Many times over the past few years I have had well-meaning friends and acquaintances question me on the wisdom of raising a child of color in a predominantly white area and often times I have acknowledged yes it may be rough but today the reality of that task punched me in my soul.
Look, I went to predominantly white schools in Chicago in the 1970’s and 1980’s which many times were no walk in the park. In fact I learned early on that girls like me often were simply not seen due to the permanent tans we sported. Yet as awkward as school was at times, I went home to a family where we were all various shades of brown and the weekends were spent with various relatives who also were of the darker hue. In some ways now that I am old enough to look back I can see that those times with my family helped fortify me to go back into a world where no one looked like me. I always knew there were spaces and places where I did not stand out.
My eldest was born in Chicago and until the age of 6 was a full time resident of Chicago where he got to know my family and start building deep connections, some that still hold to this day. Despite the fact he left Chicago at 6 only to return 35% of the year until I made the decision to move to Maine. Now at 19 and after having spent a few years in the Midwest, he sees Maine and New England as his home but it seems the foundation that was laid when he was a young lad built stability. My son while he admits it is lonely at times being one of just a handful of people of color at a very white, conservative private college in WI he is secure in his brownness
However it’s mini me, my youngest, my precious girl that I worry about and lately am wondering if it may be time to blow this pop stand. It started with Barbie and Ken several days ago when during play time she told me that white Ken can’t have brown Barbie as his lady love. I brushed it off but today I finally asked her where was this aversion to white Ken being with brown Barbie coming from…after all, her own Mama aka yours truly has her own real life Ken know as father of mini me and he happens to be white.
It seems at the tender age of six, my girl has noticed that there are no other families like ours, yes her bestie is a precious girl with two Papas, one who is not white but overall she sees a world where parents and units only come in one shade…that shade being white. Turns out that makes her sad that we don’t fit in and that she wonders if there something wrong with us. To hear my baby utter those words brought tears to my eyes. I questioned her to make sure no one had said anything to her that put ideas in her head but it seems she is an inquisitive kid who pays attention the world around her.
In an ideal world we could back up and leave but in these tough economic times, that is not possible since most larger cities cost way more cash that we have though we are toying with some ideas though the reality is we are at least eighteen months away from being able to pack up and go. Though we don’t really want to go anyplace else; sure we like the idea of big city living but the reality? Hell no. However we are starting to wonder if a larger city in the area where most of the diversity is might be preferable to our current town.
Funny thing is how often white parents put off talking about race but once again I am reminded that for children of color difference is noticed early on… and when they do while Ken can love Ted, Ken cannot love brown Barbie.