While Mother’s Day is a wonderful time to shower our moms and loved ones with gifts and appreciation, it also provides an opportunity to explore the sometimes harsh and often difficult realities of moms living in the United States, especially moms of color.
Moms of color face a variety of social, political, and economic challenges that need our immediate attention and action. For example, maternal and infant mortality, a major issue affecting moms of color, has recently become a political talking point. It’s right that more people and policymakers are paying attention, because new data shows that maternal death still disproportionately affects communities of color. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) analyzes data on deaths from pregnancy-related complications from 2011 to 2015. The CDC reports that Black women were 3.3 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women; American Indian and Alaska Native women were 2.5 times more likely to die than white women. Interestingly, women identified as Hispanic had a lower pregnancy-related mortality rate than white women.
Beyond maternal mortality, the current political climate is hostile to Black and brown moms who are unfairly targeted by police and immigration authorities. The over-policing and over-criminalization of communities of color—especially Black women—is nothing new, but emboldened white authorities have found new ways to target Black and brown moms of color. For example, the “opioid crisis” has now become a legitimate public health excuse to drug-test moms and newborns in the hospital, often without their consent, and confine them to jail or prison.
Moms of color are also unjustly separated from their children through the carceral system or immigration detention and deportation—a disheartening reminder of this country’s painful history of separating non-white families. And women of color are more likely to live in poverty, to be underpaid for equal work, to work low-wage jobs, and to be homeless or have unstable housing.
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The challenges are numerous, but things don’t have to stay this way. Activists and advocacy organizations are leading efforts to do better by our moms, provide them the support they need, and recognize and build their power.
You can get involved in these three campaigns and make a difference for a mom in time for Mother’s Day.
Be the Village Our Moms Rely on for Love, Care, and Support
Ahead of Mother’s Day, MTV and VH1, in partnership with Black Mamas Matter Alliance (where I am co-director) and Every Mother Counts, launched the Save Our Moms campaign. The campaign, which features a public service announcement narrated by Lena Waithe, is intended to inform audiences about the power they have to change the maternal health crisis in the United States. (Full disclosure: I supported the development of this campaign in my capacity at Black Mamas Matter Alliance.)
We all have a role to play in ensuring moms of color get the love, care, services, and support they need to have good outcomes. Often people don’t know where to start, but a conversation might be all it takes. Save Our Moms encourages individuals to reach out to new and expecting moms in their lives to offer support and provides suggestions on small actions that could make a big difference to a mom. Things like a foot massage, ride to an appointment, cooking dinner, spending quality time together, and taking warning signs seriously could help.
Sixty percent of maternal deaths are preventable—careful attention from family and friends could make the difference.
Recognize the Power of Mamas with #MamasDay2019 “Power and Flowers” Cards
Mamas Day was founded by Forward Together to recognize and celebrate all mamas everywhere with recognition that most of our families aren’t represented on typical greeting cards.
This year’s theme, “Power and Flowers,” calls on us to acknowledge the power of the mamas in our lives and celebrate them with art that represents their beauty and diversity. The Mamas Day campaign centers mamas of color, immigrant mamas, queer and trans mamas, and chosen mamas who care for our families and hold our communities together.
Help #FreeBlackMamas and End Pre-Trial Detention
National Bail Out, which launched in 2017, “is a Black-led and Black-centered collective of abolitionist organizers, lawyers and activists building a community-based movement to support our folks and end systems of pretrial detention and ultimately mass incarceration.” The collective advocates for bail reform and raises funds to bail Black people out of jail, with a special campaign around Mother’s Day to #FreeBlackMamas from jail.
Also known as the Black Mamas Bailout, this effort helps reunite mamas with their children and loved ones, while also bringing attention to the intersections of poverty and incarceration.
This Mother’s Day, you can take specific action to support moms of color that will make a tangible difference in their lives, whether it is through these campaigns or others. It’s never too late to take better care of our moms.