I am a divorced, single mother of two lovely children. And I’m African-American, too. These facts alone inevitably lead to a cornucopia of stereotypes about single mothers whether African-American, Hispanic or white as “baby mamas” destroying America’s virtue. All of the stereotypes are tiresome and the latest is just plain stupid.
The latest attack on single mothers comes from Chris Powell, managing editor of the State of Connecticut’s Journal Inquirer. Powell blames the “decline of journalism” (i.e., declining newspaper subscriptions) not only on the Internet, but on single mothers. Among many of the utter ridiculous declarations made in a piece Powell penned called, “Journalism’s Problem May Not Be the Internet,” Powell states:
If the future of journalism rests with the Internet rather than with the old business models of declining profitability — newsprint and the broadcast airwaves — the Internet model of profitable journalism still hasn’t been invented yet. And if such a model was even close at hand, the Post under its longtime owners, the Graham family, could have well afforded to undertake it without any help from Bezos. …Th[e] social disintegration and decline in civic engagement coincide with the decline of traditional journalism just as much as the rise of the Internet does. Indeed, newspapers still can sell themselves to traditional households — two-parent families involved with their children, schools, churches, sports, civic groups, and such. But newspapers cannot sell themselves to households headed by single women who have several children by different fathers, survive on welfare stipends, can hardly speak or read English, move every few months to cheat their landlords, barely know what town they’re living in, and couldn’t afford a newspaper subscription even if they could read. And such households constitute a rising share of the population.
I had to read the above twice just to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. After absorbing what he said, I initially decided to dismiss Powell as a flame-thrower seeking media attention and readers. Then, I thought about those who might actually read, believe and agree with what he said. Also, I thought about those for whom the achievement of the American dream seems impossible because of the sentiments of individuals like Powell and I decided to speak out.
Personally, I read the print editions of The Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal every day. If I can get to it, I add the Financial Times to the list. Like many Americans, I also devour a lot of news online. Heard of a “bromance?” Well, I have what I’ll call a “newsmance” with the online versions of the papers I read in print sprinkled with a touch of the Huffington Post.com, Politico.com, Real Clear Politics.com, the Root.com and Slate.com, just to mention a few. Rich or poor, white or black, educated or not, there are single mothers who are deeply connected to the world we live in all over the country.
I have interviewed many single mothers over the years. Regardless of socio-economic status, I have never met a single mother who didn’t want a better life for herself and her children and who didn’t realize that education and knowledge are they key to leveling the playing field. The broad brush with which Powell draws his portrait is irreparably flawed.
There is no shortage of well-intentioned, single mothers who believe in and are seeking America’s promise.
In his quest to find readers who will subscribe to his newspaper, Powell might consider swallowing his words and writing about Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis. Davis gained national headlines earlier this year after her filibuster of a Texas abortion bill and who is reportedly running for governor.
According to Senator Davis’ website,
Wendy has been taking on tough fights her entire life. She began working after school at 14 to help support her single mother and three siblings. By 19, Wendy was a single mother herself, working two jobs to make ends meet in hopes of creating a better life for her young daughter. Through a brochure laid on her desk by a co-worker, Wendy learned of a paralegal program at Tarrant County Community College that she thought could be the ticket to creating that better life for her young daughter. After two years of community college, Wendy transferred to Texas Christian University. With the help of academic scholarships and student loans, Wendy not only became the first person in her family to earn a bachelor’s degree, but graduated first in her class and was accepted to Harvard Law School.
Davis’ website notes that this single mother graduated from Harvard with honors, became a practicing attorney and served nine years on the Fort Worth City Council, where she chaired the City’s Economic Development Committee.
My message to Mr. Powell is simply this: Make a quick call to the newspapers in Texas and ask what sells papers there. It’s my guess that even with the business model changing, those who have reported on Wendy Davis will tell you that good journalism will always sell — in print and online. It is, however, unlikely that single mothers, especially those who believe that they too can share in America’s promise, will ever pay to read a word that Chris Powell has to say.
Michelle D. Bernard is the president & CEO of the Bernard Center for Women, Politics & Public Policy and is the author of “Moving America Toward Justice: The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, 1963-2013″ and “Women’s Progress: How Women Are Wealthier, Healthier and More Independent Than Ever Before.” Follow her on Twitter @michellebernard.