Viv has already noticed slight differences and she can’t wrap her head around the deeper meaning to her inquires. While shopping at Target, we were looking at Barbie dolls alongside another black mother and her daughter. At the exact same time, all four of our eyes fell on the only black Barbie on the shelf. The other mother and myself stood still, not really knowing what to do next. Both of our daughters at the exact same time yelled, “Mine.” At the moment, I wasn’t concerned about who got the Barbie, but I was more concerned that the entire aisle filled with dolls, only contained one black doll. There were dolls with different shades of fair skin, but they were all similar. “Well, I guess we have to decide who gets the doll,” the other mother chuckled as she shrugged her shoulders. The disappointed look in her eyes was the same look that I held and we both sucked in our breath as Viv asked, “Mom why is there only one brown doll,” and the other little girl said, “Yeah, why mom?” So, there we stood the other mom and I with no words to say.
We were faced with a question that I knew only non-white moms had to answer. A white mom will never hear, “Mom why are there no dolls that look like me?” from their young daughter. A white mom won’t ever be faced with having to either “A” answer the question honestly, explain the truth, all while maybe killing their innocence. Or B. ignore the question, lie, and tell her that the black dolls are in very high demand.
Luckily, during this experience the other black mother alongside me took over, “Girls, let’s just find another toy.” Although, we both felt defeated and knew that it was probably a perfect opportunity to raise their awareness, we chose not to and honestly, I don’t know why. Maybe because I was scared to tell Vivian the truth, that she will always have a hard time finding a black doll. Maybe I didn’t tell her the truth because it would hurt too much to tell her that Princess Tiana might be the only princess she will identify with before she realizes that real life does not resemble a fairy tale.
Unfortunately, the direction that the nation is moving toward has forced me to reevaluate how I answer these questions. No longer can I just ignore the truth because now, it could easily be a safety issue. I can’t use the excuse that my daughter and son are too young because they are witnessing “In your face” racism verses the “behind closed doors” discrimination I faced. People are bolder these days with their hate, and as a mom I need to be bolder with truth with my kids.
As I see Jude grow into the rambunctious little boy, my heart melts. He is intelligent, funny, and his personality is fun loving. However, his little mean streak that comes and goes per how much he has eaten that day or how well he slept during nap time, makes me nervous. He hasn’t exhibited any aggressive behavior that deems evaluation, but rather I see how that little mean streak might be perceived when he gets older and it scares me.
I picked him up from daycare one day and he came rushing up to me yelling “Mamma” and reaching out for a hug. He was so excited to see me and as I reached down to pick him up, a cute little blonde girl ran between me and him and wrapped her arms around my legs. I thought it was cute, I didn’t know the little girl, but she wanted a hug, so I gave her one.
I didn’t realize that Jude was furious and before I could stop him, he grabbed the little girl’s arm and pushed her back, all while yelling, “My Mamma…my Mamma!” I instantly knew he was in the wrong for so many reasons, but the only thing slamming into my head was “If he was older, this would have been a serious safety issue for him.” I couldn’t stop the visual thought of a cop slamming my son down on the ground because he was talking to the wrong white girl. I don’t know why that was the first thing to think of when I saw Jude move that little blonde girl out of the way, but it was.
Now I know that by the time Jude becomes a man that he will know not to push girls or even to keep his hands to himself. However, I do know that his little mean streak can easily have him looking like the violent black man if he is in the wrong place at the wrong time when he gets older. How do I teach my son that it’s okay to express your feelings, but only to a specific point? How do I teach my son to stand up for himself, but also make sure that he is not being too strong because it might come across the wrong way?
It’s difficult to raise black children in this nation and some people might think that I’m over reacting, and that it is not that bad. That my family doesn’t face racism daily, but we do and I’m striving to make sure my children can maintain some sort of innocence of their childhood, all while teaching them that they have to be strong because this nation doesn’t like them.