The woman observed the black man and the white children having lunch at a Subway. The children were happy and content from all observations. But the woman felt that something must be amiss because, why was this black man in the company of these white children? She, a stranger, demanded to speak with the children and when she did not get the answer that she wanted, she stalked them. Then she called the police. The only thing wrong that day was the fact that the woman could not accept the idea of a black man caring for white children.
I’m a dark-skinned woman. I have dreadlocks. I wear dashikis because they are fly. I am undeniably, unapologetically black. Then I gave birth to a white baby.
I had always imagined that our child would appear a small bundle of light brown, a perfect mix of my husband and I in a cute puking, pooping package. I’d watched as my husband held her tiny day-old body cradled against him, quiet, just staring as new parents are wont to do.
Then he announced, “I’m pretty sure I ordered this in mocha.” The baby he held was whiter than anything I could have ever imagined coming out of me. A child that did not look like me. It was something that I had never considered. Now those considerations flooded my mind and I wondered just what life would be like once I walked into the world with this white baby in my arms.
Hubby and I talked about it. We understood that there would be moments of rudeness and misunderstanding from strangers. I made the decision from the beginning to approach each of these situations with calm and understanding. When you are a black woman, you must be calm and rational even when anger and whoop-ass would be a justified response.
And those times did come. Having been in an interracial marriage for more than a decade, I’m used to ignoring stares. Stares are the background noise every time we venture out. It’s the waiter asking, “Together or separate?” after I have spent an entire meal snuggled up in a booth next to my hubby wearing wedding rings. It was the emergency room and hospital visits where the staff were dismissive of my presence and refused to speak with me about my husband’s health options, despite his consent, despite telling them multiple times that “I am his wife.” This is par for the course. This is America.
Suddenly, my biggest fear was that someone might not believe that she was mine. How many times would I be mistaken for the nanny? What would I do? How do you handle that? Should always I carry her birth certificate?
I preempted such encounters by making sure that I was always super affectionate to baby girl when I felt those questioning eyes following us in a store. I made sure to slip in a few phrases of “Mommy loves you!” or “Mommy is having so much fun hanging out with you today!” Questions and concerns resolved, the eyes would move on. I learned to navigate this new reality quickly and there were no incidents.
And then it happened. It came from left field. A girl who looked to be about 9 years old was gushing over my adorable daughter, now 5, with compliments and all the things that makes a mommy proud. Then, with a confused look she asked, “Oh, you’re her mom? Is she adopted?”
I was stunned into silence for a moment. It was like a punch to the gut. I was finally able to stammer a quiet answer. The girl, knowing that she had done… something, left quickly. I am sure that my face said volumes.
That memory came back to me when I read what happened to that Corey Lewis in Georgia. He’s spreading good in this world, reaching across the aisle, and he was rewarded with suspicion and harassment, because of course. Yes, I know, if you see something say something. What was the something that she saw? Kids in distress? Signs of intimidation and fear? No. She saw this man as a danger because of the color of his skin. She hung her cloak of racist fear about black men on the shoulders of those children. She gets to walk away from this, justifying her own actions as reasonable and right. We who live the consequences must add to the list of things that you cannot comfortably do while being black in this country.
For the people who did not get the memo: Family and friend groups are no longer required to be monochromatic.
Just look around and observe just how many multi-ethnic families there are in your community. We are everywhere. We are blended families and interracial families. We are friends who trust our other friends to care for our children and we damn sure don’t bother to consider their race. See us, observe us, and let us live.
And stop calling the police for no damn reason.