Contrary to popular belief, single mothers are not the bane of existence. We are not just laying around having babies and collecting welfare. Single mothers and their children work hard, every single day, to create better lives and opportunities for themselves. Maybe instead of passing judgment on what goes on in the inner workings of someone else’s household you begin to look at how you can get involved and help your own family and community. Recently Ben Carson, yes he is the neurosurgeon with mouth diarrhea, made “comments” about single mothers and their children. I say FUCK Ben Carson. My son, despite being born out of wedlock to a single mother, will be a better man, doctor, and human being. Ben Carson is the latest right wing candidate spewing hate, to bring out the worst in us.
Like many conservatives, Carson feeds into the stereotype of single mothers as being a great evil of society. A product of a single parent household, and having relied upon government assistance, Carson fails to acknowledge the various structural and economic inequities which create dire situations for some single mothers and their families. As single households with only one wage earner, we are disproportionately impacted by low wage jobs, poor healthcare benefits, exorbitant child care cost, and lack of access to sick leave. Without the needed protections, particularly ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, single mothers are at a constant disadvantage.
Even commentary about people being poor and criminals fails to acknowledge the fact that class, race, and family status play a big part in arrest and subsequent sentencing. Many people in jail currently are in jail for non-violent drug offenses. How many accounts have we heard of the person with the small amount of x drug who is in jail for life? Not saying that drug possession or sale is ok, but there should be proportionality in enforcement, prosecution, and sentencing. And we all know there is not. Just because a greater proportion of people are in jail, does not mean they are inherently more “evil” or guilty of committing crime than others. There are numerous reports and studies indicating that certain people are sentenced stiffer, and less likely to be offered probation and participation in divisionary programs etc.
Many people tell me I’m an exception, that I’m not the rule. Well I always respond that you are the company you keep. Despite where I have lived and who I have been around, I have always tried to be the best version of myself. I have sought out people with a similar work ethic and passion for family. There are more of us around than you think. Maybe you don’t see more strong examples of single motherhood, because you choose to only see the negative or you associate in a certain grouping of people. Maybe it is time to upgrade your associations. Anyone can find anything negative if they look for it. Over the past 15 years I have met many women, young and old, who have overcome ridiculous odds to be where they are and have remarkable stories to tell and beautiful children to show for it all. From the block to the hollers, women struggle every day to do the best they can with what they have. No I cannot accept that I am an exception. I’ve seen the face of single motherhood and it is not the “ghetto welfare queen” alluded to so often on TV. As a member of the access program I was one of dozens of women at The Ohio State University committed to raising my children in a positive and productive manner while completing my degree. Outside of my academic life I met women of all incomes and walks of life. The majority were 100% about their kids. Once upon a time we had a greater focus on community and social supports. However, the erosion of the working and middle class has plunged many of our families into stressful situations. Things happen even to the best of people. And yes I’m sure you who may read this can think of x, y, z example of people doing poorly. But guess what none of us are perfect, but only some of us are scrutinized under the public moral microscope.
My personal passion, drive, and fear of failure helped me move from a scared 19 year old afraid of losing her scholarship pregnant with her first child, to a practicing attorney. The lingering shame I felt, the family golden child, pregnant and unmarried was unbearable in the beginning. Through my friendships with other women I began to understand that it mattered how I viewed myself and the path I chose for my children and myself. I am all for personal accountability and holding others accountable. But I believe that should be even handed and across the board. When people like Ben Carson spew their vicious crap, it makes me sick. Yet it gives me something to write about and provides the reader with insight into another way of viewing things. Instead of attacking single mothers and their families, leaders should be offering solutions and developing opportunities for change. We are only as strong as our most vulnerable families and communities.
As I sit here writing, I think about my son who wants to become a doctor and my daughter who has so many different ideas she cannot narrow it all down (leaning toward developer or engineer). Anything is possible. We may have more to overcome than others, and a different time line, but DO NOT let anyone tell you who you are and what you are worth. People like Ben Carson remind me that I am stronger than most and able to overcome otherwise insurmountable obstacles.
We have to stop allowing ourselves to be put into the stereotypes and vile characterizations of others. We are strength. We are excellence. And we have birthed, raised, and nurtured two presidents among many other wonderful people in the past 25 years. Let that sink in.