Now, y’all know how we black folk feel about our mamas. Mother’s Day is a MAJOR deal for us. Tough black rappers have created songs about their mamas along with gospel singers and soul crooners. Black men singin’ bout they mamas is actually a specific sub-genre of popular songs in our community especially in rap and hip-hop. Artists such as Kanye West, Saigon, Beanie Sigel, Brand Nubian, Talib Kweli, Jay-Z, Canibus, Ghostface Killah & Snoop Dogg have all written songs for their mothers. Above is one of my favorites is a song DMX wrote for his grandmother and it is deep. It involves Jesus. Here’s the classic from Tupac: “Dear Mama”:

Mothers are iconic in African-American culture because it ain’t easy being a black women trying to get an education (if you can), hold down a job and raise up some lil kids in this culture. The deck is stacked against black moms, statistically speaking, and yet most black people can tell you at least one story with tears in their eyes about their momma makin’ a way outta no way. Sacrificing, scrimping, saving — performing miracles on a regular basis, all too often on their own. Being the child of a black mother in America gives you a front row seat to some of the worst discrimination America has to offer a segment of her citizens. Black moms are stereotyped as lazy welfare queens yet work harder for longer for less money than most. Today is the day African-Americans come together to appreciate those whom society mostly under-appreciates. Dig (from American Prospect):

We occupy many of the seats on the 5:30 P.M. Metrolink train from downtown Los Angeles to San Bernardino. We are behind the counters at the Department of Motor Vehicles and on both sides of the desks at the Department of Social Services. We push wheelchairs in parks and hospitals and hug children at day-care centers. Black women, who in 2006 constituted 7 percent of the working-age population, represented 14 percent of women workers and 53 percent of black workers, yet we are largely invisible in the policy discourse about both race and gender.

Like black men, black women live in neighborhoods far from employment opportunities and with low-performing schools. Like white women, black women experience occupational segregation, a gender wage gap and the challenge of balancing family and work. We are discriminated against because we are black. We are discriminated against because we are women. We are discriminated against because we are both.

This twin set of vulnerabilities has a big impact on black families and the black community at large because the wages of black women constitute a major component of black family income. Because of the limited economic prospects for black men, black women are likely to be both primary caregivers and primary breadwinners in our families. In nearly 44 percent of black families with children, a woman is the primary breadwinner. This includes both families headed by working single mothers and married-couple families in which the wife works and the husband does not. These female breadwinner families account for over 32 percent of aggregate black family income. In contrast, across all racial and ethnic groups, female breadwinner families represent only 24 percent of all families with children and account for 14 percent of aggregate family income. Hence, the gender wage gap and the lack of labor-market opportunities has a bigger impact on the economic well-being of black families than it does for other groups.

Despite a history of strong labor-force attachment and despite gains in educational attainment and occupational status, black women earn less than black men, white women, and white men. In 2005, for the same hours worked, we earned 85 cents for every dollar earned by a white woman, 87 cents for every dollar earned by a black man, and 63 cents for every dollar earned by a white man. In 2006, over 13 percent of black women workers were poor, compared with 5 percent of white women, 7.7 percent of black men, and 4.4 percent of white men. Our unemployment rate is nearly double that of white women and white men.

These statistics are especially depressing because slightly more than three decades ago, black women earned 96 cents for every dollar earned by a white woman. Between 1975 and 2000, the median earnings of white women grew by 32 percent while the median earnings of black women grew by only 22 percent. This recent experience contrasts sharply with the gains realized in the 1960s and 1970s when the income growth among black women outpaced that of other groups thanks to the improvements in black women’s educational attainment and the elimination of the most blatant discriminatory barriers to employment and occupational mobility.

Black mothers deserve better if only because these are women who look “Can’t” in the face, blink not an eye and keep on pushing past it.  These are women who move mountains, leap tall buildings in a single bound and make really tasty food appear out of thin air. Think of what their resourcefulness, ingenuity, intelligence, compassion, wisdom and limitless energy could release for a more prosperous America, if given a fighting chance. With two African-American mothers living  in the White House, I’m hoping that, finally, the recognition that black mothers deserve in terms of their heroism in the face of society’s obstacles is celebrated maximally AND that we will live to see through the Obama adminstration’s policies — some of those obstacles to success removed.

Happy Mother’s Day.

P.S. As a shoutout to my mommy, I invoke the immortal lyrics of the Intruders’s classic song: “I’ll always love my mama. She’s my baby girl.”

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