What if Rachel Canning Had Been Born to African Parents?

rachelBy all means, you’ve heard of Rachel Canning. You may not know her name, but you certainly know her story. She is the 18 year old high school student from New Jersey who is suing her parents for failing/refusing to pay her college tuition and weekly child support. The details come right out of a local “WTF” newsletter.

As I gather, Rachel is a fairly good student and is on the cheerleading team. Her father is a police officer. Her parents have rules, some of which demand that Rachel do chores and be home by 11pm to meet her curfew. This is standard parenting procedure, because as any parent (and certainly any police officer) can tell you, nothing stays open past 11 pm besides legs, Krispy Kreme and the occasional Wal-Mart. These rules did not sit well with Rachel and she ended up moving out. She contends that her parents kicked her out; they say she moved out voluntarily.

I know Rachel. I know Rachel because I’ve BEEN Rachel. I went to school with dozens of Rachels.  You’re 18, you’re popular, you’re accomplished in your own right, and you’re pretty sure that you’re grown. Never mind that you can’t legally have a drink. You CAN vote and you’re eligible to work for most American employers, which translates into grown. The difference between this Rachel and all the other Rachels you and I have grown up with is that we are/were not stupid.

As any African, Haitian or Jamaican individual will confess, there was NEVER a time they would even fathom suing their parents for their upkeep, particularly when that individual has failed to hold up their end of the bargain in the parent-child dynamic. That dynamic is very simple: you do as I say as long as you depend on me. Sometimes, that tentacles of  that dynamic extend into adulthood, with African parents desperately trying to assert some level of control over their adult children.

“Why aren’t you married yet?”

“When will you born grandkids for me?”

“If you had been a lawyer like I told you to, you would not be suffering as you are now!”

I cannot imagine anyone from Africa or the Diaspora suing their parents for bi-weekly support or college tuition after so vagrantly disregarding the terms of an established parent-child contract. Hei! Your parents will come and catch you in your sleep should the thought ever cross your mind! Of course we have all grown up with issues with our parents, and you may have thought certain unflattering thoughts about them and their rules…but to utter them was inconceivable, let alone pursuing court action on the matter!

I asked some people from the Diaspora and at Home what would happen to Rachel if she had been born of African parents. After they stopped laughing, these were their responses:

Male from Haiti: My mother would have laughed. Then she would have punched me in my face. Then she would have called my father to come and collect me from the hospital because I was making her late for work.

Female from Georgia: Oh, God. What? No, no, no, no….

Female from Ghana: Haaaahaaahaaaa!!! Have you met my father? You lie bad!

Male from Ghana: You see, the thing is we have all grown up watching our parents struggle to pay for our education, work so hard to maintain even the most basic comforts of modern life, and boast of our accomplishments to others that we identify with the struggle. Their struggle is our struggle. We are not so far removed from what it takes to raise a child in this world. That’s why we would NEVER consider suing our parents for something like this!

Male from Ghana: Malaka. Come on. Ask me a more serious question. Sue from the where??!


As for this one, I blame her parents. Obviously she did this because 1) someone put her up to it and 2) She felt like she could get away with it. Of all the stupid things my friends and I cooked up together, all the inane plans and things “I woulda done if it was me”, it never crossed my mind, even briefly as an actual option. Those things were for girls far more stupid than I was. I remember I ran away from home at 18, thinking I was going to get a job at a radio station and go live in a flat in Tema or something. My parents kindly informed me that if I didn’t come home, that was the end of my college education (which I’M still paying for, mind you). After some prodding from an auntie, I was smart enough to realize in that moment that I could not make it in this world alone at 18…which is most likely the conclusion that Rachel came to. However instead of begging for her parents’ forgiveness for breaking their rules, she has mustered the gall and impudence to sue them!


Hmmm. Mom Squad. Mom Squad from Japan, New Zealand, Accra, Nairobi, Atlanta, Nigeria! What would YOUR parents’ reaction have been if you tried to sue them for any reason at all? Discuss! Discuss!!