Written by new CocoaMamas contributor HarlemMommy. Welcome her to CocoaMamas!
As a Black woman, I was prepared to nurture my brown child. Showering her with love for her complexion. Empowering him with the strength of his heritage. I had so many booksabout African-American heroes and trailblazers. Seriously, my grandmother got me a complete set. Lena Horne, Crispus Attucks, Oprah. My kid was gong to love himself, his people and his color.
My husband loves Dave Matthews Band. He played high school lacrosse. Yup, he’s white.
My son? Handsome as all get out and a smile that’s out of this world. Brown? Not so much. He’s Black. He must be; he’s mine. He’s also my husband’s child. How do I nurture that?
In The Girl Who Fell From the Sky, the main character, Rachel, is often asked where she got her blue eyes. The question is intrusive, but not completely unexpected. The way her grandmother answers however is poignant. “You know Roger’s granddad had these eyes.” This is a lie. A lie told to “protect” Rachel from the white mother who tried to kill her as she herself committed suicide.
Rachel, however, sees the lie for what it is; an attempt to remove her mother, her whiteness, and her complications from her new life. This obviously pained Rachel. If you have to deny a parent, you have to deny a part of yourself.
There’s the rub. You can’t deny a child’s parent and expect the child to be unaffected. Whether you deny the Mom because she’s white or say negative things about Dad because he’s always late with child support.
So where does that leave me? Before meeting my husband, I had a good beat on the world. Biracial people are Black. Yes, race is a social construct, but if you’re Black and something else, then you’re Black. It’s cool to be Black and that’s how society will see you, so that’s who you are. Duh.
It felt good to know so much and not feel ambiguity about race. Then I met this white guy. Then I fell all in love. Now we have this impossibly adorable munchkin we get to raise into a man. A Black man? Can I call him my little brown boy if he’s not that brown?
Would it be fair to my Scooba to tell him that he’s Black because that’s how society will view him? What if, because he’s so light, people view him as white? How would I feel if he identified as white? Is that “passing”? I would be devastated if he identified solely as white, regardless of how society views him. I would have failed him as a Black woman; as a Black mother. It would mean he was ashamed, that he felt Black was less-than. That he felt I was less-than.
Children are not carbon copies of the parent. You can set a foundation for a child, but he ultimately must get in where he fit in. But how would any of us feel if a part of us that we felt was fundamental to our being was not fully reflected or embraced in our child?
Can I expect him to identify solely as Black? To deny either his Black or white side would be unfair. So when he asks what he is, we’re going to say he’s Black and white. As for how society sees him? That’s society’s problem. Scooba has the right to define himself; as do all of us. President Obama identifies as Black and his white mother approved of this. Am I a jerk that I can’t be selfless and let my son identify as white if he wants to? I’m gonna be that jerk.
Husband and I need to work twice as hard to ensure he sees both parts of himself represented in books we read to him and the media he sees. This means we read Whose Toes Are Those and sing Sweet Honey in the Rock. He’ll see plenty of images of white people, so we’re covered there. We’re going to be extra vigilant not to put him in a box or let others do so either. Scooba determines who he is and where he wants to stand in the world. Is that naïve? Perhaps, but we are not post-racial, so race still matters; and I at least want to have a plan when it comes up. I will fortify my son to stand up for who he is and allow him the space to establish that for himself.