Note: Please forgive me if this gets too long.
When I began this blog the plan was to keep away from the craziness and the drama. I wanted to focus on the positive so that one day my children could read this as a diary/journal of where it all began… how it was that we became a bliss filled family, how their existence renewed my spirit and made me feel whole in a way that I never knew was possible. It’s funny how kids can fill a hole that one never knew was there. My kids do that for me. Every day. No matter how tired I am. No matter how frustrated I am. No matter what idiot calls me their nanny.
I have never felt it was necessary to announce that I am a brown-skinned woman. I never felt it was necessary to mention that my husband is white. We as a couple have never identified ourselves by the color of our skin. We love each other immensely and have for almost 20 years and have only ever let race be an issue for us when we were denied an apartment because of it. It was one of the most horrific times of my life and almost destroyed me emotionally and mentally. I vowed to never allow someone to make me feel that way again.
To be honest, growing up, race was never an issue for me either. I was raised by two loving parents. My father is Puerto Rican and my mother is black (with ancestry that shows some white heritage). My biological mother is also bi-racial and she tells me my biological father was Puerto Rican and Italian. We have a beautiful rainbow of light and dark from all sides.
I was raised in a multiracial/multicultural neighborhood. My parents best friends were white, black, Italian, Spanish. So were mine. At no point did I ever feel like I was an outsider. I never thought of color as what made people different.
Sadly, that all changed when we moved to Florida.
I will never forget the first time someone called me the n-word. I was about 13 and walking home from school by myself and this green pickup truck drove by me very slowly. The passenger leaned out of the window and yelled, “Go take your monkey ass back to Africa nigger!!” I was seriously perplexed as to what he meant and why he was yelling at me. And while I didn’t grasp the meaning of it, I knew it was intended to crush me.
I went home and told my mother. The look on her face confirmed everything I had been feeling. None of this was good. My innocence in many ways was shattered. She explained to me what it meant and that the person was clueless and ignorant and for me to rise above it. “Don’t let that mess change who you are” she told me.
For the most part it didn’t. It hardened me a bit. It made me far more aware that there were people who would undeniably dislike me solely because of the color of my skin. It also made me sad.
And then we moved to Georgia where I learned that race issues just weren’t between blacks and whites but amongst the African-American community itself. I was too light, my hair was too nice, I wanted to be white. Huh? What the hell was going on? But with each conversation my mother and I had, she told me to rise above it. In life we face adversity. We will all have some form of “hater” who will try to make us feel lesser-than. Her words encouraged me to follow my heart. I continued to remain colorblind in terms of who I befriended… who I dated… who I chose to ‘love’. It wasn’t easy because as we all know, teenagers can be very cruel. But I was determined to not lose myself… to not cave to the beliefs of one side over the other.
When I met my husband, I had already become the woman I still (for the most part) am today. He was not someone I ever thought I would marry, but because of the way I was raised by my amazingly loving mother, I was OK with accepting whatever grief might come my way for dating (and eventually marrying) a white man from Utah. A Mormon. GASP! I can not tell you how often I have heard that Mormons hate blacks and that he would eventually realize what he had done, and leave me. Oh ok society.
Our plan had always been to have about 40 kids. Have our own mini compound of children we could dote on and love. I have always known I was going to adopt a child or two or twelve. Adoption is one of the best things that ever happened to me so if I could give that gift of love to a child, why not. But then infertility came into play and so did miscarriages and tests and more tests and more miscarriages and even more tests which resulted in a rainbow of diagnoses that were eventually trumped by other diagnoseseseses. I still have no idea what honestly is wrong with me other than I for sure have unexplained infertility, some food allergies, migraines, something else with my brain and fibromyalgia. Go me!
In the end we figured it was best to just let life decide what we should do. We settled in to a life of just us and made peace with possibly never having those 40 kids.
Most of you know what happened next. I literally had just prayed over it, had decided to put it all in The Lord’s hands and BAM… we got a call.
When Monkey came to stay with us, he was 3. He is now almost 5. He has neverrrrrrrrrrrrrrr looked at me as anything other than his mother. My color difference was never a concern or care for him. And it had remained that way until some stranger thought it should be pointed out to him. They assumed my friend was his mother, an easy mistake of course. I would likely do the same. But when he corrected them, their eyes got so big. There was a gasp. An exchange of glances around the room. Then the words “his father must be super liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight” were spoken. In my almost 40 years of living, I can not even imagine saying that to a stranger. Who says shit like that out loud?
Now, let me state that yeah, it has to be an unusual sight to see my family together. I won’t ever deny anyone that. My problem lies with the ignorance perceived around who I am in relationship to these children. I actually had someone ask me if I was their nanny AFTER they heard Monkey call my mommy. Huh? Is this a common thing? Nanny’s are now called mom? Since when?
As I began to observe the world around me and the shit people were ok with saying to me and my son, I realized the same is not said when the mother is white and the child is black. It amazes me how many accolades are given to them when they “rescue” a perceived unwanted black child. Please don’t get me wrong. There is a HUGE need for black children to be adopted. Indeed. I am overjoyed to see it happening. People are saying that what is happening in Hollywood with all the adoptions of black children is a fad but I don’t think that’s what it is. When you want a child, and you are open to love one regardless of color, the short list will be to adopt an African-American child. When we were doing our research the wait was triple if we chose to not go that route. It’s crazy! But yet understandable.
What I don’t understand though is how in 2013 we can still be such a racist, ignorant, clueless, insensitive, nation.
My son understands the things that people say to me because he is very smart. What he does not understand are the shocked and appalled faces people make when they ask for the 39th time that week if I am his nanny and are told no. He does not understand why people think it is so shocking that I taught him how to read or how it is that I am raising such a smart child. What he does not understand is why someone cares that he is so ‘different’ than I am. What he does not understand is why people keep pointing out that I am (GASP!) black. What he does not understand is why it is an issue to begin with. So what all of this has forced me to do is sit down with a child and explain to him that we are different because idiots insist on pointing that out to us. As if we don’t realize it all ready. As if we don’t own mirrors.
Just because YOU care about skin color does’t mean we have to. And we don’t.
I will say though that even with all the ignorance we seem to face, what my 4 year old has gathered from all of this is that if his mom is black, then he is too. And he will tell anyone who brings it up, “I am black and hisTANic just like my mommy.” I attempted to correct it but after the 3rd or 4th time I realized it wasn’t necessary. We are his family and he sees us as a one, not divided by color or race but united in love.
So the next time you feel the need to approach me or anyone else like me and my family, think about the children. Think about who your words might really be affecting. And please don’t be surprised when my white 4 year old tells you he is black.