It’s OK for me to want a future for my Black child
By Dwayne Morgan, BYBLACKS.COM
Photo © rohane/Twenty20
Jun 8, 2020
This piece is in partnership with ByBlacks.com
When I first went to school as a child, I was living in Markham, Ontario. Unionville to be more precise.
My sister and I made up half of the school’s Black population.
And I heard every racist slur, and was called every possible name. I didn’t know that any of this was wrong; I just knew that it didn’t feel good.
"It’s not easy. It's a discomfort similar to when your kid starts asking about sex — and that's not a conversation that can be ignored because it's uncomfortable. Neither is this one." Read about this mom's approach to discussing racism with her young child here.
My parents were immigrants who trusted that when they sent their children to school, they would be safe. At such a young age, there was no way to articulate what our experience was.
Today’s Canadian racism is less overt, sometimes hard to pinpoint and often fools us into believing that racism is an American issue. When you are young and idealistic, you convince yourself that the world will be different when you get older, and then you age and become a parent.
When I became a parent, I realized that I have the exact same concerns that my parents had. The only difference is that, like many of you, I was born here, and I know firsthand what Canadian racism looks and feels like.
"If you are a parent who can go to a store and pick between many dolls that look like your child, understand the power and privilege in that."
When discussions occur about power and privilege, many don’t realize what a privilege it is to be able to raise a child as though their skin doesn’t matter — but it does, no matter what hue it is.
If you are a parent who can go to a store and pick between many dolls that look like your child, understand the power and privilege in that.
I haven't been so fortunate. I have had to explain to my daughter why there were few, if any, dolls that looked like her on the shelves. From a young age, while she may have been unable to articulate it, she was learning about her place in the world, and the value that she has.
Being a Parent is Exhausting
Raising a child is exhausting. Trying to raise a child to love themselves, in a world that doesn’t always love or accept them is excruciatingly painful and frustrating.
So, I’ve had to help my daughter toughen up and develop a thick skin.
Ironically, Black women with this kind of protective armour are often labeled aggressive and masculine.
I’ve had to teach my daughter her history, knowing that it will not be taught in school, to ensure that no one can tell her misinformation about who she is. I’ve had to teach her how to speak up for herself and others, to ensure that she can advocate for herself if the need arose. Black girls and women who can do this are labeled angry; a label that aims to suppress their voices.
"I don't think we're far removed at all." Read one mother's reflection on her life right now and how she is raising children who will advocate for inclusivity here.
The stereotype of the "Angry Black Woman"
When you are born with skin that will make your life harder than it needs to be, the last thing you want — or need — are other labels hurled on to you. We have the stereotype of the angry Black woman, and so many of our young women try to avoid it. It seems to me like they would rather sit in silence, buried under the weight of their thoughts and feelings, than speak out. No one tells them about how movements — women’s, feminist, LGBTQ+ and #MeToo for example — were advanced by the work and voices of angry Black women, so the label robs them of their voice and power.
I recently sat with my daughter and asked for her thoughts and feelings about all that she sees happening in the United States right now. I added that “I don’t know” wasn’t going to be a suitable answer.
"In that moment, I wanted to validate her anger, and let her know that it’s OK to be angry."
I sought to affirm that her thoughts and feelings were both important and valid. I sat with patience and listened, as she shared her perspective and understanding through her 13-year-old worldview.
I didn’t try to correct her. There really isn’t a right and wrong. I thanked her for sharing and being open. I answered the questions that she had. I gave context when she lacked it or didn’t understand something fully. In that moment, I wanted to validate her anger, and let her know that it’s OK to be angry. I wanted her to know that it’s OK to feel and not keep her feelings bottled inside, and I absolutely wanted her to know that it is OK to be Black.
I’ve spent her entire life trying to make sure that she looks at herself with the most loving of eyes, even if parts of the world will look at her otherwise.
Showing My Vulnerability
I let her see me as human by showing her that I am hurting and frustrated, because I want so much more of what we are denied because of the colour of our skin. I want her to see me as vulnerable, so she knows that it is OK to be vulnerable.
I want to assure her that we can always talk and share, because openness is also OK. Because sometimes, when it feels like the world is against you (and parts of it actually are), all that you’ll have are yourself, your thoughts and your voice — and you better believe that that’s OK, too.
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