Migrant black mothers: intersecting burdens, resistance, and the power of cross-ethnic ties
Miller, Channon Sierra
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Currently, a permeating ethos of racial transcendence mystifies the perpetuity of institutionalized inequality, restrains the dissolution of discriminatory practices, and renders race-based protest unutterable. Migrant Black Mothers examines how this apparatus of exclusion unfolds in the lives of native and immigrant black mothers of the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The study reveals that these women collectively bear visions of freedom that disrupt the normalization of their oppression. It asserts that while navigating a milieu that relegates their lives, and those of their children’s to a precarious existence, black mothers locate resolve on borderlands widely deemed marred by interethnic dissonance. African American, African-born, and Caribbean-born mothers seek one another across ethnic lines and in their migrations jointly resist the co-existing forces of structural and ideological stigmatization. Utilizing documentary evidence and original ethnographic research in Hartford, Connecticut, the dissertation illuminates and traces black mothers’ cross-ethnic ties of resistance over the course of three thematic sections. Part I, “Traversing Borders and Unsettling Distortions,” chronicles native and foreign-born black mothers’ encounters with gendered racism. It traces how controlling images that legitimize the violation of black mothers travels, as well as evolves, across ethnic lines. Further, Part I suggests that native and immigrant black mothers stifle gendered racism by co-creating safe spaces. Part II, “Behind the Netted Veil of Racial Transcendence,” revisits cases involving the state-sanctioned killings of Aquan Salmon, Amadou Diallo, and Trayvon Martin. It charts how in the aftermath of these cases, African American, African, and Caribbean mothers developed collective narratives of trauma as a means to contest the color-blind assessments of the cases. The last section, “A Motherline Conceived from Disparate Roots,” documents black mothers’ efforts to instill a racial consciousness in their children in a climate that promotes race neutrality. Diasporic, communal mothering arises as essential to this process. Fueled by the voices and realities of African American, African, and Caribbean mothers, shaped by interacting systems of power, the dissertation invites the telling of an often unspoken avenue of justice in the face of enduring black disadvantage.