It should go without saying that Harvard’s assessment that “America is failing Black mothers” applies to more than just the health care system. Maternal and child health is just the tip of the iceberg. There are countless ways that Black mothers don’t see their issues reflected, addressed, or taken seriously by mainstream American service providers or consumer industries.
Turns out, there are many resources that Black moms need that it seems that no one – except other Black moms – has come to realize are even missing. This gap is partially because Black motherhood is largely misunderstood. The images of Black moms as predominantly single mothers doesn’t sync with reality – no one ever raises a child alone. Our intergenerational, blended, and extended families are rendered invisible. And, although Black women make nearly $1 million less than white men over the course of our careers, it doesn’t mean we’re all working poor. Black life is diverse and complex, as is the case for Black women’s experiences with motherhood.
To offer a snapshot in time, I asked three African-American moms what they need most right now from the private sector. Their responses revealed just how far American companies have to go to deliver on their DEI promises.
Alexus Renée is a celebrity entertainment reporter covering music, movies, television, beauty, fashion, and sports. She has interviewed media moguls, such as Tyler Perry, Kenan Thompson, and John Singleton, and recently co-founded Celebrity Myxer. When asked what she thought Black moms needed most, she responded “If there is one thing I could request as an entrepreneurial Black mother, I would request more access to business funding. The pandemic opened up a once-in-a-lifetime window for some. It should not take a global epidemic before capital ventures open up. With more feasible access to working capital, small businesses (which make up the majority of workers in the U.S.) can thrive and grow. This request would not only help my family but the families of my employees.” The data shows that Renée isn’t alone in her frustration that Black women aren’t getting more access to Venture Capital funding, or the networks and training to secure it. Better yet, Black women lead the nation’s women in starting small businesses, but trail in establishing mature businesses. Crunchbase and Entrepreneur are among the recent publications to write about the lag, but very few writers are talking about how much this means to Black moms, whose businesses aren’t just side hustles or stepping-stones. For many Black moms, their eggs are all in their businesses’ basket. It is how they plan to feed and educate their kids, establish legacy and estate plans for the future, as well as mentor and employ other talented women in their field.
Charlene Polite Corley is the VP of Diverse Insights and Partnerships at Nielsen. When asked about consumer products that Black moms feel the industry is not currently providing, she said “something that can compete with screen time. More than a quarter of Black adults reported increasing the number of paid streaming subscriptions after the pandemic lockdowns began.” According to Nielsen, during the week of the Capitol Insurrection, Black children’s news viewership spiked. “In Black families, we have to have conversations earlier–and differently–in our households than many other families to prepare our children on how to navigate systemic racism. It’s exhausting, so Black moms in particular seek out spaces to connect in community and feel seen and gain peace of mind.” Corley also says that the social justice movement isn’t only something Black moms absorb through their screens, “it affects what we buy–even for our kids. Black parents want to feel like their hard earned dollars are also doing some good.” Brands have to offer representation and genuine support to the causes Black people face. “Black moms vote with their dollar,” she explained. “And when you are marketing to Black mothers, you should also be speaking to the Nanas and Aunties that help make care possible. In fact, Black Women over age 50 are 22% more likely to have kids in their household.”
Christine Michel Carter is a leading voice for working moms. She is also the bestselling author of the children’s book Can Mommy Go To Work? and the adult novel MOM AF. She’s worked with the Congressional Caucus on Black Women & Girls, the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on maternal and childcare related issues. She’s also worked on the maternal initiatives of Vice President Kamala Harris and received a Congressional Citation from the U.S. Senate for going “above and beyond in ensuring that Black Moms and Moms of Color have access to important health information for their children and families.” Carter says that big pharma and the wellness industry aren’t delivering for Black moms. “Our children have allergies just like those of White moms, but all too often diversity is missing in big pharma advertising. Black children are more susceptible to allergic diseases like asthma, eczema and allergies,” she lamented. She said that Black moms are not properly represented as health-conscious consumers and eaters. “Along with health care, the food industry is where we feel diversity in advertising is especially important,” she concluded.
Nafeesah Allen, Ph.D. is a multi-lingual author, independent researcher, editor, and contributing writer for various national online publications. She frequently covers personal finance, family, culture, real estate, and discrimination. Her work is best found on NafeesahAllen.com and on IG & Twitter @theblaxpat.