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I am a mommy, scribe, and middle-school English teacher. I am trying to cope with being separated from my beloved. DoUWantMore? email me: theprisonerswife@gmail.com

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How We Both Black & Our Kid is Post-Racial?

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 9:13 PM

Today my son and I were enjoying the freedom of our summer break and decided to walk to the bookstore. Since I’m trying to get the munchkin ready for preschool, I choose to use our walk as a teachable moment about colors. As we passed some flowers growing in someone’s yard, I asked him to name the colors.

“Purple mom! Das purple!”
“Good, and that one?” I said pointing to a white flower.
“I dunno….”
“That one’s white,” I said.
“White,” he repeated.

Then he said something that caught me off guard.

“What’s her color?”

My son pointed to a fair-skinned Latina that passed us on the street, and I didn’t really know how to answer. “What’s her color mommy?” He asked again, a little annoyed I didn’t answer him the first time. Silence. I was silent. I mean, how do you break down race and ethnicity to a three year old?

“She’s wearing black…her shirt and pants are black,” I scrambled to answer him somehow.
“Oh,” he said and kept walking.

Our walk to the bookstore and our conversation made me think about the influence, or rather lack of influence, race and ethnicity have on little kids. They are not born knowing or recognizing any differences between themselves and others—we teach them that. They are not aware of any of the cultural connotations, prejudices, and stigmas attached to different ethnicities—that’s all us. So how do we talk to our kids about the diverse world in which we live in such a way that teaches them to appreciate everyone’s uniqueness?

Every since Obama was elected, people have been talking about “post-racial” America, an America that has finally shed its racial prejudice and has achieved a sense of colorblindness. Honestly, I don’t buy it. Sure, America has elected a Black man as the president, but that doesn’t mean we are over our history of systematic racial oppression. Just when we’re ready to say we’re “post-racial,” racism rears it’s ugly head in the form of Rush Limbaugh, or the elderly man shooting up the holocaust museum, or some other lurking presence forcing us to take a long look in the mirror and confront this country’s racially divisive past (hello hollow slavery apology). Despite all of our strides, we have not moved beyond race…and shouldn’t’ have to.

In order to live peacefully as a body politic, you do not have to pretend our differences do not exist. We do not have to blind ourselves to our cultural, racial, and ethnic markers that help make up who we are---we should celebrate them. Pretending something doesn’t exist, is still pretending.

When I think of the blood of my ancestors—the Africans brought here so long ago, my Native American great-grandmother, my Belizean grandmother, my southern mama—each of these things, have shaped me into the woman I am. To sweep that aside under the guise of colorblindness would be akin to suicide. It would mean I’d have to give up myself in order to fit in. And that’s not a choice I’m willing to make.

No, in order to truly ascend above our past, we don’t have to be post-racial, we need to be ourselves.

And be okay with that.

Parents, how do you talk to your kids about race?
Do you believe we are in a “post-racial” America?
Or is that even a good thing?

8 Response to 'How We Both Black & Our Kid is Post-Racial?'

  1. http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2009/06/how-we-both-black-our-kid-is-post.html?showComment=1245860927142#c5560555023253611639'> Wednesday, June 24, 2009 9:28:00 AM

    Wow this post gave me chills.

    The tone, matter of factness, is awesome. YOU are way less angrier than me, and I ain't as ANGRY as I use to be.

    Thank you for writing this.


  2. CiCiwryter Said,
    http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2009/06/how-we-both-black-our-kid-is-post.html?showComment=1245868847813#c3604032462610481314'> Wednesday, June 24, 2009 11:40:00 AM

    "Pretending something doesn’t exist, is still pretending."

    Powerful statement. I agree wholeheartedly and it infuriates me when someone emphatically states that they are 'colorblind'. I want to learn, not 'tolerate', about other people and want them to have the same interest or respect for who I am. When my daughter was your son's age they were talking about 'color'/race at her Montessori school and she kept disputing the colors by putting a crayon up to the person's face. She held a black and brown crayon against her skin and said she was actually brown and her caucasian friend was actually pink and not white and one of her 'black' friends was actually a gold color. Her teacher asked me to discuss it with her so the class conversation wouldn't be derailed the next day but she just didn't get it. So I left it alone and so did the teacher because the other students started saying/doing the same thing. At that age, they just don't see the world the way that we see it/allow it to be. Eventually I explained that the colors were symbolic but even to this day when she's talking to me she'll describe someone as brown or pinkish or whatever, she'll use an actual color lol
    And I was reading the comments after the article about the slavery apology and they are so ignorant and sad. Nobody blames someone today for the act of enslavement but please stop acting like your folks didn't cross Ellis Island, often escaping persecution, and get brand-new and drape themselves in the robes of white privilege once they arrived and that wasn't hundreds of years ago. sigh. Good Post.


  3. http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2009/06/how-we-both-black-our-kid-is-post.html?showComment=1245869883412#c3132940155754195045'> Wednesday, June 24, 2009 11:58:00 AM

    Mdot: I'm glad you enjoyed it. it's ok to be angry. i'm angry sometimes, but i still come out sounding even tempered LOL.

    CiCiWryter wrote,
    "Nobody blames someone today for the act of enslavement but please stop acting like your folks didn't cross Ellis Island, often escaping persecution, and get brand-new and drape themselves in the robes of white privilege once they arrived and that wasn't hundreds of years ago"

    i SO agree with you. i was watching Hardball w/ Chris Matthews and he was SO upstet about the apology. he felt Northern whites, such as himself, shouldn't have to apologize. i was SHOCKED! all white folks have benefited from slavery either directly or indirectly through the cloak of white privilege. there's lots of things that whites were able to do, that we just couldn't do (until recently). so an apology, proper and meaningful is SO necessary.


  4. CiCiwryter Said,
    http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2009/06/how-we-both-black-our-kid-is-post.html?showComment=1245958203212#c4396153247426305111'> Thursday, June 25, 2009 12:30:00 PM

    Northern whites shouldn't have to apologize....that's so laughable if it weren't so sad. My grandmother migrated, well they had to run, from the south to Michigan when she was about 8 (about 1917) and though there were no *whites only* signs she said she was so disappointed at the invisible lines that were drawn all over for 'coloreds' only to live, socialize, work etc. in my opinion, they owe an even bigger apology than slave owners for all the segregationist practices when slavery had ended forty to fifty years earlier. AND people affected by it are still alive. This is why the tribunals are necessary because we have existed in parallel universes for so long people like Chris Matthews don't even realize how he has benefited & prospered thanks to enslavement. Also, I think some whites realize an apology is an admission of guilt and they have to reexamine that whole 'pull yourself up by your bootstraps' myth. Sorry I keep bloggin in your comments :)


  5. CiCiwryter Said,
    http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2009/06/how-we-both-black-our-kid-is-post.html?showComment=1245958409838#c179921758895315728'> Thursday, June 25, 2009 12:33:00 PM

    I guess I deleted some of my post trying to edit, to clarify, I suggest that we have conversations like the tribunals in South Africa to discuss enslavement, privilege etc and how it has affected us all. This would make that pitiful apology much more useful. And even lead to reparations discussions.


  6. http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2009/06/how-we-both-black-our-kid-is-post.html?showComment=1245964131654#c1616561524468470750'> Thursday, June 25, 2009 2:08:00 PM

    Wow, thank you for this. I'm trying to write a post right now about race -- being the white mother of a biracial child -- and you've opened my eyes. Thank you.


  7. http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2009/06/how-we-both-black-our-kid-is-post.html?showComment=1245970419978#c4548734727917595990'> Thursday, June 25, 2009 3:53:00 PM

    CiCi: don't worry about blogging in the comments, the conversation is SO necessary. the tribunal you spoke of would be a great start on the road to healing & honesty.

    SingleMomSeeking: can't wait to read your post. it'll be interesting to read how you approach the subject w/ your child. how have you (if you have) talked about it so far?


  8. SE'LAH... Said,
    http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2009/06/how-we-both-black-our-kid-is-post.html?showComment=1246222890704#c1666209466251252028'> Sunday, June 28, 2009 2:01:00 PM

    Love this post. My daughter, from since she was young, has referred to herself as brown. She's now 7 and her colour is still brown, others are tan, some pink. We, as parents, have never referred to ourselves as anything other than black.