I met my daughter on a crisp spring evening when a caseworker brought her to our home as our first foster care placement.
She was bald, beautiful and so tiny — nearly the size my biological sons were at birth although she was several months old. From the moment she was carried into our home she had stolen our hearts and we knew we would spend our lives fighting for what’s best for this child, no matter what that may look like.
Four years later, we stood in front of a Judge with emotions there are no words for explaining. On one hand, our hearts soared that this child we have loved for so long was officially becoming a part of our forever family! On the other hand, our hearts broke for our daughter’s first Mom as well as for our daughter over this deep-rooted loss.
Looking back, I think we expected to fight for the heart of our daughter, what we didn’t expect or know to fight for was her racial identity.
We have always taught our kids about other cultures, wanting them to be well-rounded and accepting human beings. One of the ways we do this is with our “cultural dinners,” where we learn about and prepare a traditional meal from another country or culture. At first, I thought practices like this would be enough, but the more my eyes were opened to my privilege, the more I knew my daughter needed to learn more of her cultural and historical background.
If I was going to delve further into teaching my daughter about black history, it was going to start from a place of strength. I wanted to encourage the inner strength my daughter already has by sharing stories of strong black woman she could relate to. So we started with women like Harriet Tubman, Ruby Nell Bridges, Maya Angelou, and Michelle Obama. When sharing their stories, my daughter coined the inner strength I spoke of as “a strong heart.” She asked, “I have a strong heart too Momma?” and I replied, “Yes baby girl, you have the biggest, strongest, most beautiful heart of all.”
Not long after while reading a book together on Harriet Tubman, my sweet girl asked me what slavery was.
My heart instantly caught in my throat and I stumbled to find the words as a white woman to explain a practice so grotesque, a practice I only know of from history books and movies, a practice that my daughter, if she had been born into a different time, may have been a victim of. It was sobering, to say the least. Still, after carefully explaining this heartbreaking time in history, I was able to circle back around how Harriet risked so much to help others and that is what I hope my daughter takes away her story.
I want my daughter to know that people have been and still are treated less than because of their skin color, but to know deep in her soul that she is not less than anyone else. My daughter is strong, she is treasured, she is wanted and needed in our society – she makes the world a better place.
I am a white woman raising a bi-racial daughter that the world sees as black. My daughter is growing up between two different worlds and I worry about her knowing her place. One thing I know for sure, she will grow up knowing the culture and the stories of those who came before her. This is my place as her Momma to help her know her place in a world that is often unfair and unkind. My daughter will grow up knowing who she is and using her strong heart to help others. Perhaps one day another Momma will share the stories of my daughter and her great, big, beautiful heart with her little girl.