A dear friend of mine wrote this: A Recipe for Reciprocity
THE PICTURE SEEN AROUND THE WORLD! You know the one I’m talking about. The one with 14 year old Willow Smith on the bed with a shirtless 20 year old friend of her brother. Before that tidbit about the young man being a family friend was made known, everyone on the internet was trying to sexualize what appeared to be an innocent photo. So of course, AS ALWAYS, Jada and Will’s parenting was questioned.
You see they don’t appear to parent the ‘traditional’ way many black parents do. They allow their kids to make their own decisions, to wear what they want, style their hair the way they want and pretty much allow them to be very independent. It was even rumored that Jaden wanted to live on his own in his own house. Will Smith did an interview I believe with Oprah and pretty much confirmed they give their kids a lot of room to make mistakes and he emphatically stated that he and his wife do not physically discipline their kids or scream at them.
So that begs the question, what is the ‘traditional’ style of parenting within the black community? PLANTATION PARENTING! What is plantation parenting you ask? It’s as the first word implies. We treat our kids like slave masters treated black slaves during the horrible era of slavery. That includes but is not limited to, berating, beating, emotional abuse, yelling, suppression of emotions, suppression of creativity and much more.
I can talk about this with first hand knowledge. My mom, her parents and my extended family parented this way. My mom had no issue whipping my ass for the smallest infraction. She constantly yelled at me when she could have easily explained her point. She was emotionally distant and at times just downright mean and petty. Some, no many, call that ‘loving hard’. I call it what it is, CHILD ABUSE.
As a kid I could never understand why I was treated like this. My whole childhood I felt I had to walk on eggshells around my mother so as not to invoke her wrath. When I became an adult it all clicked for me and I understood why she was the way she was. I’m not condoning her behavior at all but again I now understand her position.
Like so many single moms working three jobs to support a kid she was simply stressed. She had no outlet to relieve that stress so all her anger and frustrations were directed at me. Another reason she parented that way was because that was all SHE knew as a kid. Like it or not we learn socialization and conflict resolution through the family structure. How one deals with family conflict will reflect on other relationships they form in the future unless you can recognize it and make a positive change if it is toxic. My mom emotionally terrorized me and physically beat me all while telling me I was ungrateful because she was a good provider…and she was. She didn’t have the material things I had as a child and she thought by providing those things that made her an excellent parent. It didn’t. We weren’t rich by no stretch but I never wanted for anything and as an only child I would definitely say I was spoiled. But I would have given away all my toys and nice clothes just for her to tell me she loved me more often instead of always pointing out my mistakes. Yeah she bought me nice clothes but it was the clothes SHE wanted me to have which of course I hated. She didn’t allow me to express myself verbally or emotionally because God forbid I questioned, talked back or even gave a facial expression that conflicted with her directives. Basically I had to hide or suppress my emotions. She taught me to bottle everything in which eventually erupted in my teenage years causing me to rebel hard. When I got bigger and she tried to hit me I’d hit her back. Yep I GIVES NO FUCKS what you think of that. She was the same mother who told me if someone lays hands on me to dish it back. So why didn’t that apply to her? NO ONE has the right to hit you, especially if you’re a child. So of course that caused more tension because she felt she couldn’t control me. Finally I got tired of it and literally ran away to the Marine Corps. If I had to take orders, endure physical pain and be controlled at least I would get paid to do it.
She hated me for leaving. She could never understand even as a kid why I never wanted to be around her. She thought because she was good provider that entitled her to treat me any way she pleased. I saw differently. It’s sad but many parents not just black ones think that way. My mom would never encourage or approve of me being in an abusive relationship with a significant other so why should I take it from her? Because she gave me life? BYE! I didn’t ask to be here, I had no choice in that so that’s a weak excuse. NO CHILD SHOULD SUFFER ANY ABUSE FROM ANYONE, PERIOD!
Over the years we’ve talked it out. She understands now that was wrong and she has profusely apologized for it. I’ve forgiven her of course and I’ve never stopped loving her so there’s no bitterness on my part. The apology and her accepting responsibility more than healed those ancient open wounds. I often wonder what kind of person I would be if she allowed me to really express myself in all the ways I was dying to. I told her, that plantation parenting was why I rebelled and did ALL the things she told me not to do. If she would have explained why I shouldn’t do certain things instead of just demanding I not do it, I probably wouldn’t have done them. If she would have talked to me reasonably instead of yelling and threatening we could have communicated better instead of me always shutting down. I’m glad I was strong enough to not let all of that change intrinsically who I am. I’m not an abuser and I don’t believe in beating kids. As a matter of fact when I have kids I will give them all the tools to ‘deal’ that my mom didn’t give me. I will allow my kids to express themselves in any way they see fit. I will not beat my kids or emotionally abuse them. I want them to be able to come to me for ALL things instead of alienating them so they will seek advice/counsel elsewhere. I will do all the things with my kids that my mother failed to do with me.
One of the best shows on TV is House of Lies starring Don Cheadle. It’s not only a well written and funny show but I absolutely adore how he parents his VERY queer, MAAB child. Don’s character recognizes his kid is different and he embraces and encourages the pre-teen child to be themselves HOWEVER that may be. His character’s parenting style is the antithesis to ‘plantation parenting’.
I write this because over the last week I’ve witnessed ‘plantation parenting’ first hand with some extended family of mine and it just brought up a lot of memories I had chosen to forget. I feel helpless in witnessing how these kids are being treated. Of course everyone wants to scream CPS but we have enough black children in the system and what they’re going through isn’t as extreme as what I went through. They are WELL provided for, live in a mini mansion and get all they want. I’m in no way saying that justifies their emotional treatment but again I’m painting the picture. Besides I’ve asked them if they want to leave and they said they love their life they just wish they could communicate better with their parents. I have counseled the children as best I can and I even shared my experiences and how I dealt with it. I’ve expressed to them vigorously that I will always be here for them and they can come to me. I’ve also spoken with the parents and tried to show them the error of their ways(of course I got the ‘you have no kids speech so what do you know’). I see so many problems forming already that if nipped in the bud NOW won’t be an issue later. I’ve encouraged family and individual counseling as well as anger and stress management. But again with black ppl it’s difficult for us to step outside our comfort zone and spill our business to a professional. It would also mean that they have to admit there’s a problem and some just aren’t ready to do that. I will monitor the kids’ situation and take further and more extreme action as needed but these are strong kids and just knowing they have an outside outlet in me had given them inner strength and for that I’m grateful.
You and Slang are so adorable. <3 I almost teared up looking at the photos :) You are such an inspiration to queer brown people!! Continue being amazing and human and beautiful.
Thanks!!! I love her more than anything in LIFE!!!
BUTCH is a environmental portraiture project and exploration of the butch aesthetic, identity and presentation of female masculinity as it stands in 2013-14. It is a celebration of those who dwell outside of the stringent social binary that separates the sexes and a glimpse into the private and often unseen spaces of people who exude their authentic sense of self.
BUTCH is a celebration of those who choose to exist and identify outside of this binary that has never allowed any accepted crossover. BUTCH is inviting viewers into private lives of female masculinity and suggesting a resilience in nature’s insistence that there is more depth to masculinity and femininity than societal norms care to entertain. Who is policing gender presentation, and why? The fashion world has been asking the same question for ages. Are we ready for the answers now? It is undeniable that we are born with the sex organs that we are born with, but why are so we threatened by what others choose to claim as their gender presentation? Are we ready for these explanations? Or are we more afraid of the question? - keep reading
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Day & Night
Slayer & Slang
Photos by Ashlee Nikole (Wash, DC)