Toni Morrison: In Defense Of Life

  • Q-This leads to the problem of the depressingly large number of single-parent households and the crisis in unwed teenage pregnancies. Do you see a way out of that set of worsening circumstances and statistics?
  • A-Well, neither of those things seems to me a debility. I don’t think a female running a house is a problem, a broken family. It’s perceived as one because of the notion that a head is a man. Two parents can’t raise a child any more than one. You need a whole community-everybody-to raise a child. The notion that the head is the one who brings in the most money is a patriarchal notion, that a woman-and I have raised two children, alone-is somehow lesser than a male head. Or that I am incomplete without the male. This is not true. And the little nuclear family is a paradigm that just doesn’t work. It doesn’t work for white people or for black people. Why we are hanging onto it, I don’t know. It isolates people into little units-people need a larger unit.
  • Q-and teenage pregnancies? 
  • A- Everybody’s grandmother was a teenager when they got pregnant. Whether they were 15 or 16, they ran a house, a farm, they went to work, they raised their children.
  • Q-But everybody’s grandmother didn’t have the potential for living a different kind of life. These teenagers-16, 15-haven’t had time to find out if they have special abilities, talents. They’re babies having babies.
  • A-The child’s not going to hurt them. Of course, it is absolutely time consuming. But who cares about the schedule? What is this business that you have to finish school at 18? They’re not babies. We have decided that puberty extends to what-30? When do people stop being kids? The body is ready to have babies, that’s why they are in a passion to do it. Nature wants it done then, when the body can handle it, not after 40, when the income can handle it.
  • Q-You don’t feel that these girls will never know whether they could have been teachers, or whatever?
  • A-They can be teachers. They can be brain surgeons. We have to help them become brain surgeons. That’s my job. I want to take them all in my arms and say, ‘You baby is beautiful and so are you and, honey, you can do it. And when you want to be a brain surgeon, cal me-I will take care of you baby.’ That’s the attitude you have to have about human life. But we don’t want to pay for it. I don’t think anybody cares about unwed mothers unless they’re black-or poor. The question is not morality, the question is money. That’s what we’re upset about. We don’t care whether they have babies or not.
  • Q-How do you break the cycle of poverty? You can’t just hand out money
  • A-Why not? Everybody gets everything handed to them. The rich get it handed-they inherit it. I don’t mean just inheritance of money. I mean what people take for granted among the middle and upper classes, which is nepotism, the old-boy network. That’s shared bounty of class.

Teenage Mothers Are Not The Problem

There is this pervasive shaming and stigmatization of young parenthood disguised as “teen pregnancy prevention”. It is so normalized by the corporate media that many don’t question the depravity of shaming young parents and few find it disturbing. But it is so very disturbing. From MTV’s Teen Mom to the Candies Foundations and United Ways offensive and and misinformed “teen pregnancy prevention” ads.

What is the purpose of stigmatizing young parenthood and shaming young parents? What is the purpose of drilling into girls that the worst thing they can do is have a baby young?

So that when a teenage young woman gets pregnant she is so filled with feelings of failure and shame because she is sentencing her baby and herself to a horrible life that she contacts a Crisis Pregnancy Center (CPC) who then confirm all her fears and add a few more before assigning her an adoption counselor who tells her what a brave selfless decision she is making as her stomach aches for her newborn and she ends up pumping milk for her child now in the care of strangers.

 

Recently, under it’s “Good News” section, Huffington Post ran a congratulatory story about a teenage mother who pumped gallons and gallons of milk for her baby who was being raised by strangers. It is curious that this is the image of teenage mothers that the corporate media portrays positively: a young mother pumping milk for her baby that she is aching for.

What is the message that this sends? That teen mothers are only acceptable are only worthy of praise when they are doing the “best” for their babies and allowing them to have “adult” parents.

There are never news stories about teen mothers lovingly caring for their children even though this is the honest reflection of the vast majority of young mothers.

“Teen pregnancy prevention” papers over the real problems that make life a challenge for families young and old. Capitalism+White-Supremacy+Misogyny. The huge intertwined ball of systemic oppression whose existence is a constant attack on working-class families of color all over the globe.

How about fighting for rent control so that teen mothers have access to truly affordable housing?

How about fighting for a real living wage so that teen mothers don’t have to work two jobs to care for their children?

How about fighting to end the gender pay gap that has women of color earning less than white men, white women, and men of color?

How about fighting to provide a real safety net for women with abusive partners so they can leave the relationship without making themselves and their children more vulnerable?

How about dismantling the white supremacist classist educational system that suspends and expels working-class children of color at outrageous rates starting in preschool.

How about dismantling the school to prison pipeline that targets working-class children of color for consumption.

How about dismantling the prison industrial complex that profits from tearing Black and Brown families apart.

How about working to create a world that is hospitable to young families…to all families.


A child is not the problem. A young mother is not the problem. A young family is not the problem.