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It’s not just “black families”

August 15, 2014

What conversation do I have? How do I know what to do? What if I miss something?

 In the past couple months, as my son has started to grow out of the baby/toddler phase and into a young boy I have had many questions. I have also tried to be delicate and tiptoe around conversations. This may be my own fear or perception of situations, but also past experiences influencing my actions. It all started when my son was having these dry spots on his head every time his grandfather would take him to the barber. I knew through conversations and listening to other people that people with coarser hair should not wash their hair everyday. But to me, as a white mom who washes my hair everyday, and sometimes two times a day, took that is meaning every other day. I was wrong. After the dry spots started showing up more and more I started to wrack my brain. The question I was asking myself was, “Who could I ask about this that would not take offense?” That is not a question I should have to ask myself. Race in this country is still taboo to talk about, but why? We have multiracial families and conversations need to occur. So, as I wracked my brain I thought of many of my African American friends who I could ask, but then thought about how they might react. Some may be offended or react as if saying, “that’s why you shouldn’t have had a biracial son, you don’t know what you are doing.” I finally thought of someone I worked with years ago who was always helpful when my son was an infant. Thanks to social media, I Facebooked her. Later I realized I contacted her because I trusted her, I felt comfortable with her, and deep down I knew that it would not “ruin a friendship” because we had not talked in so many years. We would be building a new friendship, one of trust, honesty, and openness about my ignorance as a white mom raising a son who is perceived as black in our society. Thankfully, she did not hold back and told me how it should be. That is exactly what I was looking for. I wanted someone to tell me straight out what I was doing wrong, because I knew I was doing something wrong.

While taking care of my son’s hair (and turns out skin) was fresh on my mind, Ferguson, MO happened. Just as when Travyon Martin was killed, when Michael Brown was killed social media exploded with racial comments. This morning as I was reading the updates, a CNN article caught my attention. http://www.cnn.com/2014/08/15/living/parenting-black-sons-ferguson-missouri/index.html?sr=fb081514blacksons530astory

It is entitled “Within black families, hard truths told to sons amid Ferguson unrest.”

But, why only black families? My son is perceived as black and is being raised in a “white household.” While I can assume what I need to tell him through the conversations I read on social media, I do not know. Just as I assumed I knew what to do with his hair and skin, but it turns out I was extremely ignorant to the fact that I was doing it all wrong. What if I have the conversations all wrong? While some may argue, as long as you are talking about it you are doing something right. I disagree. I do not have the lived experiences of a black man. I do not know what to tell my son.

There is a helpline for so many other things in life. But, where is the helpline for biological parents, adoptive parents, foster parents, grandparents, etc. who are raising children who are perceived by society as a minority race? Helplines are designed to talk about taboo topics. Isn’t race a topic that is forbidden to talk about in most circles? It is not considered politically correct or appropriate. Race is a topic that could offend people when all you are doing as a parent is trying your best.

So, while I understand where media is coming from when reporting on incidences such as Travyon Martin and Michael Brown, race needs to become less of a tension and more of a conversation. When my son gets older and beings to understand that media is saying, “White people and black people do not get along. White people are killing young black boys for ‘no reason.’” What does that say about him and any other biracial child living in our society? I know this is not a new topic, but with social media the tension and racial dissonance is becoming more and more blatantly obvious.

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