Silver Rights

News, thoughts and comments on civil rights and related issues.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005  

Music: "Baby Mama" affirms single mothers

Nothing demonstrates the aphorism "Damned if you do, damned if you don't" more so than the situation of teenagers who become pregnant. Girls who choose to have abortions are demonized by some people. But, does the other option -- giving birth and rearing the child -- get the girls who choose it off the hook? No. Some of the same folks will demonize them for doing that, too. America Idol winner Fantasia Barrino has found herself the eye of calm at the center of a storm of criticism as a result of a song on her first album, Free Yourself. Barrino, who became a mother while in her teens, wanted to affirm the efforts of young women to cope with multiple roles, being students, workers and mothers, simultaneously. So, she penned the hit song, "Baby Mama."

Lyrics on Demand provides the words.

This goes out to all my baby mamas
This goes out to all my baby mamas
This goes out to all my baby mamas
I got love for all my baby mamas

It's about time we had our own song
Don't know what took so long
Cuz now-a-days it like a badge of honer
To be a baby mama
I see ya payin' ya bills
I see ya workin' ya job
I see ya goin' to school
And girl I know it's hard
And even though ya fed up
With makin' beds up
Girl, keep ya head up
[Repeat chorus]

As National Public Radio reports, some people are claiming that Fantasia is sending the wrong message.

Brenda Miller, executive director of the D.C. Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, says teenagers who become single parents are much less likely to finish high school -- and their own children are more likely to repeat the pattern.

At the same time, she and other critics, such as Washington Post columnist Donna Britt, acknowledge the need to support young mothers because of the obstacles they face.

Britt's major criticism of the song is that it speaks of being a "baby mama" as being a badge of honor. I think that Fantasia is right. Women's decisions to rear their children while fathers ignore them are honorable. Another critic, Rose Russell, in a diatribe at the Toledo Blade, is appalled that Fantasia used the term "baby mama" at all. Again, I disagree. There is nothing wrong with adopting the vernacular in discussing a topic. Shakespeare did it very often. What I see in the discomfort of both these middle-class black women is concern that attention paid to the black underclass will impact their own status as black bourgeoisie. Fantasia has embarrassed them by highlighting the fact that most African-American children are born to or reared by women who are single or divorced. This is the same impulse that led Bill Cosby to make ignorant remarks about the black poor last year.

"Baby Mama" is a successful song for several reasons. Fantasia has pipes. The music is catchy and danceable. But, the main reason for the tune being a successful song is that it is an honest depiction of reality. People like Britt, Russell, and Cosby, who want reality to be under rug swept, could learn a thing or two from Fantasia.

Reasonably related

• Be sure to look at rest of the lyrics to "Baby Mama" at Lyrics On Demand. You can hear the song using the link at NPR.

• After 27 weeks on the chart, Billboard has Free Yourself at Number 9 in Hot Rhythm and Blues. "Baby Mama" is Number 20 worldwide in current R&B singles, according to Top-40 Charts.

posted by J. | 11:45 PM