Not all black mothers abuse their kids

written by Anti-Racist Parenting columnist Liz Dwyer; originally published at Los Angelista’s Guide to the Pursuit of Happiness

Wednesday night when I was flying out of O’Hare — or rather, when I was WAITING for hours to fly out of O’Hare — I got to witness another mom “interacting” with her child.

Of course, I captured it on my Twitter feed:

1) Another mom here at the gate has been yelling at her kid a LOT & has slapped this girl like 4x. Would u intervene?The little girl is like 4 or 5 years old. The mom has yelled stuff like, “if u don’t shut up, I’m gonna strangle u!”Airport security just rolled up & they r threatening to arrest this mom if she hits her child again. WOWZERS!OK, no arrest, cops walked away. Good Lord, that was some drama. Poor little girl.

Now, I know parents get stressed out at airports, especially when they are traveling alone with a child, but the little girl was actually being pretty quiet and behaving normally for a child that age. I’ll go ahead and say it: I think the mom was being abusive. I mean, is it really necessary to slap your child just because she stood up to get a doll she dropped? I was clearly not the only one who thought so because the security showed up. I was not the one who alerted them to what was going down.
They are FLOORED when I tell them the mom in this situation was white with a ginormous diamond on her finger and super long blond hair. Her child was also white with blond hair.This has really raised some red flags for me around how we view black mothers and black parenting. Why do we think black mothers are hard, abusive, rough, and ready to beat their child’s ass if he or she ever steps out of line?Is your mom white?Do I need to make a t-shirt that says, “Not All Black Mothers Abuse Their Kids”?

Why have we bought the racist stereotype that white, Asian and Latino folks don’t abuse their kids and black moms do? Really, folks need to stop acting like black moms are the only ones who beat, verbally threaten or emotionally abuse their children. It’s racist to keep acting like cursing at, verbally demeaning, spanking, slapping or beating a child is contingent on skin color, and that black mothers are the biggest offenders.
I’ve always believed that if you beat your children, you are killing a part of their soul, and you’re teaching them that violence is an option. Do I really need to slap my son just because he rolled his eyes at me? No, I don’t. I can’t hit another adult just because I don’t like the way he or she looks at me, so why would I hit my child who I supposedly love?




But what has been infinitely interesting (and sad) to me in the two days since I witnessed this is that almost all of the black people I have told this story to have assumed that the mother and the child were also black.

A typical comment from black folks I know has been like, “Well, you know we don’t play that “Oh honey, sit down pretty please,” crap when our kids act up in public.”


Black people aren’t alone in their assumption that the parent and child are black. When I’ve shared these details with white folks I know, their response has been a shocked, “Oh, the mom was WHITE???”


I’m tired of getting the “Good Luck With That” eye roll from other black people when I tell them I don’t beat my sons.

I’m tired of white women confusedly asking, “So you don’t spank?” — the unsaid comment being, “But, but, I thought all black moms spank!”

I’m tired of being told, “That must be the white side in you coming out because we all know white moms don’t beat their kids.


Black mothers are not the only abusive mothers. If you need proof, pick up a copy of Mommie Dearest, mmkay?


This is not to say that different backgrounds of people don’t have somewhat culturally different ways of raising their kids. But I think a collective “Check Yourself” needs to happen in regards to our racist thinking about black motherhood and parenting. There are plenty of black moms who know how to use conflict resolution and non-violent techniques on their kids. There are plenty of black moms who have never threatened to strangle their child. And there are plenty of black moms who could’ve taught that mom at O’Hare thing or to about parenting.

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About Tami

Tami Winfrey Harris writes about race, feminism, politics and pop culture at the blog What Tami Said. Her work has also appeared online at The Guardian’s Comment is Free, Ms. Magazine blog, Newsweek,, Huffington Post and Racialicious. She is a graduate of the Iowa State University Greenlee School of Journalism. She is mom to two awesome stepkids and spends her spare time researching her family history and cultivating a righteous 'fro.
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