War on single mothers

War on single mothers

It appears that it’s open season on single mothers again. Granted, open season is called on single mothers a few times a year and can be spurred by anything from a politician trying to punt a question about gun control to polling data showing women are frequently breadwinners for their families, so this isn’t unusual. But this round is particularly aggressive, with George Will actually blaming single mothers for Detroit’s bankruptcy, Bill O’Reilly using the specter of single motherhood to distract from the Trayvon Martin case (even though George Zimmerman did not check Martin’s parentage before choosing to gun down the unarmed young man), and even CNN’s Don Lemon going on a moralizing scold that assumes that women become single mothers for no other reason than to thumb their nose at propriety.

In these arguments, the underlying racial anxieties that often accompany hand wringing over growing rates of single motherhood weren’t hidden at all, creating the distinct impression that these men view black women as a singularly immoral class of human beings who need to be scolded until they shape up—even though decades of conservative freak-outs about single motherhood have only resulted in the rates going up and not down. It is true that black women are more likely than other groups of women to be unmarried when they give birth, but it’s hardly a phenomenon limited to black women, nor does it mean what so many of these commentators seem to think—which is that fathers are completely out of the picture. As Stacia L. Brown at Salon said in her rebuttal to Lemon.

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