Tia Mowry On Raising A Black Son In Today’s Times: “I Have A Hard Time Sleeping”
Tia Mowry doesn’t mince her words when she speaks. Yes, the child-star-turned-grown-woman cracks jokes, laughs heartily and flashes a row of pearly whites often in conversation, but her words are always delivered with a certain precision. It’s the kind of sureness and measure that comes with knowledge, understanding, confidence and concern. Especially on topics beyond the lighthearted.
How is it being the mother of a black son when, in these times, other mothers have had to prematurely bury their black sons at the hands of the law? These thoughts have crossed her mind before. Many times, at that. When I ask the question after dining on fancy mushroom and chicken dishes at Carefree’s dinner, the actress and mother of one pauses for a moment, then holds nothing back, sticking wholeheartedly to the company’s campaign to “speak freely.” “I have a son who is black and who is going to be growing up in a society such as this,” she says, smile now on the back burner. “It’s a conversation that I have with my husband all the time about, what are we going to tell Cree?”
Here, she opens up to VIBE about the very real circumstances that guide her “honesty first” approach to parenting, the praises she does have about America right now, what music gets her through troubling times and more.
This is a Carefree forum, meaning we can speak freely. One that I want you to speak freely about is that you’re a mother, specifically a mother to a young black son, Cree. Seeing what’s going on with our black men and boys being mistreated and killed in this country, how do you handle your parenting accordingly? What is going through your mind when you see the news reports?
It is a conversation that I have on a regular basis with my husband [actor Cory Hardrict]. I’m a huge advocate about Black Lives Matter and for a while, I had a hard time sleeping. I really did, because I have a son who is black and who is going to be growing up in a society such as this. It’s a conversation that I have with my husband all the time about, what are we going to tell Cree? What are we going to say to him so that he is not put in any circumstance with what’s going on? And it’s hard. It’s hard to face that reality, and I just have to be really honest with you. My dad is white, and my dad used to be a police officer, and he quit. The one thing that he told me was that when a police officer pulls you over, make sure your hands and at “10 and 2,” and make sure it stays there. For my dad to tell me that, who’s white and used to be a police officer, to his black daughter, I think it says a lot. And this was when I just started driving. This was years ago.
These are the things that my husband and I, when we’re talking about our son, it’s sad that I have to tell him that you cannot give anybody any reason whatsoever, so that you are not put in that situation. You get what I’m saying? But I think what I am spotlighting is having the conversation and talking about it and saying, unfortunately, you are not, in my opinion, treated equally in a situation like that. So if you educate yourself and know that you aren’t, unfortunately, then you have to take those precautions. It’s having the conversation and talking to them about the reality of the situation, because when you don’t look at the reality, then you’ll end up doing something and you’ll find yourself being mistreated.
I believe it was on Black-ish where they confronted that issue of, “but they’re young.” Do we tell them early? Do we wait ’til later? Is it right to put that fear in their minds so that they enter the situation that way?
You tell them early. And what’s interesting is, I’m comfortable speaking about this because my dad’s white and my mom’s black, so my point is that I see two sides. Growing up, when I was in my mom’s house, I just saw my mom. I just saw my dad. But it was after I was called a name, which was the n-word when I was in third grade, I went home, I told my mom and that’s when she had to say, look Tia, you’re black, your dad’s white… But again, I credit my mom and my dad to… I was eight! Third grade. We had to have the conversation. I think you should talk about it, you know? Because it’s the reality of the situation.
You can’t run from it. It’s better to know.
I always like to say this, too. And it’s not like I’m taking away the energy from anything else but, I’m for all things. I see prejudice with not only skin color, I see prejudice with sometimes being a woman. I see prejudice with sexual preference. I see prejudice with social-economical status. I am an advocate for, why can’t we all just not focus on our differences and embrace that we are all human beings?
It’s a hard pill. And you mentioned the different aspects of our society, whether it’s societal, political, class, whatever. What are some of your thoughts, praises or criticisms to where our nation stands right now?
The praise, I will have to say, because I just focused on some things that we need to work on, but I think the praise that I like is, even though social media can be hard at times, it can also be amazing. What I mean by that is, we have a voice and we can be able to express our feelings, what we’re going through, what our passions are, what we believe in. When you do that, when you share it with such a community and it goes viral, it’s impressive. It moves things. We create a movement. Thank God that we do live in a society where women and just people in general can have the freedom of speech. That we can say, ‘This is wrong. This is not cool.’ No matter what we’re talking about. Like I said, whether it’s about what happened in Orlando with the shootings and what’s going on with the Black Lives Matter, I am happy that we do have social media where we can expose prejudices and things that are wrong, and we can create a community to have a voice.
Coming from VIBE, from a music standpoint, what are some of the things you listen to to provide those bright spots in the midst of all that’s going on to take you to that happy place?
Oh gosh, that’s a really good question. [To her assistant: Where’s my phone?!] It’s all on my phone! I’m telling you. One thing, and I love my husband, because he used to always say he should’ve been an A&R, because he can always say, this person is going to be a hit. Or he introduces me to music before they even blow up, and one of those guys is J.Cole. I love J.Cole. He has such truth to him. He’s like, I don’t care about what everybody else is talking [about]. He’s not surface. He gets to the point and he’s not afraid to speak the truth. I love J.Cole, I think he’s freaking unbelievable. I just love everything about him. I love Usher. What I love about Usher is his voice, it’s just very soothing. I also like what he’s accomplished in the sense that he started out when he was 13 or 14 years old and he’s still relevant. He’s also another one that hasn’t succumbed to [the idea of], I’m only going to do music in regards to what’s hot at the moment. I love artists who are artists and who don’t compromise their voice or their sound for what’s “popular.”
And let me give you one more… Beyonce! Hey, didn’t you hear me talk about Beyonce in my speech earlier today? One thing that I love about this woman, my husband is afraid when a Beyonce album comes out because he knows I know every single song. I don’t know if she labels herself as a feminist, but one thing that I love about her is she’s all about women empowerment. I always get inspired when I listen to her songs, when her albums come out. One of my favorite songs that she ever, ever did was a song during Dreamgirls. I remember I listened to this song—I don’t think I ever told anybody this—I listened to this song right before that major scene happened on The Game where I slapped Derwin when I found out he cheated. And the song was “Listen.” I remember being in my car and I was just embracing every lyric, every word. Yes, this is a woman who’s like, I don’t care if… you’re telling me that you made me? No, no, no. I made me. I made myself. I can do this without you. I am independent. So, Beyonce. [Laughs]
Look, she has that effect on people! Lastly, as a person who’s started as a child actor coming all the way up to where you are now, how have you maintained your sense of positivity? You and your sister, Tamera, both emit positivity still. Especially because it’s easy to become hardened in the Hollywood shuffle.
I have a choice. I have a choice to either embrace the negative and the struggles that come along with this world, or I look at the positive. I chose to smile through it all. I truly believe that… I focus on the good. I always say that laughter gets you through everything and anything. I always like to stay positive and stay true to who I am. I don’t allow this business to define who I am. Because this business is very fickle. A lot of the times, people define who they are based on money, fame and success. I don’t. That’s fickle. I define myself based on character and integrity, and that will stay with you forever. That’s what people will remember me by, integrity and character. That is what I focus on with this business. I don’t focus on the things that are passive and fickle. I keep a smile. I’m very appreciative and very grateful to be doing what I’m doing.