African American Mothers Literature Review

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Since working-class African American mothers practice empowered mothering by engaging in full-time work, they take advantage of their extended family networks who help care for their children. This mothering practice challenges the individualization commandment of the patriarchal institution of motherhood which requires a biological mother to have the sole responsibility of raising her children without any assistance from family or friends (O’Reilly, “Introduction” 4). Working-class African American mothers instead acknowledge that raising children alone is not always convenient and so they co-parent with “othermothers, women who assist bloodmothers by sharing mothering responsibilities” (Dow, “Racial Distinctions” 24). Othermothers can comprise…show more content…
In order to empower themselves and their children, the mothers reinforce their African American identity and then pass down their knowledge on traditions, history, and music to their children (Dow, “Racial Distinctions” 89). Dow notes that some mothers even choose to reclaim the racial stereotype of a strong black woman, who is required to be self-reliant and self-contained, in order to help their daughters embrace a positive self-image. Jordana from Dow’s study asserts that “I think it is important to role model for my daughter being a strong woman […] I think in certain settings strong black women are thought of as aggressive women, and it is thought of negatively… [but] to me it is a positive thing… it means unwavering values, goal-oriented, recognizing your beauty, and possessing self-love” (Dow, “Negotiating” 47). By rearticulating the purpose of a “strong black woman” and removing its negative connotations, working-class African American mothers are able to reclaim their authority and place themselves in a position of empowerment that withstands both a patriarchal and racist society. In addition, othermothers who share responsibilities of childrearing with African American mothers tend to educate the children through an Afrocentric framework. They transmit Afrocentric values of harmony, spirituality, communalism, and expressive individualism (Thomas and King 137). As all community members engage in promoting race consciousness in a child, they become agents of change who help transform motherhood into a site for social activism as well as a site of empowerment (O’Reilly, “African American” 104) that opposes the depoliticalization patriarchal ideal. When ethnicity and culture are embraced both by othermothers and bloodmothers in face of oppression, confidence is strengthened, conviction is
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