“The desperate need to seek approval from the same gender often forces a son to turn a blind eye to the mother who taught him how to ride a bike, drive a car, and in some cases, how to shave…”
Growing up my entire life, I heard that a woman couldn’t raise a boy to be a man. Single black mothers may have given birth to a nation but building a young black boy into manhood is an impossible task it would seem. Honestly, I felt that way myself despite my being the only boy in the home raised by his mother and grandmother, the perception of manhood perceived to be a level of life I could never achieve without a father. My mother, being the single ebony working woman she was, would often say the same, “I can’t teach you how to become a man,” as she made me cut the grass every Saturday morning. However, the older I became, the more black boys I met from childhood to adolescence who’s homelife mirrored mine it became clear that either our manhoods were all about to be short-changed or somebody was lying.
Little league baseball was a stressful sport not because of my competitive nature, but because win or lose, there was a fight after each game. “Rejects” and “Mommas Boys” were the names being screamed at us because we were the only team who had all women(mothers) cheering for us. The fact it didn’t matter that my mom was a former neighborhood star player who could always get on base, she was just a girl to the eyes of those players and their fathers who stood quietly, allowing the ridicule. It also didn’t matter that their dads didn’t know the difference between 3rd basemen and a designated hitter, they had someone who looked like them who was present, and in a man’s world, that meant everything. My teammates and I fought to prove those other kids that we weren’t stereotypical soft, aka weak, which is a title no black boy wants to embrace growing up.
During his adolescence, a young black male witness his mother performing the impossible but accepts it like it’s average. The above and beyond is perceived to be a regular capability. The part-time weekend dad who allows his son to watch porn and smoke cigarettes becomes more beloved than the black mother who fights racism, sexism, classism before 5pm, and then comes home to prepare dinner for her growing teenage son with a bottomless stomach. The desperate need to seek approval from the same gender often forces a son to turn a blind eye to the mother who taught him how to ride a bike, drive a car, and in some cases, how to shave.
Black boys growing into men often betray the same mothers who raised them by embracing the same misogynistic mentally that abandon them. They forget the strength learned from those mothers by only remembering their vulnerable moments with spite because they believe it to be a weakness. The chores around the house that taught responsibility and knowledge about girls she gave from her first-hand experience were all hidden diamonds of wisdom perceived to be coal. The lesson of selflessness she taught by showing endless support displayed through every birthday, sport event, or graduation celebration were all ingredients for manhood that can be ignored by the son influenced by a sexist world.
The reality is that multiple truths can coexist. One can praise the black woman without devaluing the black man. Both genders have value and specialties, but it doesn’t mean that one is incompetent without the other. Yes, the presence of a father is significant, but if absent, the goal of manhood is not a lost opportunity; it is a possible alternative path that represents the black mother’s superpower of making the extraordinary look ordinary with grace.