“Mama-spoiled black man, will you mature with me?” – Toni Morrison
I am what most people would consider a “mama’s boy”. I am not at all afraid to admit that I am a man who is extremely close with his mother. I’m also close with my father, and he spoils me, too, but I am really close with my mother. Me and my mother have always shared a very strong bond. I have always had a respect and reverence for the women in my family. I suppose, this is one of the reasons why I am a feminist, and why I fight so passionately for the rights of women and girls.
My mother visited me yesterday, and during our time together I began to think about a line from Toni Morrison’s novel Tar Baby. In the novel she calls for the “mama-spoiled Black men” of the world to mature. I really began to think about her call, and my own relation to my Black mother and Black women. I began to think about the way sexism thwarts Black men’s ability to mature, and often makes them take for granted the “spoiling” given to them by their Black mothers and Black women.
Mama spoiled Black men, and our conceptions of our own mothers and Black women have been on my mind a lot. I am very aware of the ways that Black men perceive themselves and their mothers. One of the things that I have noticed as of late, particularly on social media, is the tendency for sexist Black men to demonize their mothers (by way of attacking Black women). There seems to be any number of images circulating on the web that depicts Black women as “difficult” and traitorous. These pictures posit that Black women are the enemies of their men, and usually use as their evidence that Black women have begun to take their own wants and needs into consideration. How is it that these mama-spoiled Black men grow up to resent their mothers? How is it that these mama-spoiled Black men so readily participate in the marginalization of their Black sisters? These are two of the questions that have been on my mind.
Sexist notions concerning the raising of children often means that Black women raise their children on their own. Fathers may be absent by choice, or force (the prison system holding many of our Black men), so the majority of the work of raising children is done by Black women. These Black women often spoil their Black boys. My own mother spoiled me even though my father was in the home, and I can think of many Black women who have spoiled their sons. When I walk around the shopping mall I see Black women hand-in-hand with their sons, and there is a affection and care there that is truly touching. Most Black boys have a positive conception of male/female relationships and mother/son relationships until these sexism is deposited in their minds. They are taught to devalue the bonds that they have with their mothers. I can remember being teased as a teenager because I preferred to hang around my mother. I can remember attending the fair and a group of boys calling me a “mama’s boy” as an insult because instead of walking around the fair alone I was with my mother.
What becomes of a mama-spoiled Black man in a sexist world that teaches him to devalue the feminine? Most often he grows into the kind of man that takes women for granted. These are the Black men who forget the many sacrifices that Black women have made on behalf of Black men throughout American history. These are the Black men who forget that their mothers and sisters were right beside them in the field, and still came home to cook for, nurse, and nurture their Black sons, brothers, and husbands. Too many Black men have bought into sexist notions of male/female relations and misguidedly see the Black woman’s rightful fight for gender equality as an attack on their manhood. These sexist Black men are the sons of the Moynihan Report–they take for granted their mamas many sacrifices in a racist and sexist society.
I pride myself on being a mama-spoiled Black man who does not take Black women and girls for granted. I am deeply thankful for the sacrifices that Black women have made for their communities. I have a responsibility to challenge sexist and racist notions about the Black woman. I refuse to see the Black woman as my enemy no matter how much racist and sexist propaganda is shown to me. Yes, I am a mama-spoiled Black man, but I am also a mature man. I call for all my Black brothers to mature with me by committing to end sexism. When we blame Black women for our failure to be seen as “real men” in a White racist society we only show ourselves to be immature. Our mothers, our sisters, our aunts, our girlfriends, our wives, and nieces are not our enemy.