I spotted this at Fierce and Nerdy and just had to share it with Honeysmoke readers. This post reminded me of when Simone and Nadia were infants. (Yes, time goes by very fast.) For this mommy and her beautiful daughter, race hasn’t come up. Color, though, has been an issue. Take a look.
By Ernessa T. Carter
© Ernessa T. Carter
So by far one of my most popular posts has been “Raising Biracial Children,” which I wrote before I had any actual Biracial children living outside my womb or the gleam in my eye. I suspected as I was writing it that my perspective would change once I actually had said child, and I have to say that I was pretty much right about that.
I think what has been most surprising is how little I think about Betty being biracial. Beforehand, I thought this would be a subject that would stay on my mind 24/7, but in reality being a new mother eclipses all issues of race. For example:
Day 1: Oh my God, she turns red when she cries! Is that normal? (I am assured by my white husband and Betty’s doctor that it is).
At 1 week: I’m not thinking about the color of her skin, I’m thinking about the color of her poo. What’s up with the green tint? (Doctor says it’s the formula we’ve been supplementing her with for the jaundice.
At 2 weeks: Oh no, not diaper rash!
At 6 weeks: Yes, let’s talk about Betty’s skin. Seriously, what’s up with this baby acne all over her face, back, stomach, and neck? That can’t be normal. (Doctor once again assures us it is and it goes away in 2 weeks.)
3 months: Look at Betty’s gums. Do you think she’s teething early? Also, Betty seems to get a little confused when my sister comes to visit. (Though she doesn’t really like strangers at this point, Betty decides that she digs this Sorta-Looks-Like-Mommy. This will kick off a trend of her being extra smiley with dark-skinned black women. Funny.)
4 months: I love this baby fat! In fact, I just made up a crunk song called, “Do the Chubby Leg.” Do you think we should record it for YouTube? (CH just laughs and shakes his head. Not sure if that’s a yes or a no.)
As you can see, race hasn’t really come up with Betty yet, but let’s not sleep, we know it will eventually. So over the next week I want to explore these questions:
1. Special, Lucky, or Confused? Do we really need to spin biracial?
2. How responsible are you for your child’s views on race?
3. Protection vs. Prevention vs. Preparedness.
So do come back and weigh in on all of these topics. Til then, if you want to hear more of my thoughts on pregnancy and new motherhood, the kind folks over at Mommie2Be have made me their October Mommie of the Month, and I answered a bunch of questions on both topics.
Oh, and one more announcement. I decided to dedicate the last week of our Month of Minefields to Feminism. Like Religion, this isn’t a topic people asked me to write on, but I’ve been having so many discussions about it lately, I thought it would be a good one to bring to the table. Hit me up in the comments if you have any thoughts on subtopics for this one. I’m open.
Ernessa T. Carter is the author of 32 Candles.
Do you have a story to tell? Send it to Honeysmoke@Honeysmoke.com
© Karyn Langhorne Folan
I spent an hour or so yesterday completing the forms necessary for my family to travel on our Mediterranean cruise next week. The cruise line asks that you send in your passport information— as well as certain details like your travel plans, your emergency contact and of course, your credit card number for on-ship spending. What I hadn’t expected them to ask was for the primary racial identification of all of our travellers.
It’s funny, I had completed that section for my husband, myself and my older daughter without really thinking about it. White, black, black… and then I came to my baby, who is bi-racial. I couldn’t call her primarily white any more than I could call her primarily black. If she were old enough to ask, I would have written whatever she said. Experts on the subject say that it’s normal for bi-racial children to bounce between racial choices: black at one stage of their growth, white at others. They may also insist on both– or neither, claiming themselves to transcend classification. I’ve read enough literature to be prepared for Sommer’s choices as she grows older.
But right now, Sommer’s a little shy of 4 years old. At this moment, the choice was mine. We’ve never come across this before: she goes to a private preschool where the question was never asked. Perhaps in a year or so, we may confront the issue again on some public school form. But this was my first time– my virgin moment– with racial classifications in my own family– and I was surprised my the conflicting emotions it brought up.
I re-read the form. This section was optional– the cruise line was only interested for marketing and consumer information purposes– but I hadn’t hesitated or even questioned the use of their data for the rest of my family. Sommer’s status made me re-think whether that was information that I cared to share– or at least whether the cruise lines marketing database was a good enough reason to provide it. But righteous indignation aside, there will be other forms, more crucial ones. Medical forms, for example. What is the appropriate response for a child whose parents are of different races?
Organizations like ProjectRace.org have been focusing on this issue for years. They have lobbied against boxes like “other” and argue that, in our increasingly multiracial society, forms should allows to “check all that apply” instead of being forced into a single category box. The wisdom of this approach seems obvious to me: it allows a person of mixed heritage to honor all of his or her cultural influences.
But the larger questions remain about why any of this matters so much outside of the medical context (where certain genetic markers may affect compatibility of treatments). What does it say about our society when a cruise line collects racial information “for marketing purposes”? What does it say about our school system if racial heritage is important information to tracking the performance of a student?
The truth is, if I knew more about my own racial heritage, I could probably check every box on any form you give me— most of us probably could. I know for certain there is white/Dutch ancestry in family, as well as English/Anglo Saxon blood. But I’m certain there is a far more rich story that I don’t know and that that rich heritage is present for us all.
Perhaps the ProjectRace.org approach is the beginning: we check as many boxes as apply… until science and geneology make it possible for all of us to check all of the boxes. Only then will the necessity for racial categorization become unnecessary.
For today, I left Sommer’s form blank … and when back and erased the categories for the rest of my family. We’re a family travelling together and that’s really all the cruise line needs to know.
Karyn Langhorne Folan is the author of Don’t Bring Home A White Boy (And Other Notions That Keep Black Women Single).
Do you have a story to tell? Send it to Honeysmoke@Honeysmoke.com
The beauty aisles are lined with products touting the benefits of Argan oil. The oil has been added to skincare, nail, and hair potions. If the law of supply and demand is in effect, then a lot of people are demanding a relatively low supply of this oil. I’ve seen it online for as much as $96 for four ounces. Ouch! There are less expensive versions, which also have less Argan oil in them, and others have been cut with coconut, jojoba or some other oil that is listed in fine print on the back of the bottle.
Women love this product for its hydrating properties. It is a light oil, and it produces an intense shine. Of course, it can only be found in one place on the planet: Morocco. The oil is extracted from the nuts of the fruit the tree produces and is harvested from the tree by women who work in co-operatives.
Like many women, I wanted to try out this Argan oil. I love shea butter, and I have an ongoing love affair with henna. It took me a few weeks to zero in on some pure oil at an acceptable price. I found it at Mountainroseherbs.com, where a four-ounce bottle for $17.
I’ve been using it for a few weeks now. I use a dropper to take the oil from the bottle and to put a few drops in my hand. I rub my hands together and then spread the oil over my hair. (I haven’t been bold enough to use it on my face, though folks swear it helps fight off all those bad things in the atmosphere.) The oil is expeller pressed, which means no solvents or anything else that could change or weaken its properties were used to extract it.
I love the shine and the non-oily feeling Argan oil produces, but the real test will come this winter when the air has been stripped of all its moisture. I’ll keep you posted.
Have you experimented with Argan oil?
There I was, sitting in the tiny blue chair, parked at the miniature desk. My knees were hiked up to my chest as I listened to the teacher explain all the rules, procedures and expectations.
I looked up to her, Simone’s first grade teacher. I had no choice. She stood during the talk while we parents sat in little seats. I took a few notes and asked a couple of questions. I don’t know about any of the other 20 or so parents packed into the classroom that day, summoned there by the teacher, but I definitely feel like I am going to first grade again.
There is math homework and reading homework and spelling homework. Real homework. There are grades. No more of that wimpy smiley face and check mark stuff from kindergarten. It’s my duty, I learned, to explain a 99 is still an A.
My mom had it so easy. I went to school, and she did whatever came naturally. She didn’t have to check and sign first grade homework, at least I don’t remember her doing so. She didn’t read to me every night and then write down the books in my reading log. There were no classroom blogs or constant emails.
First grade is going to be a lot of work, not only for Simone, but for me. Her teacher was whipping the parents into shape, telling us the dos and donts. I tried to be a good student, but I thought it would never end. My mind wandered, my knees ached. Finally, first grade boot camp for parents ended. I extricated myself from the tiny chair, unfolded my legs, and graduated back into adulthood.
Simone’s first spelling test is on the horizon. I quizzed her on the first list of 10 words, and she asked me what I was doing.
“Helping you study for your spelling test.”
We’ll do a mock test before the big day, because I want to show her teacher this big kid student listened well.
Beautiful Little Girl: Do y’all speak Spanish?
Nadia: No, we don’t speak Spanish.
Beautiful Little Girl: You look like you do.
Simone: Do you speak Spanish?
Beautiful Little Girl: Yes.
I cannot place a value on overhearing such conversations. While the rest of the world is debating the validity of a fictional book and movie, I’m sitting front row and center, watching our future navigate this thing called race.
I could not have imagined how many ways people would ask, “What are you?” We have been asked whether our daughters are Brazilian and Asian. A few weeks ago, someone asked Simone whether her father is Chinese, and someone else asked if she was mixed with black and white.
I had worried — Sometimes I still do — about the questions. A part of me feared people would make assumptions and taunt my girls. I try to arm Simone and Nadia with answers. After witnessing how my daughters handle these situations, I am not sure I need to intervene.
The conversation above was so mature. The Beautiful Little Girl spied two little girls who didn’t look one way or another. She checked her hunch and was skeptical when it was not validated. She was certainly on to something. Nadia, who can be a bit blunt and sassy, answered her question without judgment. Even when the Beautiful Little Girl told Simone and Nadia she was doubtful about the answer, there was no back and forth. Simone, a reporter-in-training, figured there had to be a reason why the little girl asked and turned the question around. Then I heard giggles and squeals and laughter.
With all the mature stuff out of the way, they got down to the business of playing with each other. I think we adults can learn a thing or two from the children.
In THE TANNING OF AMERICA: How the Culture of Hip-Hop Rewrote the Rules of the New Economy (Gotham Books; On-Sale 9-8-11), Stoute draws from his diverse background in the music industry and brand marketing to chronicle how an upstart art form – street poetry set to beats – came to define urban culture as the embodiment of cool. Steve Stoute’s understanding of how hip-hop morphed into mainstream culture enabled him to relate to a new generation of thinking, which catapulted him to the forefront of pop culture – where he still remains today.
In THE TANNING OF AMERICA Steve Stoute shows how a company can connect with the youth market without seeming inauthentic and staying true to their core brands. This ‘tanning’ phenomenon – the positive, powerful potential of urban youth culture that, when harnessed properly, can bring disparate groups of people together – raised the generation of black, Hispanic, white and Asian consumers who have the same ‘mental complexion’ based on shared experiences and values. Today’s consumer is a mindset, not a race – and when businesses get it right, and have a proper understanding of tanning, success is imminent.
Steve Stoute’s knowledge and observations will allow readers to find success in a new generation’s bold reinterpretation of the American Dream.
I am intrigued by this conversation and the book. What do you think?
Really? An interracial couple couldn’t agree on what to do with their daughter’s hair, so they went on national television to have entertainers tell them who is right and who is wrong. I’ve watched The Marriage Ref once or twice, and I don’t find it all that funny or enlightening. In this episode, which aired Monday, Aug. 14, the white father wants his little girl to express herself, while the black mom wants her to look presentable.
If I had to take the matter seriously, I’d side with the mother. There’s nothing wrong with a child expressing herself, as long as that’s something she wants to do. Nothing in the clip leaves that impression. All the viewer learns is that the father simply doesn’t want to do hair, and that’s too bad.
Here’s the thing. These people aren’t serious. There is way too much acting and exaggerating in the clip, and the viewer later learns the father wants his daughter to be “discovered.” I think he and his wife are using the show to get their daughter on television. They got the exposure they wanted. I just wish it had not been at the expense of a child and her beautiful, natural hair.