Chirlane McCray Doesn’t Deserve Condemnation For Being Honest

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Chirlane McCray motherhood

New York City first lady Chirlane McCray is interviewed at New York’s City Hall, Wednesday, March 5, 2014. McCray will lobby for her husband’s pre-kindergarten plan in Albany next week, The trip was revealed to The Associated Press on Wednesday during her first extensive interview since her husband Bill de Blasio took office in January. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, his wife, Chirlane McCray, along with their two children are, if nothing else, a very honest family. de Blasio has never shied away from his leftist past nor has McCray minced words about her previous life as a lesbian. Their teenage daughter, Chiara de Blasio, looks to carry on that tradition of owning your s**t after penning an especially candid essay for xoJane in which the 19-year-old owned up to her struggle with depression, anxiety, and her coping mechanisms: weed and alcohol.

And while we often like to fancy ourselves as champions of honesty, a very nasty and mean-spirited headline from the New York Post based on a New York magazine profile on Chirlane McCray just goes to show how juvenile some “journalists” can be as well as how cruel society is towards working mothers.

McCray was honest about the struggle she faced after the birth of her first child:

Chiara was born in December 1994, seven months after the wedding, when Bill was working on Francisco Diaz’s state assembly campaign. McCray had always imagined a life with children, but as with so many women the reality of motherhood—the loss of independence, the relentlessness of the responsibility—was difficult. “I was 40 years old. I had a life. Especially with Chiara—will we feel guilt forever more? Of course, yes. But the truth is, I could not spend every day with her. I didn’t want to do that. I looked for all kinds of reason not to do it. I love her. I have thousands of photos of her—every 1-month birthday, 2-month birthday. But I’ve been working since I was 14, and that part of me is me. It took a long time for me to get into ‘I’m taking care of kids,’ and what that means.”

In response, the New York Post featured a front-page photograph of McCray with the headline: “I Was a Bad Mom!”

Understandably upset, Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a strongly-worded rebuke on Monday, demanding that the publication apologize. de Blasio dismissed the coverage as  “disturbing and inappropriate.” I’d like to add insensitive, stupid, and a waste of print.

de Blasio went on to add:

“It suggests a tremendous misunderstanding of what it means to be a parent, what it means to be a mother. A lot of hardworking women in this city are offended. I think both The Post and The Daily News owe Chirlane an apology. I think they owe all of us an apology.”

Both do, though that scenario feels highly unlikely.

What irritates me most about this is that Chirlane McCray, like many woman, had a fulfilling life before they had children. A life complicated by the birth of their children. Some women immediately latch on to motherhood; others, it takes some time, and even then it may not happen.

McCray was honest about her feelings and she shouldn’t be condemned for it.

As New York magazine writer Lisa Miller notes, “McCray came of age at a time and in a place when speaking out about who you are, making declarations of identity despite convention and in defiance of taboos, was the bravest thing a person—in particular, a black woman—could do.”

Yes, before she became a mother, McCray was her own person. She has every right to express that however she chooses to.

Of course, none of this is exactly surprising. The New York Post could spot Oprah trying to swat a fly and accidentally hitting her driver and create a headline like “OPRAH SPITS ON DRIVER! HATES THE POOR!” Hillary Clinton could give former President Bill Clinton a stern look for getting strawberry cream cheese instead of scallion cheese and I’m almost certain that headline would read, “DIVORCE IMMINENT. HILLARY ANNOUNCES SHE IS A LESBIAN.”

The New York Post is Media Take Out’s white paternal grandfather. Again, I’m not shocked by its idiocy in its attention-whoring headlines, but it is no less disappointing.

We need to allow women–Black women, in particular–to express themselves. Many years ago, McCray wrote a 5000 word essay entitled “I Am A Lesbian,” which was intended to make other queer women of color feel less alone. Her comments about motherhood in this profile are no different.

All of this proves how insensitive the culture remains with respect to working mothers. The same goes Black women acknowledging a certain vulnerability. We can do better and ought to be trying to.

Michael Arceneaux blogs at thecynicalones.com, tweets at @youngsinick, and praises Beyoncé’s name everywhere he goes.

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