I haven’t gone into much detail about me, my husband or Baby A. So here are some bare bones descriptions.
Me: 26, African-American (meaning I’m black), 5 foot 7, size 10, black hair, brown eyes
Husband: 29, British (he’s white), 5 foot 10 and a bit, Medium, brown hair, brown eyes
Baby A: 5 months, British (mixed race obviously), height unknown, 3-6 months, blonde hair (except for a tuft at the back that he was born with), blue eyes
Now to most people, something will stand out. Both of us have dark hair and brown eyes yet A has blonde hair and blue eyes. To add insult to injury, A also has a very very fair complexion.
When A was 19 days old, I took him to one of those drop-in’s that you take your baby to to be weighed and checked over by a health visitor (if you want). I was breastfeeding at the time so was constantly worried as to whether he was adequately putting on weight. I was greeted by Sam*, who instead of answering my questions on breastfeeding, proceeded to show her shock and surprise that ‘people with my complexion’ could have a baby with skin as light as A’s. This was followed by comments on how lovely his tan will be when we eventually take him on holiday and how amazingly ‘light’ he is compared to me amongst other things. I was asked what my husband looked like, not for his facial features, but for his ethnicity, hair and eye colour. I left feeling dejected, I had no encouragement that my feeding was going well or whether any questions I had would be answered.
Throughout A’s short 5 months of existence this has become a regular thing. The older generation particularly seem to be incapable of letting me get about my day without either questioning who’s baby I’m looking after and I’ve even been asked how long I’ve been a nanny. There have been countless times that I have been embarrassed to go out with my husband and A with the thought of people thinking that I was just my husband’s girlfriend out with him and his child. My husband has remarked multiple times that when we are out as a family, I keep A closer to me, I never use his name and refer to him as ‘our baby’ or ‘our son’. I must admit, I was shocked when A was born and his jaundice had passed with how fair his skin was, but this quickly went.
Just before A turned 5 months old, I took him to be weighed (now a monthly occurrence) as we have started giving him finger foods and his milk intake has decreased. After successfully avoiding her for 4 and a half months, who should be there other than Sam*. I had hoped she hadn’t recognized me, which she initially didn’t, but upon undressing A she proclaimed, ‘God isn’t he light! His skin is lovely!’ and with that she remembered me. Conversation continued, mostly one-sided about my son’s skin.
Obviously this has enraged me, and when I took this up with one of the Health Care Assistants at my doctors, and showed her a picture of A she replied, ‘Well yes, he’s white.’
To me this is ridiculous. As a black woman, with my child, surely it’s obvious that he isn’t white? There is nothing wrong with being white, let that be said, my husband is, as are 95% of my friends, but that really isn’t the issue. The issue is that my child has been stripped of his true ethnicity on face value because of what? The issue is that my child has had an incorrect judgement made about him that surely it is my place to correct? Why when he is with his mother, who has an obvious ethnicity, that there is so much ignorance and a race is chosen fro him? Why that race in particular?
What enrages me further, is that when I express my desire to complain, I am met with negativity towards that. Reminded that there may be potential consequences to my actions and that my complaint may seem stereotypical to my race. Even as I’m typing this tears are filling my eyes and anger is coursing through me.
A is MY child. My biracial, multicultural, mixed heritage child. Everyday he is told that he is a strong and powerful combination of the best things about his mother and father and that includes our races. How anyone can dare suggest that it is not in my best interest to educate people that there are things that are racially inappropriate to say, is beyond me. To suggest that a black woman cannot raise the issue of incorrect terminology or racial inappropriateness without it being stereotypical is to suggest that she is ‘pulling the race card’ for an unfounded reason. People of colour should never be afraid to stand up to anyone for anything that they feel is unjust towards them or anyone they know whether, black, white, purple, green or blue. If someone can’t understand why you would want to do that, without their own ignorance or fear getting in the way, then that’s their problem. I will always make sure that my son knows who he is, and is proud of who he is, and to have people question his appearance in a way that makes him seem as if he is intriguing or fascinating can only lead to future upset for him.
People that work in healthcare, education, public service, hell anyone who lives and breathes needs to be educated in the right way.
As A’s mother, it is my job to do that until he can do it for himself. Anyone who tries to come between that can either educate themselves until they refrain from doing so, or take a swift exit out of our lives.