“Why is my daddy brown?”
My three year old daughter is noticing skin color.
I knew the day would come when she would, I just didn’t think it would be this soon.
When Yara was born, people pointed two things out to me:
My daughter was black.
There were sideways glances in the grocery store that led to awkward conversations in the checkout line.
“Are you the nanny?”
“No, I’m her mom.”
“Aw, did you adopted her?”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Are you sure?”
While I was pregnant, after seeing I was accompanied by a black man, someone asked me if I had been raped and needed “help getting away.”
After finding out that I gave birth to my daughter and didn’t adopt her, people have taken their children to the other side of the room.
I’ve been asked why I preferred black men over white and how I could betray my culture.
To some people, I’m only a statistic. Another white girl left alone by a black guy, another single mom raising a criminal, another uneducated girl giving birth while still in high school. To some people, my daughter will only ever be a stereotype, set up for failure by me, her teen mother.
Not true. Statistics come from numbers, not stories. Stereotypes come from headlines, not active living. It took months for my unaware heart to harden against the comments, the looks. I don’t guard my heart out of anger, but for my daughter’s sake. Lashing out in anger will get me nowhere, and what would that teach Yara?
But persevering with patience, grace, and courage will shine a light. It took my teacher to send me a postcard in the mail, after I dropped out of high school in shame, a teacher who believed in me as a human and as a mother, to give me faith.
My soul aches for mothers, aches for our babies, who are being raised to define difference as degradation. My heart is broken for our beautiful city being crushed by the tension of racial segregation.
I was raised to know see people by their hearts, not by their skin. I suppose that’s how my sweet Yara came into this world. But I wouldn’t change it because I want her to experience life the same way. Never do I want my sweet daughter to feel unwanted because of the color of her skin. Never do I want her to feel that she is unworthy of her dreams. Never do I want her to be isolated or somehow “less than.”
And to answer her question, “why is my daddy brown?” I say, “yes honey, he is. He was born that way. Mommy was born white. You were born both brown and white. What color you are doesn’t make you Yara. Your heart makes you Yara.”
James McBride, the author of The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother penned his wise mother’s words – ““I asked her if I was black or white. She replied, “You are a human being. Educate yourself or you’ll be a nobody!”’ Yes, you are a human being. We are human beings. We are mothers with common goals for our children. The goals don’t change due to the skin color.