Published August 20, 2014 by hrhdana

My daughter will be 3 next month.

I have a litany of affirmations that I whisper in her ear daily. I tell her, “You are smart. You are beautiful. You are strong. You are brave. You are the best daughter ever and I love you forever.”  Sometimes she will run up to me and demand (in all of her toddler exuberance) “tell me a secret Mama.” I know exactly what she is asking for and I always comply. I’m never too busy to build my little girl up. A few months ago she started whispering the same affirmations back in my ear. She has an amazing ability to know just when I need them. “You are the best Mama ever! You are beautiful. You are smart. You are strong. You are brave.”

We giggle and hug and kiss and return to what we were doing.

Every single day when I am about to walk out of the door to head to work she has something important to tell me. I lean down for my kiss and my hug.  I whisper her affirmations in her ear and I head towards the door. She’s usually playing or getting ready to eat breakfast but as soon as I reach the door her little legs bring her barreling to the hallway to impart some words on me before I leave. Sometimes it’s toddler babble. A collection of words that make sense to  her. “Watch out for snakes Mama. Don’t forget to jump high.” Sometimes it’s a story from a previous day that she has already told me. Sometimes it’s a promise to, “be a good listener.” Sometimes it’s a teary, “I’ll miss you mama. Have a good day.” But it’s always something.

I have to remind myself not to rush her. I have to remind myself that being late for work is not important in the great scheme of things. I have to remind myself that I can’t just tell her that she is the most important thing in my life. I have to SHOW her. So I stop. I listen. I smile. I respond. I give more kisses and more hugs. I always walk out of the door smiling. Sometimes I’m smiling AS I run down the stairs and pray that I’ll make my bus but I am always smiling.

She is the most important person in my life. I want her to KNOW that. I want to SHOW her that. My love for her colors every single decision that I make in my life. My love for her has changed the way I see the world. My love for her has infused me with a DESPERATION to make this world a safer place for her. My love for her makes me a better person every minute of every single day.

I believe in the power of love. I have seen love perform miracles. I was raised that to believe that if I followed all of the rules and if I was pleasant and palatable to people life would be good. I would be safe. I would succeed. I was raised to believe that I have a responsibility to my community to represent the best of us. I was raised to believe that if I performed well I would be accepted and thereby earn further acceptance for all of my people. I have tried for a long time to make my people proud.  I have tried in my work and school life to be a good ambassador. I have swallowed my anger when confronted with outright racism and the micro-aggressions that Black people encounter regularly. I have attempted to explain, educate, justify. I have agreed to disagree with people who were DEAD wrong. I have arrived early and over-tipped and not eaten fried chicken in mixed company. I have tried.

I resigned from my self imposed role as ambassador when Trayvon Martin’s murderer was set free. I realized that the people whom I interact with daily were not learning any lessons about my people from me. They had cast me in the role of “other.” They saw me as, “different from other Black people.” They were comfortable enough in this assessment of me to speak ill of a murdered young man and to praise his murderer in front of me. I quit. I realized that trying to be non-threatening was not helping. I realized that packing up the pieces of me that make me me gave them a false sense of who I am. So I quit.

Now I have this little girl. This innocent and beautiful little girl who looks to me for everything. I don’t know what to teach her. I keep praying about it and writing in my journal about it. How do I prepare her for a world where her chocolate skin frightens and offends some before she even gets a chance to open her mouth? How do I empower her to shine her light in a world where people who look like us are murdered with impunity? How do I keep her safe in a world where she can’t get in an accident and knock on a door for help without being shot dead? How do I keep her alive? I’m struggling.

I believe in the power of love. I know people who are all shades of the rainbow who embody love. But how do I protect her from those who present themselves as friends only to later reveal that they don’t see us as American citizens worthy of all of the rights and protections as White citizens? How do I protect her from that hurt or at least build her strong enough to over come it? How do I lead her when I feel so very lost myself?

People who don’t know better will call this blog race baiting. They may accuse me of playing a mythical race card. Their denial of my reality doesn’t make it untrue. Their denial just allows them to dismiss me. But I’m still here. I’m still struggling with these questions. I’m still trying desperately to raise a beautiful, smart, brave and strong little Black girl.

4 comments on “Questions

  • this is such a thoughtful piece…you’re so well spoken.
    i want to share this and demand people read it…but i refuse to come to your blog and have it be one of the laces that i can no longer read the comments.

    to answer you, what i have learned. am learning; is we cannot do for our daughters {or sons} what you seek to do. at BEST and at most we can become something/someone so important or fierce and so very known, that any move made against our child would mean ruin for any who harmed them.
    theur brilliance, their beauty, their talent, their kindness will be nothing more than a meme that ends with the word ‘nigger’ or ‘bitch’ should tragedy befall them.
    so unless and until we ourselves are so fearsome that we keep the words and actions of hate filled fools from ever touching them… we are unable to do anything. to keep them safe. or built up….

    or maybe i just need coffee

  • Your writing will change the world!!! Your mothering will change the world!!! You will change the world!!! You have such a gift – such depth of humanity, that resonates through so many truths that even if the change is not immediately evident, those vibrations can bring about thoughts that people may not even realize they are having, but it will slowly impact their brains and open their minds. I know I live in a happy little shut off microcosm of America, but I see the future here. I see how it can be to live in a place where people do see people for who they are and not their skin color. Where people don’t look twice when they see families and couples with different skin colors. It IS possible. It pisses me off that 90 miles from here, it is NOT possible, but if it can happen somewhere it can happen ANYWHERE. It takes acceptance. It takes education. It takes experience. Sadly, I do think it will take a war for most of the country. But, I do see a place where I would not fear for Nia. It exists here and now where I live. I do see a place where police are actually there for your safety instead of some terrible power trip. I wish that place was everywhere – but if it can exist somewhere, it can only spread. Love will make this happen. Admonishing fear will make this happen. Your truth and strength as a person will make this happen. Those who have viewed you as “different from other Black people” are just as insulting to me as those who view me as “different from other White people.” We are all people, and our battles are different, but shouldn’t be. WE ARE ALL PEOPLE!!! The difference is, when I am viewed as different from other “White” people, I have no consequences. I won the lottery in some respects as Pearl Jam said. Sadly, that is not the reality in America now for anyone who is not white. I do believe it will get better. I do believe that this terrible pain will not be for naught. I have met so many people who had NO IDEA how bad racial tension was and truly believed it was dead – now they don’t believe that anymore. This awareness has the potential to eradicate the B.S. It has the potential to educate. It has the true potential for change. Things have been quiet for too long. Too many people believe that equal rights were obtained after segregation in schools ended and that racism was a thing of the past – what people don’t realize is that neighborhood segregation still existed and schools were segregated unintentionally because of that. People think that since the opportunity is there for everyone to be unsegregated in schools, that well heck, the problem is solved. Anyone can get a job, anyone can go to college – we fixed the problem. Didn’t we? :S These events over the past few years are opening the eyes and minds of people who thought things were OK. The naive complacency is leaving. The veil of security is leaving. Reality is setting in. I understand your fear, but not to the depths I probably should (because I was born without the melanin I so wish I had :P), but people are LISTENING. People are becoming AWARE. AWARENESS CHANGES THINGS.

    Now for your questions:

    How do I prepare her for a world where her chocolate skin frightens and offends some before she even gets a chance to open her mouth?
    – You prepare Nia for this with Love. Her innocence, her smile will melt the hearts of those who could be afraid. You teach her to be happy and brave and to avoid those who are not interested in being around someone with those qualities. You keep talking and writing and educating before she gets older – change people one person at a time. Let her spunkiness and smile be a beacon for the future and those to come. Think of how many things you may have been afraid of as a kid, and with education and interaction, those fears were shed. I don’t mean to oversimplify things, but people can learn, even if they don’t want to. I know people who would love her first sight, just because of who she was. It can happen.

    How do I empower her to shine her light in a world where people who look like us are murdered with impunity?
    – The same way as above. Love her, teach her. Believe the world will be a better place for her. People often assume I am happy all the time because I am smiling all the time. I can assure you that I am not, but when you project a light outward, it changes the world. Tell her that when someone wants to suck her light away, don’t let them – that is her’s to have and NO ONE can take that away from her. She can shine it as brightly as she wants – and no one can steal it from her. That’s the only thing we have, and eventually it is contagious. You do that too, and perhaps she will NEVER get to experience that LOOK. Show her that despite all these horrors, that you can still shine your light. I know your light is still there.

    How do I keep her safe in a world where she can’t get in an accident and knock on a door for help without being shot dead?
    – That one I can’t help you with now. America sucks in that respect. I am sure she’d be safe now, but as a teenager+, I would fear for her too. I do believe that it can change by the time she is older. The change is in the air. It’s awful now, but enlightenment can only begin if the terrible situation is known. People in America have ignored this too long, living in this delusional state, thinking that stating, “I’m not racist, but…” clears you. It doesn’t. You ARE racist if you say that. I believe people are starting to realize that that statement is truth. If it doesn’t get better, you guys just come live with us near Boulder. Running is probably not the solution you were looking for – but as a last resort, I believe she would be safe here and just seen as Nia, the whirlwind cutie that she seems to be!

    How do I keep her alive? I’m struggling.
    – Love her. Educate her. Show her how knowledge is power. Continue to embrace her and praise her for who she is. Those character traits will make her strong and capable. Make sure she knows how to be careful, and hopefully someday, she won’t need that knowledge any longer. I wish that the struggle wasn’t there. I wish that the idea of her having a sign that states, “Help me, I am in trouble, I promise I won’t hurt you.” wasn’t a necessity now. But, depending on where she is, it might be. I hope and believe the day will come where that sign can be torn up and burned. I hope it happens before she gets old enough to know the hate people can embody for no reason other than uneducated fear.

    Perhaps most of this was not helpful. I certainly am not as eloquent as you, nor have I experienced what you have because even if I was hated for being white when growing up in the Bx, I know the cops would always believe me over someone not white, I know that my opportunities were better. But, I also know that I grew up with parents who thought they were not racist, but were. I know that one of my parents, even in their old age, has opened their mind and realized that they were what they claimed to not be. Change is possible. You have the words, the strength, the intelligence to make a difference. Don’t forget that – neither will Nia.

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