“I am Chocolate and You are Vanilla”
If you know myself or my family, you have heard this before.
This is my first acknowledgment of race. I was three years old while my mom was bathing me. She chuckled and explained that I was adopted, born in her heart, and although we had different skin colors, we were the same on the inside. After that short bath time convo, I pretty much left it at that for several years.
Being adopted, I never knew much about my true background. My parents were and have always been extraordinarily supportive of me and questions I had, but they could also only do so much at the time.
Learning About Me
When I was planning on starting a family, I was determined to know more about where I came from and my true culture. I took a 23&Me test and found out that I am 51.3% West African, 47.3% European, and 1.4% Native American. Since I have researched and researched about West African culture to learn as much as I can and incorporate various aspects into my home.
Being a bi-racial human is beautiful, but it is also challenging to navigate at times. Sometimes it is hard to figure out where exactly you fit in. I remember always looking up to Halle Berry as a role model. She looked like me, she was successful, and I just felt like I could relate to her. Given our current world, it is abundantly clear to me that I have to do my part in teaching my son about his ancestry, history, and his privilege due to his skin.
Raising My Son
When my little guy finally made it earthside, it came as a bit of a shock to us all that he was so light in skin tone, beautiful as all heck, but light none the less. The reasoning behind that is that his father is entirely European, so that took dominance trait wise.
Although my son is part of me, which also clearly means he is part Black, when you look at him, that is not the first thing you think. He is privileged.
It is a hard and sickening reality, but I am reasonably confident that my son is safer walking around in the world due to his lighter skin compared to others who are significantly darker. I am sure that he will have to face his fair share of “you have a black mom” comments, and he is privileged.
I am his mother, so I will always worry about him. I am also aware that my worries are nothing compared to the Black mamas raising darker-skinned Black babies.
It is my job to teach him about his Black culture.
As he matures, I will teach him about current events and the past.
I commit to teaching him how to safely and properly advocate for himself, his friends, and others. To make sure he does understand the privilege he does have and to make sure he uses it properly to fight for others.
Racism is taught.
We need to do better for our children and communities. It starts at home.
My little guy is almost three, so slightly younger than I was before I cognitively and verbally expressed the difference I saw in my skin and my mothers.
But I am ready.
I am educating myself on everything I can, buying tons of diversity inclusion books and toys, and preparing to have those discussions with him. I feel there is a great responsibility in raising white boys to be kind, compassionate, just, and especially now, more than ever, active in the work of dismantling big systems like white supremacy. But I also want him to identify, value, and establish a connection to his West African roots.
Though I would never force him to identify with just one box to categorize himself, I want to teach him all that I can and help him if there is a time when he can’t find his place.
I love my little guy as much as any other parent, question all my parenting choices as much as every other parent, and am ready to be open and honest with all race-based questions he has throughout his life.
I don’t have all the answers, but I would love any insight, questions, and comments.