This week we are featuring a guest blog from Serrieh H. of It’s Hard out Here for a Hippie. Read about her experience raising a Black child in America.
I am of Lebanese and German decent. My daughter is Black. I can say this even though my heritage is not African American. Because in this society having one Black parent means she is Black.
Why is that? There is a saying in the Black neighborhood I used to live, “Black blood is so strong because Black people were the first race on this earth.” It’s a positive idea that can empower our Black youth, and I do acknowledge the scientific fact that the first people that walked this earth were African. It’s sad to say, I do not personally think that is why my child is considered Black in America.
There are some deep rooted stems of systematic racism that exists in our society today that no one can deny. Facts are indeed facts. I say all of this so that a complete picture is painted when I give you my perspective on raising a Black child as a non- black woman in America. It doesn’t just stop at educating yourself on how to brush those beautiful wondrous black curls or how to keep their skin from getting ashy but you must also be ready for WAR.
Ready for the war that American society has raised on the Black woman. A war that no matter how much we as fair skinned women empathize or fight with our black sisters, we will NEVER get the full scope of understanding on what they go through on a daily basis. So if we do not have that complete understanding, how we will give our daughter or son the tools she/he really needs in order to cope with being Black in America.
Now don’t get the two confused. I love my daughter just as much as a Black mother would. I want the best for her and want her to have all of her dreams come true. I suffer when she suffers and when she is in pain I want to take it away from her. I can teach her right from wrong and how to be kind and generous to all creations on this earth. I can teach her to think for herself and be courageous and proud to be a strong woman, giving her a sense of independence and self-esteem that so many of our young women lack today. I can give her the understanding of something greater than us, that we humble ourselves to teaching her deep spirituality while also showing her how to have some fun too!
If you are not a person of color and you are reading this, I am almost sure you are probably thinking, well damn isn’t that enough? Any child would be blessed with a parent that can give them all of that. But the truth is, I can give her even more, but I cannot teach her how to be Black in America.
They day I figured this out I hate to tell you was not some epic moment when I was spiritually awakened with this self-knowledge. I was actually at Mc Donald’s in a white part of town and it was winter which in Los Angeles may not be considered winter at all for most. It was a time that the beaches became empty and that natural tan that fair skinned Southern Californians are known for was fading away.
My baby, who was almost four at the time, although pretty fair skinned for a bi-racial child held her tan tightly around her body and kept her deep caramel glow for most of winter. We just finished ordering and all of the sudden this White lady who was about forty came up to me. She made her way through the crowd and left the line to approach me and say, “Wow, your baby’s skin is sooo amazing, how do you keep her that color, does she tan?”, in a shrill pitched voice which I noticed caught the attention of several other patrons.
I am looking at this damn lady waiting for her to smile or laugh because I know she had to be telling me a really distasteful joke that she must have thought was appropriate to tell. But she didn’t move a muscle, instead she just stared at me in my face as I was knelt down adjusting my daughter’s coat looking up at her. She was dead serious and was almost demanding an answer from me as if I was her child. She looked down at my daughter with such disdain and disgust, that I knew her comment came from a much darker place than just not knowing any better.
It was at that moment I knew I could prepare my daughter to conquer the world but I could NOT prepare her to be black in America. I could not prepare her for what it would feel like when someone like this lady went to war with the color of my child’s skin.
As much as I felt like physically pushing this lady out of my face and really going to war, I knew I had to teach my daughter ways to handle racism without her fists. As a Black person in America, a physical altercation could lead to much more than just night in jail. I had to give her an arsenal of words to use as weapons to protect herself from the undeniable fact of what she would be facing as a Black woman in America. I needed to show her how to defend herself without losing herself in the process as she entered the battle field of American society.
I shot a few choice words back at this lady to show my daughter not to ever accept such racism when it is fired directly at her. I stood up slowly, fiercely facing her woman to woman, got really close to her and said in a calm and steady voice, “Are you f**king kidding me, do I take my kid to tan? How ignorant could you really be and who the hell would take their four-year-old child to a tanning salon?” I then yelled so everyone could hear me that was already trying to listen, “Her skin is so amazing because she is mixed with beautiful strong black blood!” I swung my daughter onto my hip, grabbed my food and stared at everyone in the eyes daring them to say something to me as I stormed out. I was shaking trying to get in the car and to be honest I was bewildered, upset and then completely enraged. It was my first of many wars that I would battle for the color of my child’s skin.
I realized it would not be enough just to teach her not to see the color of someone’s skin and give her the knowledge that we are all created equal although it seemed the right thing to do. The cold hard truth was it would actually be a disservice to my child as she would not have the privilege of just not seeing color.
I now knew how important and crucial my role as a non-black mother would be to my Black child. I was going to have to fight for my child, go to war for my Black child and make sure she had the tools to know how to be black in America.
How did I do that? The first step was to accept the fact that it is ok to need a village and that I could not do this alone. I had to give her some sense of black community. She needed to feel her roots with other black people. She needed not only her strong mother in her life as role model but she needed strong black women and men in her life as role models too. I realized by not providing this environment to my child, I was actually taking away more from her than I could ever give her in replace.
I also taught her about her heritage and what black people went through in the time of slavery. The triumphs and battles they fought so she could be here and feel like she actually might have a fighting chance. I never let her forget she was black but also showed her the strength and beauty of that part of her heritage. It is important to make sure to highlight the great positivity and unity that the black community had and has today. This is something you cannot get from the main stream media but I promise it is there, you just need to be open to seeing and seeking it. I showed her that I loved all people and especially had a respect for my black brothers and sisters, embracing the magic that they have in them which in turn empowered her. I filled her with knowledge of not only the oppression black people went through but also the amazing accomplishments and the great attributes they contribute to society as a whole.
In essence I celebrated her blackness.