This project, a collection of essays with experiential interludes, illustrates the power complexities inherent when mothering, class, and race connections are analyzed—specifically in reference to the problematic nature of their policing within welfare offices, neighborhoods, and homes.
Academically, this project brings awareness to the contested issues of power, invisibility, gender, class, race, racism, location, motherhood, family, culture of poverty, and the welfare state. Politically, this work uncovers multiple responses to motherhood—motherhood on welfare, single motherhood, teen motherhood, and multi-cultural motherhood—and through that lens, posits questions about what race and whiteness mean in American society.
Whereas Ruth Frankenberg imagines whiteness as a force to be uncovered, and recognized for its dominance, I argue that before this can happen, whiteness must be contextualized in reference to experience. This dissertation is a collection of essays that illustrate some of that context, while analyzing the connections between class, race, and mothering. Not every white person has the same privilege. Whiteness, motherhood, and class crash in to each other - images of White trash, a greasy haired skinny woman with a baby on her hip, cigarette in one hand and beer in the other, or White single mothers who had children with Black men suddenly become the dominant representation of the welfare mother. Jane Lazarre, Cherrie Moraga, Rebecca Walker and Audre Lorde discuss these intersections of race as feminist scholars, but none are working within the context of welfare.
This project is personal, however, it is not simply a collection of the stories I tell myself to make sense of gender, race, and class in my life. Rather, this is my attempt to uncover a language rarely afforded room to speak—that of intersectionality, and of contradiction. Learning who I am and where I come from has helped me learn who my neighbors are and where they come from. It has afforded me the space to truly investigate the issues of race, class, and mothering. This work comes from that space, and allows the reader to see shared experience in lives all too often dichotomized as Black and White.