I'm the white mother of three kids. One is my white, biological son. One is my mixed race (Mexican, Black & White) son through adoption, and one is my black daughter through adoption. I have no idea how my mixed race son will look when he's older but the vast majority of people assume he's our (caucasian) biological son, so for now I will focus on my black daughter.
We have always tried to avoid labels such as "white" and "black" for our kids in favor of "peach, light brown and brown". But let's face it, society views us parents as "white" and our daughter as "black".
Like so many other people, I'm outraged by the Trayvon Martin murder. It's not just about a racist murder, it's about the refusal of the Sanford police department to arrest the paranoid, racist man who killed an unarmed kid.
I've heard so many points of view about this... it's because he was a black kid wearing a hoodie. That is of course no excuse for what happened. That's like blaming a rape victim for being dressed provocatively. There's nothing he could've done to have prevented his murder. But it gets me thinking... what about racial profiling? How are black parents preparing their children for that? What am I missing because I'm a white woman who never has and never will walk in my daughter's shoes? I can't help but think I'm missing some valuable information as a white mother.
Should white people even be raising black kids? That's an uncomfortable question that I don't like to ask myself. Some angry black adoptees who were raised by white parents might argue "no". I tell myself that it's better than being raised in an orphanage. But the reality is I have no idea what my daughter's outcome would've been had we not adopted her. It's really neither here nor there, because we adopted her. She's our daughter and nothing will change that now.
Can I do as good of a job raising a black child as a black mother could do? Goodness, I would never be so bold as to make that assumption. I won't even assume that I'm not messing up my white, biological child. Parenting is all one big experiment really, and we only get one chance to raise our kids. In the end we'll find out how well we did by the relationships we have or don't have with our adult children. It doesn't mean I'm giving up or tackling this with a laissez faire attitude.
I, as a white mom of a black child, take race and racism seriously. It's an issue. While in the year 2012 (with a black president) we have come so far as a country, this Trayvon Martin tragedy shows us that we still have a long way to go.
I can't delude myself into thinking that just because we live in Los Angeles, or that my black child is a girl, that I won't have to prepare her for racism in the world. Just reading Gina L. Carroll's recent post about the Trayvon Martin tragedy and how her kids have personally been affected by racial profiling has reminded me that girls are not immune. While I believe we have it easier in Los Angeles than transracial adoptive families in certain areas of the country, we still have areas of LA where we get open mouthed stares when we go out together as a family. (we try to avoid those areas as much as we can now)
So what have I done to prepare myself to raise a black child? I've read books on transracial adoption. I've tried to educate myself where I can. I joined an online group for white mothers of black children to learn how to take care of my daughter's hair and skin. I try to be an advocate for my kids whenever I can. I try to listen to my black friends and learn from them. Because in the end, I simply don't know what it's like to be black in America.
I grew up with white privilege. I didn't have parents telling me I needed to act or dress a certain way in front of police, or in stores, or while walking alone at night. The fact is racial profiling does happen whether it's with police, or with gun-toting paranoid civilians. What do I do to protect my kids? I don't want my ignorance as a white individual to lead to the possible harm of my child.
This is where we need you, our black friends, to help us fill in the gaps with raising our black children. White parents of black children... ask your black friends for help, and listen to what advice they give you.
While I honestly believe there is nothing Trayvon Martin could've done to prevent his death, there are things we white parents of black children need to know in preparing our children for racism and racial profiling. Teaching them to be proud of their beautiful black skin and hair is simply not enough.
I don't have answers. I only have questions. I need help. I'm listening. Please teach me, so I can prepare my daughter.