are on your own). Sure, I got lectured about running in and out of the house and jumping on the furniture. And if I asked her to go to McDonald’s, she would whip right back and ask me “You got McDonald’s money?” That much rings true. But she didn’t spend the preponderance of her time devising new ways of saying she was going to kick my tail.

Read Janelle Harris' entire blog entry at Essence.com.

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Writer and editor Janelle Harris resides in Washington, D.C., frequents Twitter and lives on Facebook.

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