Learning the Lessons of Transracial Parenting: NOT Colorblind
I’m still very new at this Transracial Parenting thing – but I’m learning as quickly as I can.
I grew up in a small town in the buckle of the bible belt – there were 57 students in my graduating class. My hometown (^let’s call it Podunk^) consisted of mostly white middle-class Christian families. There were several Mexican families and exactly 2 black adults. While I was in elementary and middle schools, there were a couple of black families who moved into – and out of – Podunk.
It wasn’t until I went to Navy boot camp that I had any significant interaction with people of color, other than Mexicans. In fact, I don’t think I even realized that Hispanic didn’t automatically mean Mexican until my Puerto Rican bunkmate corrected me.
Before becoming a transracial parent, I prided myself on being “colorblind”. I truly believed that the best answer was to ignore skin color. And I would get very irritated if anyone else used race as a descriptor. If I was forced to physically describe a person of color, I would mention gender, height, build and then whisper “black”, like I was saying a bad word. I was just so uncomfortable even discussing race that I did my best to ignore it. I steadfastly and earnestly believed this was the best non-racist approach….
Right up until I realized I was going to be the forever mommy of a gorgeous little black boy. Actually, I take that back. I didn’t realize it then. I thought as soon as I figured out how to do his hair and care for his skin, it’d be smooth-sailing. I’d never thought or heard the term “transracial parenting”, much less considered the ramifications and challenges. I think I just assumed that we’d all be “colorblind” and go on about our business.
Of course, I knew that we wanted to make sure he was aware of and in touch with his culture, but I figured we had some time to figure out what that would look like.At my first Foster Parent Association conference, I attended a session on Transracial Parenting. And it freaked my shit out!! I’d never even considered “driving while black”!!
SuperDad has a pretty vocal disdain for all things law enforcement and I couldn’t stop picturing my beautiful black son on his face in handcuffs after giving lip to the “idiot cop” that pulled him over for driving while black. I seriously panicked. I suddenly realized that we didn’t have a clue what we were getting into and how woefully unequipped we were to raise a black child – to teach him how to deal with and/or blow off the racism he is sure to encounter as a black teenager and a black man.
Eventually I realized that I HAVE to be good enough, because I AM his mommy.Part of being good enough is realizing that this idea of “colorblindness” isn’t only impossible – it’s harmful and dishonest, and possibly just another form of racism.Now, I’ve not written much about transracial parenting. As I said, I’m still very new at this, and I haven’t been confident in my ability to articulate the complexities. And I’ve still been afraid of offending. But today I realized that it’s not enough to realize that colorblindness is a bad idea.
I read a discussion about the new Misty Copeland ad for Under Armour. One commenter pointed out the obvious – that Misty is an amazing dancer and a wonderful role model for young black girls everywhere. Another commenter told the first that it wasn’t necessary to mention her race, that speaking about Misty’s skin color lessens the message. The second commenter went on to say
“In a world where we are supposed to be color blind, it kills me when people can comment on a woman of color but if my husband who is white made a comment like “what an awesome white person” pretty sure he would be called out as a racist. So I try to avoid using someone’s skin color as an adjective when describing them and their accomplishments or else our world will never be color blind.”
And I realized as I read that – part of being good enough for Squirm is engaging in the “colorblind” conversation. I have to risk the backlash because I have to start working to improve the world my sons are growing up in.
Ignoring Misty’s identity as a black ballerina is to ignore a fundamental aspect of what she has accomplished.
Yes, she is an amazing dancer. The fact that she is a woman of color and has managed to gain the skill and recognition that she has – stands testament that she is also an amazing and courageous individual.
Misty Copeland is the 1st African-American soloist for the American Ballet Theatre. That in itself is a huge achievement that should not be washed over in an effort to be “colorblind”.
Hint: It has recently come to my attention that not all of my readers can easily tell when I’m being sarcastic. That is truly unfortunate, so finding a solution was imperative. ^Obviously, the easiest answer is to assume that if something can be read with sarcasm, it should be;^; but that’s not really workable, I guess. After reviewing several options for a “sarcasm font”, I’ve come up up with my own system. Whenever you see italics inside carrots (^snark^), that is my “sarcasm font”.