Gobble de Gook

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Recently, it's become quite obvious that the time to consciously expose my DS to more of the African American side of his heritage has come and gone. I guess I was naive in thinking the idea that our family was "different" than other families wouldn't occur to DS until he was old enough to have a mature discussion about race, ethnicity, skin color and what it was like for me growing up.

But, given some of the statements he's made lately, I need to be more proactive and find age appropriate ways to answer his questions and address some of the things he says, like:

"Oh that guy is gonna win because all brown people are good at basketball." (We had a talk about labeling)

"Whoa, look at all the brown people in this movie."

"Mama, you're the most beautifulest mama ever, even though your skin is different from mine and daddy's." (Which is funny because DH is totally pale and DS isn't)
I've composed something several times and it's always ended up disjointed with no logical flow. I'm taking Steph's suggestion and throwing it all out there, totally at random. Warning: it makes no sense AT ALL.

A new boy started in DS's class this week. I met the mom and the son. They are black, and darker than me.

DS saw him and grabbed onto my leg the way he does when he gets shy. I asked what was wrong and he said he didn't want to play with him because he looked weird. I took him outside and asked why he thought that.

"Because his hair is so curly."

"Yours is too."

"But his is really curly."

"You know who has the same hair? Papa [my dad] and Uncle D. And if I didn't use my curling hair (that's what he calls it, cute no?), mine would look that way too."

I told him that wasn't a nice thing to say and reminded him how he felt when his classmate told him his skin color was stupid. I said he didn't have to be friends with N, but he couldn't not be his friend just because he looks different from DS.

This one was hard. I was disappointed in DS and a little hurt too. After all the times we've said to him that families come in all different colors, shapes and sizes, his reaction to this little boy was surprising.

When the boy in DS's class told DS his skin color was stupid, we had a long talk about how that made him feel and what to say if it happens again.

But the situation made me feel like I had failed DS somehow. I know it is my responsibility to expose DS to the African American side of his heritage, and I don't take that responsibility lightly.

I want him to have pride. I want him to know the history. I want to show him the cooking pot our great great (maybe one more great) grandmother used as a slave (my mom uses it as a planter) and have him understand the significance.

I want him to know that in our family, we have one of the first black cowboys and one of the first blacks to own a business in Missouri.

I want my son to grow up happy and secure in the love of his family. I want him to be friends with whomever he chooses. I want him to be in a relationship with whomever he chooses.

Being in a bi-racial relationship hasn't been an issue for us, unless someone else made it an issue. We know raising a family might have its challenges. But, we figured that when the time came, we'd deal with it and now that the time is here, I feel strangely unprepared.

When DH and I were dating, one of his cousins said, "No fair. If you guys get married your kids will be the cutest ones in the family." It bothered me at the time because I wondered if she thought that's why I was with him, to have attractive offspring.

And when DH was still in active duty, after seeing my picture one of the guys told him it was "cool" that he was with me.

I can't talk to DS about what it's like growing up bi-racial because that's not my experience. I hope he doesn't have to go through some of the things I did, but I fear he might.

He's also going to face his own challenges like people asking "what are you?" and having to decide which box to check under "ethnicity" or to make his own category.

When we would visit family in St. Louis, the friends of my cousins nicknamed me Proper. As in "She talks so proper." It was strange because we were all in school. They took the same English classes and learned how to conjugate verbs the same as I did. But I spoke differently and sometimes they made me feel bad about it.

I don't want my son to feel ashamed of being smart and articulate. I don't want someone to finally meet him in person after only knowing him from phone conversations and say, "I didn't know you were black," as happened to me.

When I was younger, maybe junior high, after my parents divorced my dad would ask me about school and my friends and he's want to know if any of them were black. I understood why he cared. But to me, friends were friends. And I didn't want to be friends with someone just because we had the same skin color.

I've never had a big circle of black friends for the simple reason that there have never been enough of us in the places I grew up to make that circle!

The same is true now. There aren't that many black faces in DS's school. Part of me wants to find a play group or sports team we can join so he can have more exposure than I did. But that seems so contrived.

I could go on and on but I won't. I've rambled enough. All words of wisdom and advice are welcome and appreciated!
add to kirtsy


  1. i am SO HAPPY that you decided to post the gobble de gook! my blog is mainly gobble de gook. if this is what it takes to get your thoughts out there, have at it!

    re: having attractive offspring-- i hate that someone made you feel that way. heck, my mom and dad are two tall, blonde and blues and people accused them of getting together for the same reason.
    re: being made fun of for talking "proper"-- i also hate that someone made you feel bad about talking properly. WTF? that's all i have to say about that.
    re: having black friends-- i totally understand why your father asked this question. i have never ever seen color when it comes to my friends and family. having grown up in the same area as you, it is "different" there. i now live in DC, and things are very different here. i will have to try and think of a way to explain it someday without sounding like a racist...

    aside from my opinions above, i can only say that you are doing a wonderful job. by taking DS aside and having a talk with him. just by being involved and being THERE for him. he'll turn into his own person and deal with these things in his own way when the day comes. you're doing a great job in the meantime.

  2. I have no advice. I come at it from the opposite side. I'm a white girl raising biracial (in Matt's case, multiracial) children. I have no experience with prejudice directed at me (other than what we all face as women). I have no idea how to prepare my kids for it, either.

    I DO know that kids notice far earlier than we expect them to, though.

    Matt was in kindergarten when he came home and announced that he was a "gray" kid. If black and white paint make gray paint, then black and white people make gray kids.

    Lenna was probably three when she asked my mother what color my mother's mother had been.

    So yeah, they for sure notice, but I think you're handling it really, really well.

    Also, the stuff about people saying, "I didn't know you were black" made me think of Chris Rock's riff about Colin Powell being "well-spoken".

  3. Thanks, ladies. I wish I had one of those new camcorders that just plug into the USB ports. It's easier for me to talk things out rather than write them.

    I had a lot more written, but erased it because it sort of went off on a tangent and became more about my experiences growing up instead of my DS.

  4. But that would have been good to read, too! I get you on the whole video v. write thing, though. LOL

  5. What do you want to know? Ask me anything...

  6. Woo. Carte blanche? With the understanding that I'm just really, really ignorant about some things? As I said - I've never experienced personal prejudice. Wait, that's not exactly true, I s'pose. I've experienced some prejudice because I'm a white woman with biracial kids, but that didn't happen until I was old enough to handle that kind of thing.

    What was it like for you growing up? Did you grow up in an area with a mix of ethnicities? Were you one of the very few black people in your community?

    God. Am I being a redneck? I fear I am. Dammit.

  7. i am not la costa mom so i can't answer for her, but if she grew up in north county, (where i grew up) then i can attest to the fact she most likely a minority in the community. not that the schools are "all white", but most schools in north county were at least ~70% white.

    am i wrong? who sounds like a redneck now? ;)


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