Brown mothering, decolonization, and tortillas…
Every time I saw my own abuelita elbow deep in a big bowl masa harina, I’d think to myself, “I’ll never be a tortilla making Maria. I’ll never be that brown women bent over a stove for some man who can’t appreciate the burnt fingers and the sweat. “
What I did not appreciate at 16 was that my abuelita humbly made her tortillas as her mother did and her mother did be for her. I learned to dismiss my abuelitas nurturing because there is no “value” placed on brown illiterate house wives. The outcome of this kind of love isn’t a high paying job or a car; it’s JUST another brown child. I learned that if I wanted to succeed at a job or be special in life I had to keep my legs crossed, stay baby free, and study hard.
There is a war on brown women and brown mothering.
We have become so fatigued by the hostility directed toward us and our babies that we do not notice the mental conditioning that starts in adolescence. Brown women are often told by our well-meaning parents and relatives, “whatever you do, don’t come home with a baby!” I was the recipient of these sorts of comments as soon as I started wearing a bra. As I inched closer to that break –out- of –the- hood degree I was earning the friendly advice was louder. It is the one solution to a life already challenged by being born brown: Don’t produce more brown children! This sort of conditioned belief, that having babies young translates to worthlessness, leads our sisters down some dark paths. It is the shaming that drives an industry of abortion clinics that bank on the young women to afraid of the outcome of being mothers in this hostile world. “My body, my choice.” does not apply to brown women’s struggle because that belief implies there are choices. Until economic insecurity is not cited as the main reason to abort, we can’t condemn our sisters in a world that is not rigged in her favour! So what can we do?
We CAN hold each other accountable to shift our beliefs on what defines us so that we brake this pattern of genocide. Let’s not forget that college debt, house notes, and designer clothes meant nothing to our ancestors. We are very capable of not needing the “success model” created by Europeans. It is not a fantasy to think we can create a society that does not depend on material gains in order to feel self-worth. Women must stop believing our success can only be had by preventing motherhood or by degrading its virtue. Our struggle is with colonial oppression that determines and limits the choices of what success looks like. Understand that believing children are a liability or that we cannot be successful with children, can only serve to disconnect us further from who we are as indigenous people!
Self-love is the first step in decolonizing our success model
I realized my hang ups on motherhood and having babies was unhealthy because I was able to make deep connection with indigenous philosophy and wisdom. I realized that our ancestress have done it as single mothers, as married women, and as young women, often with little resources. We are people of resilience and incredible strength! If they could do it so could I. If they could do it, so can you! Our definition of success must change in order for us to pull ourselves up from self destructive behaviour that only makes us more invisible living in the so called “main stream American” culture. I do not wish my children to be mediocre just to fit in. I want them to be brilliant. I want them to shine so bright they are mistaken for the sun. This can only be possible if we redefine what success is in our own terms in our own natural ways. Mother love is a start.