How Motherhood Pushed Me Into Activism And Politics

by A. Rochaun
Originally Published: 

Mindy Kaling has long been vocal about the way her parents influenced her identity development. But now, the aspirational single mom of one is learning more about the ways motherhood can lead to a second identity journey.

During an interview with Hollywood Reporter, she revealed how the birth of her daughter has impacted her views of social issues.

“When you have a kid, I realize how much easier her life is because of my disposable income and I have one child — [whereas] in the developing world, people have more than one — and how simple and happy my life is with her because every single one of her needs is met,” Kaling informed The Hollywood Reporter.

She also highlighted the double-edged sword of love and motherhood.

“The one downside about having a child that you love is you give birth and you start to empathize more with children around the world. But it’s good because it’s made me more charitable.”

Through the years, she’s become more vocal about the importance of politics, gender, and cultural discussions.

In late March, she brought attention to the Pour it Forward campaign by Stella Artois and, by highlighting World Water Day and speaking out about the global obstacles to water equity.

“I’m Indian, and to think of the millions of babies who look exactly like my daughter, who don’t have the same advantages that she does, it is very chilling to me and it’s very personal to me now that I see her face every single morning,” she continued.

Kaling is just one of many celebrities, like Sybrina Fulton, who has dedicated her life to fighting social injustices since the death of her son Trayvon Martin and Jodie Patterson who was motivated to seek change by her experiences as a mom to her transgender son, who have shed light on the ways parenthood – and motherhood in particular – can lead you to a life of advocacy.

I know, because I am one of those parents – well, minus the celebrity part. Motherhood made me an activist.

I firmly believe that motherhood is inherently political. I’m sure that a large contributor to that belief is that I am a black mother. Through the centuries, black motherhood has contained a unique set of obstacles. And oftentimes, we were robbed of the freedom to parent or protect our children at all.

That being said, I believe mothers are often thrown into a space for activism and social change because we unwaveringly advocate for our children.

I’ve always prioritized self-growth and doing what I could to leave a positive impact on the world. But having children has shown me that I have to speak up about the changes I would like to see in the world. Otherwise, I would be left to wait in fear hoping that someone else will do the work required to make the world a safer place for my children.

I’ve had many discussions (and seen ever more social media posts) suggesting that we should keep politics out of parenting. Or worse, I’ll hear folks say politics aren’t important and their kids won’t care. Often, those parents believe we should preserve our kids’ ignorance of evil as long as possible. Truthfully, I’m envious of a life where I can choose to protect my kids from the past social sins of the world. But as a Black woman, I’m still regularly witnessing them. To remove the politics out of my parenting is to leave my children unprepared for a rude awakening.

We’re told that parenting isn’t political, that politics is “too boring,” that getting sharing our political opinions is “too divisive.” Well, NONSENSE. Parenting is political. Political issues affect our daily lives and cuts to our core values — what could be more important to parenting that that?

For millions of mothers like me, the gamble of hoping someone else will take the reins and speak out on social causes is one that we are not willing to take. I have to speak out on racial injustice, bias, and systemic oppression because it’s not just about me anymore. Adults are not the only ones who are impacted by oppression. The consequences of being designated as “other” began during childhood and only worsen if not addressed through the years.

Unfortunately, many activist-minded mothers have had to suffer great losses before joining the fight. I’ve watched and learned from their stories. And I am committed to sharing them for the world to feel their pain.

Sure, I’ve been to a few rallies and protests.

It’s a regular joke in my family that my son attended his first Women’s March when he was hardly a year old and ended up in the newspaper. My daughter was about two months old when I brought her to the Martin Luther King March and my mom joked that she was getting started quite early.

The experience is thrilling, and it makes me feel even more connected to the legacy of black women’s activism. But I also acknowledge that community organizing is not my strong suit and, therefore, not the best capacity for me to make change. It’s okay for us to recognize our strengths and weaknesses, and seek opportunities to get involved that don’t compromise our emotional and mental health or physical safety, especially for people in marginalized communities. People like me, a black woman.

My work is often behind the scenes. I enjoy reading the data that documents injustice and locating individuals whose personal stories make the numbers real. The experience has been life-changing and the feedback I receive suggests my efforts are adding to the dialogue around social justice issues.

I feel like the most important takeaway for mothers interested in veering into the sphere of activism is there’s always an option to use the space you’re in to make change.

If you have ever cared enough about an issue that it has made you want to stand at the front lines and speak up, now is the time. For marginalized individuals, our rights, as well as civil liberties, are under siege.

There’s never been a better time to play a role in ensuring we head towards a more positive, progressive place in American history. It will take all our efforts, and no group is as uniquely suited to cultivate and care for those in need of protection than mothers.

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