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On Black Motherhood in America


George Floyd, Nina Pop, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor all had parents who loved them.

Being a Black mother, especially during a pandemic, means worrying that your transgender daughter may end up slaughtered by an unnamed person who is never brought to justice like Nina Pop in Missouri or the dozens of other transgender Black women whose cases have also never been solved. Or end up murdered by the cops like Tony McDade -- a trans masculine person from Tallahassee.

Being a Black mother means worrying that your daughter may be the victim of intimate partner violence and may be the person who is punished by the system by losing her kids while the abuser is left free to roam the streets like someone I love deeply.

Being a Black mother means worrying that your child may be gunned down by a police officer or neighborhood watchman for jogging in your own neighborhood or returning home from buying skittles and a sweet tea like Ahmaud Arbery or Trayvon Martin.

Being a Black mother means worrying that your daughter will be killed by the police while sleeping because they entered the wrong house like Breonna Taylor. Or murdered in police custody like Sandra Bland.

Being a Black mother means fearing that your child will have the very breath you brought them into the world with stolen by officers like George Floyd and Eric Garner.

Being a Black Mother means worrying that you will lose your job simply because you are a butch lesbian and have no explicit protections where you live so you and your children will go to bed hungry or without a home.

Being a Black mother means fearing your 14-year-old girl will be unnecessarily beaten up by the cops simply for swimming in your neighborhood pool like Cynthia McKinney.

Being a Black mother means knowing that it is a toin coss statistically that determines whether your daughter will also experience child molestation or rape.

Being a Black mother means wondering everyday when you send your child to school whether or not they will receive a proper education without racial bias or ending the day in handcuffs.

Being a Black mother means wondering whether your child will become the next victim of community violence largely caused by poverty and structural inequities in your neighborhood.

Being a Black mother means knowing that while these names we may know, they represent the overwhelmingly disproportionate reality of the tens of thousands that experience the same thing without a single news story being printed.

Essentially, being a Black mother means knowing your pain is made invisible, your voice silenced, your dignity and humanity ignored every. single. day.

Being a Black mother is waking up everyday telling your children that they can be whoever they want to be and achieve whatever they put their mind to while praying that in their case those words will be true.

In order for our children to thrive we far too often have to live in the right neighborhood, talk the right way, make the right friends, be in the right place at the right time, send our kids to the right schools, and make sure they get the right opportunities all at once while praying nothing beyond our control happens. We must tread water to keep from drowning knowing that for many of us knowing how to be "respectable" is about survival more than it is cultural whitewashing. In the midst of this we want our children to know peace, to know joy, to be free. So we pray we beat the statistics and that we are fortunate to see our children grow up to be the best versions of themselves. We know the dangers that lie ahead while doing all we can to avoid the landmines that at any time could turn our and our children's world upside down.

This past Mother's Day I grieved Nina Pop, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor knowing there would be more to come. This Mother's Day I celebrated Ahmaud's murderers being charged while knowing Nina and Breonna may never see justice or the kind of organized outrage given to Black men simply because they are Black cisgender and transgender women. I am deeply saddened that I was right. More came and justice has not been served. By next Mother's Day I pray this difference will no longer exist. I pray that when all Black bodies are taken unjustly all of their lives will matter as much as the body of a white child. As a Black mother in America this is not only my prayer it is my charge.

Victoria Kirby York is the Deputy Director for the Advocacy & Action Department at the National LGBTQ Task Force where she manages and organizes at the intersections of policy, spirituality, sexuality, racial, economic and gender justice.

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Victoria Kirby York