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Pension and Welfare
Debra Harrell and the mythology of bad black mothers
Debra Harrell and the mythology of bad black mothers

You may not yet know the name Debra Lynn Harrell, but you’ve heard her story. It’s been recounted to you by scandalized parents at the grocery store and anchors on the evening news. It’s been interspersed into speeches by politicians of every allegiance. The story is rather short — not much of a story, really — but it makes your lungs puff with disapproving air, as you realize it isn’t the first time you’ve come across this tale and it won’t be the last. Harrell is a 46-year old black woman from North Augusta, S.C. She works at McDonald’s, and for most of the summer, her 9-year old daughter would join her at work, using the...

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