Tag Archives: Race

Gazes

Greetings from Finland! What an awesome trip it’s been so far. Finland is really quite lovely. My mother and I’ve have figured out the public transit system, ventured to Tallinn, Estonia, and tried very hard to learn a few Finnish words.  I gotta say the language is different than anything I’ve ever heard, and I thought I’d really heard a lot. I’m not a neophyte traveler, but I have been this far north east in Europe. It’s definitely worth the trip, but the language is not an easy one to pick up. That said, the people have been very nice and generally a accommodating.

But then there is the gaze. 

I mean, in the US, we talk about the White Gaze a lot in terms of race. I’m not going to go into a full on explanation about White Gaze here. In a nutshell, the white gaze is white privilege and supremacy on full on display in such a manner that everything not white is wholly defined as and by its non-whiteness. Everything and everyone else is other.

As a black woman in America, I often feel subjected to this gaze, sometimes at work, sometimes when shopping, at church—where it’s diverse almost more so because Hope and I show up sometimes—at the condo board meeting…you know; it can just happen anywhere. But that particular form of white gaze, the American tradition of white gaze, I’m used to, if not annoyed by. 

My usual experience of traveling abroad involves white gaze, but usually a kinder, gentler gaze. In some countries, my experience with the gaze has been more exocticized—the affluent black American who likes to travel. I get hit on a lot, and bevies have been known to be sent from the other end of the bar with a raised glass, a wink and compliment.

But Finland. Oh Finland. This white gaze is so damn strong. 

My very being is other here. 

So Finland is super homogenous—Finnish folk, Swedish folk, Russian folk, Roma folk (who are admittedly a little more tan than the others, but still…white) and a really small smattering of Asian and north African immigrant folk. So, it’s like whiter than your average white. It’s seriously Clorox white here. Now Helsinki is a very cosmopolitan city with lots of tourists and a huge convention center, so there are lots of folks coming through here. That said, I’m guessing that your average Fin can go a long damn time without seeing someone like me anywhere around other than on a tv or movie screen. So, to see me on the street? Well that’s just an anomaly of huge proportions. 

Apparently, I’m like a leprechaun, but I’m not sure that I bring good luck. In fact the overt clutching and moving of some purses suggest that mayhaps I do not bring luck at all. 

I saw a child walk into a door while staring at me. Ok, I’ll give the kid a break, but the grown women and men who openly gape. Ugh. 

Immigration control acted like someone like me shouldn’t  or maybe couldn’t possibly be attending an international education meeting. The limo driver acted as though he were mute the 20 minute drive to my hotel, prompting my mother to tell me to give him a big tip to prove that we black folks know how to act. (It was he who needed a lesson in how to act.)The least he deserved was a tip, and it annoyed the hell out of me to give him that cash after he ignored us. But that’s what we do—people of color are always trying to prove belong in a world that was not intended for us. 

Things have eased up in the last couple of days. Our trip to Estonia was lovely, with low levels of gaze. Either the gaze was so low key it wasn’t bothersome or the engagement felt so genuine that it was easy to answer questions and to share how we ended up shopping in the town square. During our ferry ride, I decided to meet white gaze with black gaze for the rest of the trip. Open air, direct eye contact lessens the gaze. It makes folks aware that they are staring. It reverses the issues of comfort. It triggers the acknowledgement that being defined and subjected to another’s gaze doesn’t feel all that great. 

For me it allows me to take some of my comfort and my power back. It allows me to resist being a curiosity, no matter how innocently. 

No, I don’t think any of this behavior is intrinsically malicious, and the Finns are, apparently, known for being reserved. But the behavior does inherently reinforce a system of white supremacy that I openly resist. 

With every person of color, especially black folks, we exchange a small smile and the universal nod of acknowledgement. There is no gaze, but there is acknowledgement. It feels nice. 

I am not sure how Hope would cope with this experience. I know she doesn’t like to be gazed upon. I know she sometimes struggles with finding her own beauty in her brown skin. Because she lives with me, understands what I do and is exposed to things designed to embrace her blackness, I think like me, she might be hyper aware of her being a novelty in this setting. In some ways, I am sad about that for both of us—It’s like James Baldwin suggested that to be black and to be conscious of your blackness is to be aware and reactive all the time. 

It is exhausting. I kind of wish we were sometimes ignorant about what it is to wear this skin and to be this person. But that’s not even a realistic desire. 

My mother, having grown up in a different era also is hyper aware of the gaze we have experienced on this trip. She seems to experience a wider range of emotions: disappointment, sadness, anger, frustration and fear. She chastised me about meeting the white gaze with a black one. She worried that it might trigger “them.” She doesn’t like it when they are triggered. She was raised in an era where knowing your place and choosing forms of resistance were the difference between literal life and death. I don’t pretend to know what that kind of emotional confinement feels like. But I see it in her; I hear her when she talks about how things are returning to how that period felt for her so many years ago. 

I don’t mean to make this trip sound miserable. It is far from it. It has been a grand experience and experiment. Most of the people we have met are kind. We have shopped. We’ve ventured to places that weren’t even on our bucket list. We are wiser from our time here. 

We have a day left in Helsinki before we head back to the states. After a week under the glare of this gaze, I will be happy to return to the gaze I know. It still sucks, but I know it. I’ve studied it. I get it. I know how to push back on it. 

I know this because…it’s home. 

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Silence in Adoptionland

When you are a part of a marginalized group, you learn early on that the norm is white unless otherwise stated. You learn a language that includes sign posts that hip you that the space is not white owned or dominated.

Take for instance the American Medical Association and the National Medical Association. The AMA is race-neutral, which is a super kind way of saying white, while the NMA is a group that represents docs of African descent. The latter is going to include conversations very specifically about people like me—both professionally and medically. Those conversations will happen in the AMA, but not at the level of detail they will within the safe confines of NMA.

“National” is often a sign post for those of us who are not white, and we need those spaces. You want to know why?

Well, because sometimes being in spaces where white is the default norm is hazardous to our mental and emotional wellbeing. The micro and macro-agressions. The casual racism. The casual over-familiarity. The defensiveness. The “not all white people…” statements. The folks who take our information, repackage it and profit from it as though it was original content. The “why is it always about race with you people” or “I’m just a part of the human race” or my personal favorite, “I don’t see race at all.” #Iaintclear

And if I or people like me try to engage, the resulting triggered fragility can simply spin out of control, leaving those of us who are “other” to feel abandoned, hurt, lonely, and demonized as the mean, angry person who attacked some nice well-meaning white person. Oh, we mad, we are mad.

When I started my journey, silly and naïve, I sought support in various places, both on-ground and online. I often found that in both places I was the lonely,only or one of very few.

I am constantly self-assessing and checking my need for self-care with respect to race because I work in the diversity and inclusion space professionally. I thought I would do that and handle whatever came my way in the adoption space.

What I found was one of the least diverse spaces I have ever voluntarily joined. I felt like there were so many ways I didn’t fit—I was black, single, increasingly non-religious, adopting an older kid and living in a super urban area. I know I’m not alone, but boy there are times when I click into or walk into a space looking for support and the first thing I have to do emotionally is put my shield up.

How am I supposed to get support when I feel like I have to arm myself against the supporters? It often just doesn’t work and is an exercise in wasted time and emotional energy.

Yesterday, I wrote about being invisible in Adoptionland, but other times, my presence is seen but only as a source of information, not as an equal in receiving support. I’ve found myself just withdrawing at times because I felt I was being asked to contribute to well-meaning folks who want to be good parents, but who didn’t see me as someone struggling with similar issues in adoption.

Marginalization is so pervasive in our lives.

So, I lurk. I go to support groups and don’t say much as much as I used to.  I try to hit the like button sometimes in online spaces. I get really picky about where I want to use my voice and how to use it strategically. I’m not just posting or commenting all willy-nilly. I have to tailor my response so that it’s palatable, non-threatening, and/or not too angry. I make sure I put the word “some” in front of “white folks” so that I don’t trigger someone into going into an “All Lives” rant.  I have to brace myself for the comment that challenges the factual recounting of my lived experience. I have to go take a short walk before responding so that I can keep people at the keyboards and tables when I do respond. I have to keep my wits about me because one wrong comment and my view point is just discarded like this morning’s gum that was chewed for over two hours.

Speaking in white spaces is exhausting. It’s just requires physical and emotional capital that is sometimes too much, and it doesn’t always payoff.

I often read things online or hear things in person and wonder, is it worth the cost to respond? Nah, I could be teaching Hope to improve her checkers game instead. Or just picking my toenails, you know, Hey, I could get in my car and drive around hoping not to get pulled over by cops!

I could just be doing something else productive.

There are so few signposts in Adoptionland to let me know I am welcome and that my voice is valued. I watch the reactions to the comments made by other people of color,  and I try to support them, but I also really, really monitor the reactions to their posts.

I wonder if things will get heated because feelings get hurt. Will someone get chastised or worse, banned?

I wonder would I have more fun and get more out of watching dumb pet videos. #probably

So, I silently lurk in the back of the room or behind my avatar, no doubt with others. I’ve already got enough on my plate as a single mom to an older adoptee struggling to live beyond her history of trauma.

I don’t need the drama of being shouted down in spaces when I’m seeking support.

So often, this space is my only safe space in Adoptionland, and I had to create it for myself. That’s saying something.

So, it’s just too much and it’s so much easier to stay silent.


Race Issues in Adoption-Part 1

I recently had the pleasure of doing a long form interview with TraumaMamaDrama! I’m grateful for the opportunity to talk about these race, adoption and parenting with her.

Take a looksee at Part 1 of my interview!

Race Issues in Adoption – Part 1


A Sad Mystery

There was a time when we would hear about police violence and people of color. We would see evidence, but without excessive documentation and a stand-up witness, it was easy for folks to just look the other way with little effort.

Today, technology has changed everything. We have the ability to capture real-time evidence of the good, the bad and the ugly.

We also have a much better idea of what happened in the absence of cameras.

The ugly part is that it hasn’t changed much. It seems that the only thing it’s changed is that we now require a bit more effort from those who are determined to look away as injustice persists.

Two years ago, in November, we learned that Darren Wilson would have no consequences from killing Michael Brown.

Last December we learned that the police who murdered Tamir Rice just seconds after pulling up in their car would not face charges.

Today, a judge declared a mistrial in the murder of Walter Scott, a Black man who was shot in the back by police, who then attempted to plant a weapon on him.

There was a video of the whole thing.

One juror said he just couldn’t find Michael Slager guilty.

That juror looked away. When the judge heard about the hung jury days ago, he sent them back in to work it out. That juror essentially turned his chair around.

That’s a lot of effort.

And now more jurors “have questions.” #really?

And so, now, with a video that shows a man being shot in the back, there is no justice. Oh, sure, his family has already reached a settlement with the city, but the larger question of social justice…it remains unanswered.

So, how do we talk about this? Do I just tell Hope, “Ooops, they did it again?”

It really does become exhausting having some kind of hope that one day my daughter will be able to really see justice.

It’s like I’ve concluded that I won’t see it. My parents probably have only seen it fleetingly, but probably not.

What does the future hold for us?

And in the current national climate?

What should those of us parenting children of color think? What should we teach them? What will keep them safe? What will ensure they get justice if they ever need it?

It is a sad mystery.


If You Voted for Him — john pavlovitz

I have always been a believer in voice. Your voice is who you are. How you use it is a demonstration of your personal power.

Wars have been waged over voice—who has it, who doesn’t, how it is used.

I was always taught and been taught that silence is assent.

And this year, that is true.

In fact, I can’t think of another time in my life when it has been truer.

Just under half of the voting electorate voted for someone who seems to share very few of my beliefs or values.

Half.

It’s kind of like those old sayings when you go to college: Look to your left. Now, look to your right. One of those folks won’t be there at graduation.

Instead, now, the ending goes: One of those folks voted for the guy openly praised and endorsed by hate groups and restrictive regimes around the world.

So, you say, that you don’t share those beliefs?

Tell me.

Show me.

Stand with me.

Tell me, show me and stand with me.

Reblogged…

If you voted for him, I really need you to hear something right now: I believe you. I believe you when you say that you’re not a racist. I believe you when you say that you’re not a bigot. I believe you when you say you’re not homophobic. I believe you when you say you’re……

via If You Voted for Him — john pavlovitz


Vote Your Conscience

It’s pretty rare for me to engage in direct political conversation on this space, and I gotta admit that this is really deliberate for me. I live in the DC metro area; we breathe politics here. I was a lobbyist for almost 10 years, with an undergrad degree in government and politics. Politics are my occupational first love. What’s happening in the US right now almost defies words. I often imagine that it is like watching the midpoint of the fall of a great republic, which is shocking given that we’ve survived a lot of other bull ish.

I know who I’m voting for next month, but I won’t publicly endorse the candidate or name them since I do think that it’s a deeply personal decision, especially this year. (Of course, if you follow me on twitter, you already know who I’m voting for.) So many of us are making voting decisions based on who we can tolerate more and hate less.

This is my first election as a parent, and things are different.  And in this election, that is an understatement. The crazy in the American election season this year is unprecedented.

Like many parents, so much of my political decision making is influenced by the future I want for my daughter. But even though this is my first political rodeo as a parent, I’m still voting in part based on who I think will eff up my daughter’s future less.

I am Black woman, raising a young Black daughter.

I’m guessing that you *should* be able to figure out who I’m not voting for in a few weeks.

Yesterday I was popping around a few adoption support groups when I came across a post by a parent who was defending her support of the GOP presidential nominee despite having children of color (though for me the argument could be made to just stop the sentence with “children.”). She posted about how she hated Clinton more. I get that.

What I couldn’t wrap my head around was the tacit acceptance of racist, homophobic, misogynistic, rapey, ablest, gutter language spouted by a candidate that has emboldened some pretty awful citizens to come out from their hiding places. I also couldn’t understand how that reality could be reconciled with the desire to raise children of color, or girls, or special needs children or just children to live in a safe country that values and embraces them.

What about our shared values?

Maybe we don’t have shared values.

Maybe we never did.

For me, ultimately, this is what a lot of the national discourse has been reduced to.

I’m not nearly as afraid of terrorists or undocumented immigrants or increased taxes or Russia as I am about my black daughter potentially being killed by American police, being sexually assaulted, being marginalized and bullied at her school, being accosted on the street by some crazy racist, sexist person who makes her feel threatened.

For me, the devil beyond the borders isn’t nearly as frightening as the one within them.

With each week, the discourse worsens and my fear escalates.

I genuinely worry for our collective futures.

I worry for our children.

I worry for my beautiful black daughter.

I worry for Hope.

I’m not naïve. I don’t expect everyone to vote the way I will. I don’t believe that we all share the same beliefs and values. I don’t believe that everyone hopes the best for me or people who look like me—both Black and a woman.

But I still hope that people will invest some critical thought into their votes.

If you’re really ok with a candidate who believes cozying up to White supremacists is ok, then vote your conscience.

If you’re really ok with a candidate who believes “locker room” talk includes descriptions of sexual assault, then vote your conscience.

If you’re really ok with a candidate who blasts his sexual assault accusers but can still fix his mouth to bring up the affairs of a candidate’s husband as though they are more legitimate and/or somehow different than his own narrative, then vote your conscience.

If you’re really ok with a candidate who openly mocks women’s looks and bodies and believes in punishing women in for having a voice, then vote your conscience.

If you’re really ok with a candidate who openly mocks those with disabilities, vote your conscience.

If you’re really ok with a candidate who conflates being Black with living in hellish inner cities, then vote your conscience.

If you’re really ok with a candidate who doesn’t include men and adoptive families in his family leave plan, then vote your conscience.

If you’re ok with a candidate who practiced housing discrimination, then vote your conscience.

If you’re ok with a candidate who has defended the killing of unarmed people of color by law enforcement, then vote your conscience.

If you’re ok with a candidate who cloaks himself in religion when it is expedient, specifically when there is a need to be forgiven, then vote your conscience.

If you’re ok with a candidate who lives on Twitter but doesn’t disavow a hashtag like #repealthe19th then vote your conscience.

If you’re ok with a candidate who embraces voters who actually wear racist and sexist paraphernalia with his name emblazoned on it, then vote your conscience.

If you’re ok with a candidate who waxes philosophical about a time when America was great and various citizens were legally subjugated, then vote your conscience.

I could go on; there is so much more.

Vote your conscience.

Or not.

It’s hard to focus on actual policy when the mud is so thick.

I need a shower after just comprising a list.

I don’t suggest that there isn’t mud on all sides, certainly there is, and none of it makes me excited about this election. But again, my fears are more immediate, more personal.

So, this post isn’t an endorsement of anyone, but it is a call for folks to really think about what their vote means, what their conscience is really saying to them, and what they really want for the future of America.

For me, I want something different. I don’t have many options, but I definitely, definitely want something different.

I hope you do too.

 

 


Coming Up for Air

After being pulled over last week, I just needed to step away. I threw myself into work and into making sure Hope was ok.

I still watched the news, but I muted it when stories I couldn’t handle jumped on the screen. I watched a lot of Hulu. I did a lot of work. We skipped Back to School night to rest, eat a bunch of McDonalds, and chill out on the couch.

By the weekend I was prepping for a business trip. Hope was talking about missing me, which always makes me feel good. Not because I like her missing me, but I like being missed.

I touched down in the Midwest, and found more of my mojo.

It helps to feel needed, to feel competent, to feel like you matter.

Work gives me that. This weirdo gives me that.

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Several days later, I’m home and prepping to head out for a quick trip to Texas to give a talk.

Bits of my humanity are sliding back into place, but it’s hard when you see another event, another hashtag #AlfredOlango, and the face of a crying child talking about her fears.

Sigh.

It really is exhausting.

Last week, Mimi asked me about my feelings when I was stopped. It took me a few minutes to get the words out.

I was terrified, but not for me. I do not fear death. I mean, I’m not exactly looking forward to it or anything, and I’d really prefer not to meet death anytime soon. I’d like to have a long, healthy life.

What frightened me was the possibility of Hope being left alone…again.

I mean, I have a will, arrangements have been made for her to be raised in a loving home. But the issue is more trauma for her.

It is the way in which families of victims of police violence become collateral damage in the aftermath.

Victims’ bodies are often left where they fall, for as long as four hours. There never seem to be efforts to save the lives of the victims; people handcuff the dead. They step over them. They mill around with no sense of urgency over what transpired moments before.

And there’s always video. Oh, sure the dash and body cams aren’t reliable, but there’s almost always cell phone footage or security cam footage.

It is released and the victim is shown repeatedly laying there lifelessly.

I couldn’t bear to think about what that would do to my daughter.

I’m fortunate to not have any mug shots or untoward photos out there that would be used by the media, but my name would be a hashtag and would be posted, shared, tweeted and retweeted and posted for days.

Having already survived so much loss, the thought of my daughter facing that breaks my very heart; it is crushing. It is scary; worse than any horror movie.

That’s why I cried that day; I can’t possibly leave my beautiful girl.

It really is challenging to be emotionally healthy during these times.

I’m better this week. I’ve got my bearings.

I’m emerging from the deep and coming up for air.

My family is safe. The bills (and ticket) are paid. Hope and Yappy are acting dorky. There’s a band practice to shuttle her to in a few minutes. Elihu and I are planning a hot date night this weekend. We have a good life. I love the life we’ve built.

Today we are fine. We are floating about in our little bubble, praying that it never is pierced by violence.


Traffic Stop Protocol

Hope and I are taking a trip to the beach this weekend. Note, this is not a vacation since both Hope and Yappy are accompanying me—this is a trip.

If you are traveling with your kids, it’s never a vacation. It’s a trip.

Posted by Add Water and Stir Podcast on Saturday, July 9, 2016

In the wake of all that’s happening in the world, tonight I will be giving my daughter another briefing on what must happen during a traffic stop.

I got a ticket about two months ago on the way to visit my parents. Hope followed my lead, remained quiet and made no sudden moves. Yappy was in the back seat, and the dog believes every human has the potential to be his best friend. Tail wagging, mouth open giving a toothy grin, he appeared harmless, charming even.

But that was before two more deaths of unarmed black men, the deaths of 8 police officers and this week’s shooting of an unarmed black man who was assisting an autistic black man and trying to get him out of the street with his toy truck, which some numb nut called in as a possible gun.

So, before we head out on a long, hopefully uneventful, fun filled weekend at the beach, I will remind my daughter what she must do if we are stopped by police.

  • Remain calm.
  • Before the officers approach the car, calmly turn on the video on your phone. I have purchased more data for this trip and set your settings to automatically upload anything you record to our family cloud where it will be safe.
  • Put the phone on the center console.
  • Make no sudden moves.
  • No reaching into your purse, there is not enough lip gloss or mascara in the world to explain how that might be misconstrued as you reaching for a gun.
  • Always carry your student ID, as it’s the only ID you currently have. You are tall and womanly and you might be mistaken for someone older; you need to be able to establish you’re just a kid.
  • If you are asked for ID, ask for permission to reach into your purse to retrieve it. See reason above.
  • Put your hands in your lap or put them on the dashboard so they are always visible. See reason above.
  • It’s all “yes, ma’ams, no ma’ams, yes sirs, no sirs” for the duration of the stop as anything else might be considered you being mouthy.
  • If you are asked to step out of the car, ask for permission to release your seat belt.
  • Do not put your hands in your pocket after you exit the car, no matter how fidgety you might be because you are afraid.
  • Remain as still as possible.
  • Try not to cry and please don’t scream no matter how scared you might be.
  • Let them search your purse.
  • Answer all questions clearly and as politely as possible.
  • I will reassure you as much as I am allowed to that we will be ok.
  • If we are separated in any way ask to call your grandparents; they will drop everything to come get you. I printed cards with their number and put it in your wallet since they may take your phone. Tell them where the number is. Better yet, write their number with a Sharpie in your hand before we leave.
  • When our stop is completed, we will stop at the first safe place so that you can let all of the emotions out. We will take as long as you need. I have put fresh handkerchiefs in the glove box.

As for me, I’ll also be turning on my video with an automatic upload setting, and I’ll be following all the same rules.

Yappy will try to get by on his adorable looks and charm. He will very likely be successful with this approach because well, he’s Yappy.

We live and travel the Interstate 95 corridor all the time.  This is a heavily policed interstate from end to end. It is known for being a big trafficking route for drugs, guns and sex workers on the East Coast, consequently, there are lots of troopers along our travel route. It is also notorious for being problematic when you are DWB–driving while black.

I’ve traveled this route for my whole life, especially so for the last nearly 30 years. I’ve got a few speeding tickets along the way, very few. The likelihood that anything terrible would happen may be small.

But the likelihood was small for all of the people who have died unarmed too. Statistics seem remote until you are a part of the few.

I’m not anti-police by any stretch of the imagination. I understand and appreciate the sacrifices that they make each and every day. I am grateful to them and all public safety servants.

I also know that they are not supposed to be my enemy.

I also know that I’m not supposed to be afraid of them.

I also know that having to go step by step through a survival protocol with my daughter on how to just be OK during a traffic stop should be unnecessary. I know that having to explain the nuances of why she has to be sure to have her student identification and why my highly emotional child has to contain herself for our safety is supposed to be unnecessary.

I use my cruise control a lot when driving long distances. I’ll definitely be using it tomorrow as we depart on a 5 hour journey to the shore.

If we get stopped on this journey, I hope that we will be like Yappy and can rely on a cute, but compliant, charm offensive to ease the burden of DWB.

 

 


Thoughts on Racial Identity Development

I’ve been fretting lately…fretting about Hope and her Blackness or rather her racial development.

Did you know that moving from the initial stage (pre-encounter stage) of racial identity development to the second stage (encounter stage) is usually precipitated by a negative encounter around race for people of color?

In lay terms, we all are getting along peachy keen until some dingbat says/does something racist, pointing out that the brown or black kid is different and that difference is bad.

For me, this happened when I was little, before I even started kindergarten. It’s a moment that I have long likened to eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

The evil is knowing that people hate me because of my skin color and might go so far as to hurt and/or kill me. The good is having this knowledge and avoiding the naiveté that might get you killed. Racial identity is built on this foundation. If you are privileged not to have to this experience then your identity as a racialized person is stunted, and your privilege is allowed to bloom, so says the research.

I know that there have been events in Hope’s life that meet the criteria that would push a regular kid to the next stage of racial development, but given all that she’s endured it doesn’t seem to have registered. So much of her development in general was negatively affected. The racial piece, well, maybe it just didn’t register when she was just trying to survive.

I get all that. I really do. That said, racial identity development then is recognized as just another area that has to catch up.

When Hope first moved in 2.5 years ago, I remember being a bit put off because all the posters of pop stars were white, with very, very few exceptions—Selena Gomez, the Black girl in 5th Harmony and Bruno Mars. Turns out there aren’t really any teeny bopper pop stars of color these days. Hope’s not really into Beyonce or Rihanna so…yeah, white kids on the wall it is.

We dealt a little while with colorism and issues around Hope wishing she had lighter brown skin. Ughhhhh, she still vocalizes this when we go shopping for tinted moisturizers (#damnmakeup).

Then I noticed she only liked white or Hispanic boys; there aren’t many Black kids in the band and only like one or two boys and ok, they aren’t her type. So there aren’t many kids of color in her social circles here; they heavily populated her circles back home, but it’s like she left it all behind.

Recently, I realized during a social outing that she deliberately avoids kids of color; she doesn’t even want to associate with them. Same with my efforts to have us “friend date” other families with kids of color. She wants nothing to do with it.

I know she struggled with my version of Blackness; I was really different than the Black folk she had previously experienced. She even told me one time that in some ways it was like I wasn’t really Black. I struggled with that, and I don’t know if it’s my perceived unicorn status or what, but she is ok with me and my bougie, upwardly mobile, educated black folk. But she doesn’t seem interested in accepting the black diaspora.

And maybe it’s too much for me to expect from her at this point. She is still healing from all her trauma, embracing Blackness as an identity is probably not even on her subconscious list of things with which to grapple.

It doesn’t stop my fretting though, as I watch my beloved Hope cloak herself in social Whiteness. Even if I hope it never happens, I know that something will happen, something that will hurt her. I hope that her friends will be wonderful allies. They are good kids, but they aren’t forced to think about the things I think about, the dangers that our color expose us to, they don’t have to think about it unless they choose to.

From a parenting perspective it’s odd; I am glad that she’s bridging some of her social challenges, but I feel some kind of way about her not having any brown or black friends and her refusal to pursue any of those kinds of relationships. I’d love to see a mix of folks in her life who love her and support her. I want her to have safe spaces—sure her White friends can offer that, but I fret that having no friends of color limits her safe spaces if and when something goes down.

Add to this, my abject horror in thinking about police brutality, microaggressions, the resurgence of laws codifying acceptable discrimination and a nation’s willingness to increasingly accept racist discourse.

I worry.

Actually, describing my emotion as worry is an understatement. I am afraid. I’m also aware that all of this has a huge impact on my own well-being. I think the current political environment has exacerbated my emotion around Hope’s racial identity development. It’s complicated. I also know that this process is a natural one; it is not something I can control. I can’t control when, where or how it might happen.

I can only be there for my daughter. That’s it.

But it doesn’t feel like enough. Hugging her tight and soothing her over what might feel like an enormously painful betrayal, just doesn’t feel like enough. Teaching her how to move past it doesn’t feel like enough. Nurturing her healing doesn’t feel like enough.

I wish I could make it all go away. I wish I could make racism all go away. I wish I could make the need for this kind of identity development vanish. I just wish I could protect her from every other thing that might make her path hard; she’s suffered enough. I just want to keep her safe.

But I can’t, not from everything.

I know that, but it still breaks my heart.


Thoughts on Charleston

I am really tired of writing about the challenges of feeling unsafe walking around in Black skin, raising a Black child.

I am tired of feeling like it is open season on Black lives.

I am tired of being fearful of watching the news, choosing to binge watch Hulu or Netflix because the reality of living in this skin means that it is more likely than not the news will relay a story of the death of a brother or sister…at the hands of someone White…because that’s what makes national news these days.

Oh sure, yeah, I hear the rumbling excuses used to distract us from living under the threat of social terrorism—“What about Black on Black crime?”

What about it?

I am tired of hearing about why we can’t get serious gun control in the US.

I am tired of seeing, reading, hearing about how White mass killers are “loners with emotional problems” who write racist manifestos, tell friends and family that they want to start a racial war, and are gifted a gun by parents.

I am shocked that this young killer was taken alive, given a bullet-proof vest and humanely taken into custody. That alone seems to be a privilege not afforded to Black folk who are walking down the street.

I fear that a time will come when my economic and educational privilege will be shown, in dramatic and terrifying fashion, not to trump the disadvantage of my skin color.

I am angered by the unmitigated gall of South Carolina to fly what I believe to be the treasonous flag of the Confederacy;  the Confederacy lost. We’re supposed to be a union.

I grieve for the dead:

Rev. Clementa Pinckney
Rev. Sharonda Singleton
Myra Thompson
Tywanza Sanders
Ethel Lee Lance
Cynthia Hurd
Rev. Daniel L. Simmons Sr.
Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor
Susie Jackson

I am so weary of this general subject matter. I feel compelled to write about it too often.

I am scared for Hope. I don’t want to keep explaining this ish to her. There is no explanation. None. I feel a sense of anguish after this massacre in Mother Emanuel. It is shameful. It is horrendous. I don’t know how the families can offer forgiveness. I am clearly not as far in my faith as they are, because I can’t offer that at all.

I am not even sure I can write anything else…the grief, sorrow and anger are just too much. I’ll just end with what my dear friend Mimi said on one of our early Add Water and Stir podcasts: “We’re trying to raise kids here!”


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