Communications · diversity · Interracialism · Uncategorized

The Day My Baby Revealed His Race To Me

20170109_221827When my oldest son was four years old he revealed to me that he recognized himself to be a non-White person.  I was totally surprised because I expected a conversation about his race to surface at a later time; perhaps a year or two in the future.  This particular moment of self identification is one of my favorite memories for two reasons: (1) it was so sweet and innocent in nature, and (2) it was so complex at its root.

When my oldest son was a toddler we lived in a small three bedroom house that had one and one-half bathrooms. Each night after I would put him to bed I would shower in the one full bath in the house, which was across the hall from his bedroom.  I always knew that he was still awake when I would come out of the bathroom because he would either tell me goodnight again, or call me to come into his room to talk or read another story before he went to sleep.

On this particular night, however, the talk proved to be quite memorable.  He beckoned me with a quiet rhythmic (almost song like) “moooommyyyy, come heeerrrre.”  I opened the door to see him propped up on one arm with a huge grin across his face, baby teeth spread from ear to ear.  He gently pat the bed for me to come in and sit next to him, so I did.  We talked for a minute or two about why he was still up, and then he began to randomly point at my leg, which was partly viewable because of my night gown, and count aloud.

The hall light made for a low, warm glow, which span a few feet inside the otherwise dark room; the light was just enough for him to see my leg clearly.  All of a sudden he stopped counting, looked up at me, and asked in toddler style broken English,  “What all those spots on your leg?”   A little surprised by the question I answered, “Freckles.”  He immediately asked, “Frecks?”  And I corrected him, “No, they are freckles.”  “Oooohh,” he said.

After a moment or so he asked, “Why you have all those frecks for?”  So I gave what I felt at that time was a good child friendly answer.  I said, “I suppose God thought I needed a few extra decorations.”  He smiled, looked at his own leg and said, “God didn’t give me no frecks.”   I noted that he was right and with a smile on my face I shrugged and said, “Well, it seems to me that God must believe that you don’t need anything more.” I was pleased with myself  after this answer, believing that the answer would do it for the night.

But, that notion on my part was disproved quickly; He wasn’t finished just yet.  With an enormous smile that now spread all the way to his little eyes so that they squinted up at the corners he announced in a most pleased manner, “I suuurrre do like your frecks and your lellow too!”   I laughed and thanked him for the compliment.  I told him that it sure made me happy to know that he like my freckles.

He paused for a minute and looked back a his own skin, appearing now to scan arms and legs alike.  When he looked up this time he asked, “Well, do you like my brown?”   With a smile of pure astonishment and delight at his acknowledgement of self, something that I had not considered that he had even thought about before, I answered, “III looove it!”   He smiled back at me, giggled a little toddler giggle, and as he laid back to put his head on his pillow he said, “Yeah, me too,” still smiling from ear to ear.

Once again,  I thought he was finished talking, so I started to get up to leave the room when he asked, “Mom, did you know dad is Black?”   With that question, I lost my forward momentum and fell gently back to my previously seated position.  “Yes, I  do know that dad is Black,” I answered.  He immediately inserted before I could continue speaking, “Not really.  He’s really brown, but Brandon said he’s Black.”  “Yeah,” I said, “people do say that your dad is Black and that I am White.”  Again, before I could continue to speak he said, ” You’re not  even White.  You’re lellow.  I don’t think people know their colors very good.  Why would Brandon say Black when dad is really brown and White when you are really lellow?”  I immediately thought to myself that this was clearly a conversation that would have to wait for his years to catch up to the seriousness of the issue.  Frankly, the politics behind that kind of question are way too complicated for many adults to handle, never mind a four year old child.

However, given his thoughts at four, I knew that we would have the conversation in time, but for today it could and would wait.  So in an effort to satisfy his four year old mind I answered, “You may be right about that, darlin’. But one thing is for sure; you know all of your colors!  You know what?  You sure are a smart boy, especially to be only four years old.  Now, go to bed my handsome brown boy.”  He laughed, said goodnight again, and I closed the door, excited to go share the story of our child’s realization of self with my husband.

Later during the course of my son’s childhood other conversations involving race took place in our home many times, perhaps more times than are typical of race conversations that take place in monoracial homes, but none of those conversations stand out in my mind in quite the same way.  All of our children (we have three) have grown to embrace that they are both Black and White.  In fact, they have all self identified socially as Black/White Biracials.

Identification of self in the world is a powerful concept that is known to profoundly impact one’s worldview. The freedom to choose also implies freedom to think in unconventional terms.

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10 thoughts on “The Day My Baby Revealed His Race To Me

  1. Race can be a complicated subject. I remember the first time I was exposed to the racial block. I think I was 10, and I told my teacher I don’t see a block for me. My father is from the U.S., my mother is from Thailand (I’m not sure they recognized American Asian then, or Asia for that matter). She responded to mark both, but at that age, I felt my own block, for others like me, would be nice. It would have conveyed that I, too, get to check a box like everyone else. I actually thought maybe they forgot about me. Anyways, I have thought about blogging my story–the discovery of how others perceived my race. Today I am comfortable, as a young child, I admit to confusion–specifically with growing up in the South.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. We have a family friend who has a White American father and a Korean mother. She has expressed similar childhood experiences, as well as some experiences surrounding her racial make up that carried over into adulthood. We have always lived in the South, so I know what you mean when you make reference to your experiences in this part of the country; although things are better than they were years ago, there is still room for improvement. Part of the reason that I loved college and wanted to teach on a college campus had to do with having always felt welcomed and supported in that environment, regardless of being in the South. You should write about your experiences. It’s important to tell your story. I would love to read it😊

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thank you! Yes I do plan to write about the experience and eventually I will. Honestly I do love the South, and you’re right in many ways it is more diverse today. Also, like you I work on a college campus now, but my experiences in the Air Force afforded me a unique and wonderful community to work with diverse cultures and people. I am sure that is because I am adjunct and really don’t have a desire to work full time at this point. 🙂 When I write my thoughts I would love to hear what you think. I am so glad to meet you. It’s nice to speak with others in academia. While I did have an Air Force career, my passion is education. I was heavily involved in Professional Military Education and the big picture of that field is communication, team work, and leadership–which meant working with and embracing diversity. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Hey girl, feel free to tell me when you see typos in my work. I didn’t have access to the laptop and wrote the whole thing on my phone. Without the full view of the page I missed a couple of errors that blended right in with the purposely misspelled “child talk.” HELP :0/

        Liked by 2 people

  2. I have two bi-racial, mixed race, human being grandchildren who are a delight. Like all grandparents I’m proud of them. My son-in-law is black and a real gem.My daughter had always made me proud and it was no different in her choice of partner.
    I’m very happy to be colour blind and just conscious of human beings.
    Thank you for the follow but perhaps you might prefer my other site?
    https://lorddavidprosser1.wordpress.com/
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

    Liked by 2 people

  3. A touching and bittersweet story – and very well written. I, too, have frecks on my arms – despite rarely exposing them to the sun. I was told they were where the angels kissed me before sending me down from heaven (but not to make the other children feel bad – those angels were sometimes busy helping God).

    I pinned your cartoon to my “Sing out, Louise” board (a reference to an expression among theatre folk meaning SPEAK UP!
    xx,
    mgh

    Liked by 2 people

    1. How cute! My mom and dad did a fairly good job of teaching me to love me frecks, but I really was happy at the time to know that my son liked themas well. He developed a few on his nose as he got older, and I reminded him of how he had asked about them at age four. Thanks for the kind words and for sharing😊

      Liked by 1 person

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