Something to be proud of
In Part 1 of this article, I shared the thoughts of mothers raising black and/or multi-ethnic children about how they are raising their children to enjoy a life of pride in their heritage.
The themes were that these mothers desired their children to be judged by the content of their character, reminiscent of MLK Jr.’s dream, but if they were not judged fairly that their children had root-deep coping mechanisms to not internalize the injustice. These mothers want their children to know they are someone to be proud of.
The living fear
It’s interesting because as a black/white mother, my son is less than a quarter black and to me, at least, he looks white. I really don’t worry about him interacting with authority in a negative way, or in being denied a job interview upon appearance, or any other slew of things. I do worry about my brother and my cousins, who share my skin tone, for these very same things. This is my own bias based on the events in our country’s history.
One of my daughters does share my same skin tone and I have already beared witness to culturally biased comments toward her, although we are lucky to not have experienced outright prejudice that I’m aware of.
The living fear lies in the record of our country and its history of injustice and hatred directed towards black people. We deny factual events like the 3500 documented lynchings of black people that took place in America between 1882-1968. Or the demographic prison data from 2012 to 2016 that found that black men serve sentences that are on average 19.1 percent longer than those for white men for similar crimes (according to the US. Sentencing Commission).
Raising rainbow kids
All this leads back to the subtitle of this article, raising rainbow kids. In writing this article, I struggled with the title. What would get my theme of the article across but also be meaningful and not offensive…to anyone?
Well, as I thought of my own ancestral melting-pot mix and that of my children’s and the future generations of my family to come, I thought of a rainbow. A rainbow of colors, where each is distinct but still bleeding into one another to create a beautiful image.
ColorFULL, not colorblind
If it’s true that it takes a village to raise a child, then the whole local community plays a responsibility in raising rainbow kids. And so now we turn to the part of the article that answers the question, “Well, what can I do as a white mother raising white children?” Plenty.
- Live the dream. Accept all your kids’ friends based on the content of their character they have displayed to you or your child, not the color of their skin.
- Assume they belong here. Don’t ask a rainbow kid, “Hey, where are you from?” and then when they say the town you are in, don’t say, “No, really. Where are you from originally?” They could be born in that town. And their mother, too. And their grandmother as well. Just because their skin is a shade or two (or three) darker than yours, doesn’t mean they aren’t from where you are.
- Do the matching question test. If you find yourself curious about something and wanting to ask a rainbow kid, just take a second and do the matching question test. Would you ask the same question of a white child? If so, proceed. Let’s try it. Think of blue eyed, blond, white child you know in your life. Would you ask them, “Can I touch your hair? Do you tan in the sun? Where are you from (see tip #2)? Where are your parents from?” I think you get the idea.
The motherhood collective
And so in the end MLK Jr. brings us to the collective as mothers, regardless of our skin color, with his words:
It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.
The whole of motherhood is responsible for the mothering and nurturing of our young children. As we find ourselves in the month of February, Black History Month, I urge you to spend time educating your child(ren) on some facet of true black history. Your local library, educational online sites, and local museums can be a great resource.
Be a family that brings the fullness of color into your home and hearts. Be a family that lives the dream.