I’m about to get in my feelings as a black mother about this bullshit unsolicited advice to Blue Ivy Carter. I freely admit that I do not give even a tiny bit of a fuck about whatever literary conceits are about to be defended as part of justifying it. Because this letter was not written in a vacuum. This letter was not written out f any genuine concern for her health or safety. This letter was little more than a stunt that used a child of color & her parents to bolster a career. Yes I am sure she will say she meant no harm or disrespect. That she was trying to say good things to Blue Ivy, because she wants to help. Some will likely even say that her message was positive & for the best. Guess what?
We do not exist in a world where mothers of color can walk around without someone passing judgement on their right to be mothers simply because of the color of their skin. We do not live in a world where a woman of color becoming a mother is supported or respected. We do not exist in a world where white women who think they know best have not harmed families of color. We live in a world where white women often decide to “rescue” children of color by taking them from their homes, their cultures, and their mothers. So when a white woman decides she is “helping” by addressing a child of color she does not know as though her words will have any value to that child? I am already wary.
The fact that she is speaking to a newborn about topics that are emphatically none of her damned business & are in fact the province of that child’s parents just makes it even more offensive. It is a curious sort of racist White Woman’s Burden logic that allows you to engage with mothers of color in ways that would be patently offensive to you if the tables were turned. I have seen white mothers of children of color get deeply offended when conditioner and oil are suggested as remedies for the “unmanageable” hair of their child. Often that suggestion comes while they stare at the hair of our children and want to know how we get it to behave.
Meanwhile you often feel entitled to speak to us of everything from religion to sex as though we do not have our own morals to impart to our children. I have had my own share of “helpful” white women who do not know me, but who feel quite comfortable questioning my parenting decisions on every front. Over the last 12 years I have had unsolicited input from those women on everything from what I feed my son with food allergies, to how much responsibility I give to my son with special needs. These are not white women who are my friends, not women who my children know well, these are not even white women who have set foot in my house.
Instead they are little more than strangers (or in some cases employees at a child care facility) with little direct contact with my children. But they feel their input is worthwhile because I am black and a mother, and clearly I can’t know what I’m doing. Here is a thought for those white women who feel the need to approach mothers of color, or their children with unsolicited advice. Don’t. Really, just strangle whatever urge it is that drives you to behave so offensively, and practice the fine art of minding your own damned business. You are not our elders, our partners, or in fact in part of our lives. You do not know what is best for our children, or how we should raise them to survive in a racist society that allows your children safety & security that our children will never know. Spend more time teaching your kids (and yourself) how to engage with people of color as people, and less time finding ways to stroke your egos by attacking ours.