Tuesday, June 11, 2013

What I never knew about parenting black children.

 I am a Hispanic woman raised much differently than my other half. Very different is an understatement.  I grew up in the Virgin Islands white people were the minority.   We had our ideas of what "white people" were about. How they dressed, how the talked and well ...how the raised their kids.  You could say we had preconceived ideas.  I meet my first white friend in 2nd grade. She was the only white kid in our entire school. I needed to make her feel welcomed and show her everything. I was also so curious about her, her hair, her crystal blue eyes like the beach, even the blonde hairs on her arm were amazing to me. We became insta-friends. I was her only friend.  Her mother worked at a local hotel.  One day right before the bus came she said "lets not go to school today!" We walked to the hotel instead and jumped on her bed and swam at the pool and sat in the A.C. (a novelty for us islanders) .  I asked if I could brush her hair. I had naturally curly hair and her hair glistened in the sun and was all flowy and stuff.  It was a super fun day getting to know all about my native friend. :)  Nope... schools never called to excuse absences it was lovely and I skipped more than my folks knew about.
 The next day we broke up because my grandmother found out I skipped (small island) and she came to the school to spank me in front of the class.  She told my new friend she would spank her too.  You guys this was normal to us. We got corporal  punishment from teachers, principals and our own parents were allowed to do it right there in the classroom.   Its was horrifying, and she never spoke to me again.  Not doing any favors for they way my family thought about "Americanos" or "white" Also she changed to private schools because she was not going to make it there. 

  I know about stereotypes. We moved to Florida while I was in High school and the tables were turned. I was the minority and it was the first time I had experienced any discrimination for my race. Being followed in shopping departments while we spoke Spanish as a family.  Being called wetback and spic to my face,  and some not getting there was a huge difference in Puerto Ricans and Mexicans. 
 When we decided to adopt internationally and a black child. I thought... I got this! I have had to deal with this before. Piece of cake. 
  See mostly you have to know me or really look at me to see that I have some Hispanic blood. My father is dark and my mother is very light.  Looking at me you could say I can hide my colors if I had to. 

             For  three of my children there is no hiding their skin color.

 They are black. Even if we want to give it cute names to almost soften the harshness of the word . Brown, Light brown. chocolate. You wont find those names on the box of a school application. You just wont. I get  it, some African Americans would rather be called African American and not black and some would rather just black and well there is that uncomfortable situation where people don't know what to say.      I go with what we know they will be called out there and that is black.  The more we say that out loud I think the more we get people more comfortable saying that word. 
                                       Its not a bad word. 

        What I didn't know about raising black kids:

1) They would struggle so much with being different.   My girls want hair that flows,  they want to  be like everyone else. No matter how many times I tell them they are beautiful just the way they are.  The struggle with being the minority.  I try to down play it as much as I can by not saying anything but they bring it up. "mom what if you got me just get me a wig and I hate that I don't have green eyes.'' While yes so much of this is a girl thing, we all want what we don't have, but these girls live in a world where  their  differences will be very present and evident. I need to be better at this about Celebrating their Ethnicity. 

2)How much color really does matter.  I learned in sociology class about a theory I even would proclaim before I realized what I was doing. Its called the melting pot theory a metaphor describing society of different cultural backgrounds and color and race just melting into one big gigantic pot.  I would say things like "American is this great big melting pot."  The problem with this thought is that whatever you were you just blended and merged into one instead of combining to make like a salad or even a mosaic. Not loosing your heritage and your individuality but existing to be apart of the big picture.   When I hear people say they don't see color its  like saying to me my kids are in that melting pot.  I don't want them to melt away their identity. I want to celebrate it.   Color matters. No matter. They will always be seen as black I don't want to change that but I can not pretend its not something that will judge their character to some too. 

3) How much it would bother my half and half kids.  I didn't realize it would bother them so much to see other kids stare at the kids (just out of being curious)  I hear things like "I wish they would stop staring already." I am used to the looks mostly its out of curiosity alone.  I had no idea they would be offended that they were being looked at too. It never occurred to me to be honest of how that would affect them.  Its when things are voiced to them where I see it more. Such as "that can't be your sister you are white and your mom is and she is black.''  Listen I have a ton of grace when little kids say this. They are asking because they are curious its always gives me an opportunity to talk to kids about how God makes families in different ways.  I am older and more mature and I am able to voice it this way, my older boys just want to say "stop staring!'' We are working on this we really are. 

4) How strong I would be for them.   Its true.  I am a chicken in so many areas but this one I take so seriously. I had no idea how I would get offended for them when they are discriminated against for the color of their skin.   This is not an every day event at all.  I don't experience this from my friends or families, luckily. It does  happens in other situations of life.  By professionals that lack tact and sensitivity.   Sometimes I don't even know its happening because I am truly giving the benefit of the doubt.  Just recently it happened and my mama bear claws were ready at will if needed.  We will come to this again soon, its just what it is. My big prayers is that I don't fire unless most definitely needed.  Being as gracious as I can be but firmly backing them as much as I have to. Because they will be doing it alone one day.   My cute brown boy may one day be the Big Black man that walks in the parking lot and the people lock their doors. It will happen, I am not naive. This is the world we live in, I don't ever see it being gone forever. 

 Look at this face. Look at this sweetness. Does he even know that my dream was to help him? 



1 comment:

Rachel C said...

You are such a strong and amazing mom. The struggles you have endured and learned from every situation and praised God at every turn.

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Pray for sweet Abby Riggs!!