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Psalms for Black Girls

iOne Creative

Let me just say this right off rip: Raven Yates, the Texas mom accused of leaving her two kids to fend for themselves for almost two months while she allegedly traveled to Alabama, is trash if she really did abandon her 12- and three-year-old children.

Full stop.

There is zero excuse for leaving one’s babies alone with no food, supplies, or the physical, mental, and emotional protection of a parent or grownup who cares about, supports and assures their well-being.

It seems the whole of the internet and American media sees eye-to-eye with me on this, but this is where our agreement on the Yates narrative begins and ends.
While the comments sections on news sites and social media posts pour the proverbial gasoline on Yates’ head and ready her for the stake, I’m over here wondering why in the Good Lord’s 2023, we’re still so willing to burn Black single moms to a crisp with minimum info on perceived wrongs, rather than ask a half a question about how they got there in the first place or show even a pin-prick’s worth of grace for them and their situation.

See, when I read the story of how Yates’ babies were found home with nothing but a bag of beans and some spices, the three-year-old apparently having been sleeping on a urine-soaked mattress, the 12-year-old apparently not enrolled in school, I got angry at the mama, yes, but I had questions, too. A lot of them. The stories I read, all of them practically comma-for-comma the same, took the father’s word as truth when he said he’d been sending food at the 12-year-old’s behest for two months, completely unaware that the kids were alone. They believed the father, too, when he said he took the first thing smoking from California to Texas to check on the babies immediately after Yates’ mother informed him she’d seen her daughter in Alabama, sans the children.

All of this may have been true, but say, hey, anybody know if the mother is even alive for real? (She is alleged to be posting on social media still, but we all know how easily our pages can be commandeered by others.)
Anyone know if Yates has mental health issues? (A man who claims to be her brother is on FaceBook claiming she does.)
Did she have any help, resources, someone to turn to while caring for her three kids—her third child, a 14-year-old was a runaway—or was she just left there, abandoned, too, by both the men she made babies with and their families?
Matter of fact, how did the father go two whole months without knowing the kids were there by themselves? Were there no FaceTime check-ins with the 12-year-old? When babygirl kept asking him to send food, did it not occur to him to call the mama and ask why she wasn’t buying groceries or feeding the kids herself? Did he ever once ask how school was going? What her report card was looking like? Whether she liked her teacher? All of these are questions and actions that could have cut straight down to the meat of what was going on in that house, signaling to a good and involved parent that something wasn’t right. Be clear: the daddy ain’t no saint; he was, at the very lease comfortably obtuse about the plight of those kids and when he figured it all out, he sent them to live with their grandma.
What I’m getting at here is this: that 12-year-old has two parents, four grandparents, and who knows how many aunts, uncles, cousins, play aunties and uncles, neighbors and such, who could have stepped in had they bothered to give a damn about Yates and her kids. Same for the 3-year-old, whose father and grandparents also were so disconnected and unconcerned for that baby that they didn’t realize the toddler was being cared for solely by a 12-year-old for two months. If you are reserving your anger and ire for the mother without giving the stink eye to the village that should have been helping this mother and her kids, or you’re not extending enough compassion to the plight of this single mother to at least consider that there’s more to the story, then Raven Yates isn’t the only sick one here.
But it’s easy to drag a single mom of three for nutting up and running away from her children, isn’t it?
That’s what this society does to Black mothers: point fingers, jab, punch and assassinate our character, all while ignoring context and our cries for help. Be clear: these news outlets don’t give a damn about them kids. I’m not so sure the cops or child welfare workers do either (especially considering the kids were discovered alone in November, but authorities hadn’t alerted the public they were searching for Yates until February). The people dragging this woman on social media for sure don’t give a rat’s hairy ass about nan none of them.
What do each of these entities care about? Clearly, painting yet another Black mother as an irresponsible demon—a symbol of the dysfunction that rides the backs of Black motherhood like a saddle does stallions. There is no grace to be had. We are not allowed to have post-partum depression. There is no room to feel overwhelmed. We damn sure can’t be depressed or suffer from mental issues. We can’t complain that no one is helping us or giving us the resources and tools we need to thrive—for ourselves and for our kids. We can’t make mistakes. And none of us can screw up without the entirely of society judging us before they get the full story.
And like some sick playbook for a game we didn’t ask to play in, Yates’ story will become one of lore, the kind that pops up when it’s politically expedient, like, say, the upcoming 2024 elections. Just watch. She’ll be “Welfare Queen 2.0: the Irresponsible Black Mama Edition.” These politicians will continue on their drunken, lustful march toward total conservative domination, calling us pathological while doing all they can to eradicate women’s right to bodily autonomy, by further restricting access to abortion, while ignoring the very racist practices that ensure Black women’s maternal mortality rate ranks alongside that of developing nations, and by turning a blind eye to mothers like Yates, who very clearly need help, not just ridicule.
Help won’t ever be on the way, though. Neither will be grace. Not when it’s so much easier to point fingers and share incomplete stories and hop into comments sections, calling someone a bad mom with your chest, real confidently, when you don’t know shit, don’t care to know shit, and have no interest in truly helping a mom clearly in need.
God bless and protect the children of Raven Yates. And their mama, too.
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