The most interesting part of watching a show like Growing Up Hip Hop: Atlanta is seeing how wealthy people deal with universal life experiences like familial relationships and their love lives. It’s the secret recipe of most reality shows these days: Come look at how these rich people handle the same problems you have in their own rich way! The very title of the GUHH franchise juxtaposes the natural process of growing up with being so closely affiliated with hip-hop. It makes for good television, no doubt. But it also brings to the forefront the social and cultural norms that viewers are using to judge the cast members on the show.
Last night, many GUHHATL viewers took to Twitter to express their surprise and disapproval of the interactions between Lil’ Wayne’s now 18-year-old daughter, Reginae Carter, and her mother Toya Wright. Many find the teenager to be spoiled, disrespectful, and disobedient to her mother. She asks her mother for a huge 18th birthday bash, and when Toya declines, ‘Nae threatens to call her father. Instead 'Nae calls Toya’s best friend Tiny and says her mother is selfish.
It must be understood first and foremost that Toya Wright is allowed to parent however she wants, as long as she isn’t abusive, neglectful, or willfully responsible for putting ‘Nae in harms way. Shaming parents, especially mothers, for how they choose to structure their home life and discipline their children is a trend that our culture seems to have collectively accepted. It’s a way of vilifying women for not living up to societal expectations of motherhood — expectations that are often rooted in sexist and trivial ideologies.
In the case of Wright, her race adds another level of complexity to how people are responding to her relationship with her daughter. Many Black families believe and take pride in a strict hierarchy between parents and children. Black kids are supposed to remain silent when their parents are reprimanding them, except when asked a direct question. When they respond, they should do so in a polite and submissive tone. This is how you respect your parents. Family dynamics that stray from this model open both parents and kids up to criticism.
However, I can say from personal experience that such strict parenting does not always produce desired outcomes, especially as teenagers transition to adulthood and have a right to personal opinions, privacy, and space. The relationship between my mother and I was strained for years throughout and after college because as an adult, I rejected the idea that respect meant silence. It took us a while to get on the same page.
Sure, Reginae may take some things for granted about her parents’ ability and willingness to provide for her. But the words used to describe her are coded language for being too independent and headstrong. Those are qualities that she is going to need as a woman, regardless of how much money her parents make.