Through all of last month, I planned on writing a piece for Black History Month. I struggled, setting it aside again and again. Eventually, I wrote my editor and told her I was dropping the idea. She offered to take a look at what I had written but I was staring at a blank computer screen. For me, writing such a piece comes with a heaping dose of self-scrutiny over how I’m raising my black daughter. Before I knew it, Black History Month had come to a close, and once again I felt incapable of saying anything about the subject.
Although she’s only two years old, I see my daughter’s desire to please others and I wonder if she has enough black women and men role models. We live in a predominately black neighborhood, we go to predominately black playgrounds and parks, attend many African and African-American celebrations and socialize with a diverse group of black friends. But no matter how much effort I put forth, in the end, I’m still white. And while I think I’m a good parent, there’s no way I can replace my daughter’s biological mother.
The funny thing — or sad thing — is that if my daughters and I lived back in Florida where I grew up, we’d be in a predominately white neighborhood and I wouldn’t be giving Black History Month, or my daughter’s skin color, much thought.
In my white hometown, random people in the grocery store toss compliments and looks of admiration for my transracial adoption implying that I’ve done something noble. However, riding around on the bus in our black community, I frequently get looks of suspicion and sadness. I think I know what they are thinking: “What happened to that baby’s mother? Where’s her grandmother? Her father? Her father’s mother? Was there no one in the black community to raise this child in her own culture?” I hear them say these things loud and clear every day when we walk down the street. I get it. In fact, I think it’s good. If anyone should feel out of place, I want it to be me and not my daughter.
I frequently wonder what it is that I owe my black daughter as compensation for all of the missing blackness in her life. I’ve joined some transracial adoption groups which are helping me to piece together ways to provide connection to my daughter’s heritage. I seek out my own black role models and do little things like follow them on Twitter (Leslie Jones from SNL) or read their books (Tarayi Jones). I wish I was equally invested in it before I had a black daughter. In other words — raising a black daughter shouldn’t have been the reason I invested myself in learning about black history and culture.
But I’m proud to have a better appreciation for it now, and I have my daughter to thank for that.More On