As Wren gets older (she turns four next month), we are becoming more mindful of her awareness of our differences. It started innocently enough last summer.
“Mommy,” she says as she points to her toe. “I’m brown.” I asked her what colour I was, to which she replied, “Apple juice.”
A couple of weeks ago, she caught me off guard. What she said made me uncomfortable.
“Mommy, I’m black.”
I asked her how she knew she was black, and she said her friends told her.
Honestly, those words stung me. I can’t really explain it. Shouldn’t she have learned that basic fact about herself from me?
We read storybooks all the time that feature African Americans. I commissioned an artist to sketch a Martin Luther King, Jr. portrait that hangs in her bedroom. We compliment her all the time on her hair. We stress the importance of lotion daily. We chose a preschool based on its diversity. So much of what I do is deliberate.
I know she is black.
I should have told her.
We were asked to speak about our transracial family recently. I talked about the deciding factors. Our families are diverse in that we both have siblings that married outside of our race. The pastor of our very diverse congregation is black. My lady doctor is black. Our neighbors are black. Our co-workers are black. We knew the child we adopted would not live in a world of white.
So during our own adoption training session when we were asked the following four questions, we honestly could answer yes.
- Do I worship with someone in the race I plan on adopting?
- Do I work with someone in the race I plan on adopting?
- Do I dine with someone in the race I plan on adopting?
- Do I live with someone in the race I plan on adopting?
At the time, we knew just answering a checkbox wasn’t enough. We asked our pastor for his blessing, and we asked the neighbor we bowled with and worshipped with and shared butterscotch pie with (and who reads this blog) for her blessing. Our family is blessed due to our pre-existing relationships in the race we ended up adding to our family.
As Black History Month begins, I am going to take the opportunity to do a better job of letting my daughter know she is black. I want her to be proud of who she is, because she has every right to be.