Black disabled mothers are all too often erased from motherhood. Worse, their parental rights and fitness are attacked on multiple fronts by racism, misogyny, and ableism. In fighting for Black disabled mothers’ lives to matter, they not only tackle the misconceptions of their families and communities; they’re regularly targeted by medical and social stigmas.
Although there are at least 4 million disabled parents in the U.S and the numbers are still growing, disabled parents face tremendous hurdles regarding family planning, child rearing, and ambivalence about their choices to become parents in the first place. Sometimes the bias is unconscious, but the net result is the same — poorer care than white families typically receive. Health systems also don’t often account for the impact of institutionalized racism on people of color. Disabled parents and couples regularly must fight to retain parental rights to their children, not because of neglect or abuse, but because they are simply parenting with a disability.
The parental rights of disabled people aren’t even fully protected, particularly if their state has not enacted legislation to protect disabled parents from discriminatory and unfounded practices. For Black disabled parents, especially Black disabled mothers, there are additional justified fears of being unfairly targeted due to racism, sexism, misogynoir, and ableism within medical and social services. In addition to struggling with their loved ones’ concerns, Black disabled parents can also be overlooked within their own communities because of how ableism can mix with racial trauma, misconceptions, and toxic narratives about self-sufficiency and resiliency.
Disabilities are far more prevalent and expansive throughout communities than people think, whether they’re acquired by birth, accidents, illnesses, or the effects of aging. services as well. Even with support and love from loved ones, disabled parents are disproportionately subjected to sharper judgements and interference than their non-disabled peers.
The tendency of medical professionals to view disability as an “undesirable” trait also leads to treatment and medical advice that dehumanizes disabled patients.
The support of family and friends, as well as medical and social service providers, makes an incredible difference for Black disabled mothers, but like most parents, the opinions that matter the most are those of their own children. Some worry how attitudes and judgments will impact their children and their views of having a disabled parent but hope they can teach their children to know better.
Parenting can be a lonely journey under any circumstance, so making the stories and realities of Black disabled mothers more visible can help other Black disabled moms feel less alone.