I am a mixed-race woman in her fifties. I was raised with no cultural references or awareness. My white mum did not understand my culture or make any attempt to do so, beyond some seasoning on food. She did not ever acknowledge the racism I faced as a child.
I have met a lot of mums in my lifetime, and I have been fortunate to be able to speak into the lives of many mothers over the years.
Having a child of colour in this country is a big responsibility, it is more than being a mum. A white mum of a brown child must learn so much, they must constantly navigate being a permanent ally in a world they do not fully understand. They need to teach their child how to be brown when they themselves are not, all the while learning from the very children they are teaching.
We all know that mothers need to have eyes in the back of their head to keep up with their children, but the mother of a brown child needs more eyes to spot the micro-aggressions, overt and covert racism aimed at her child. They need to be able to mop up the tears from the falls and scrapes of everyday life and offer therapy for the internal scars of racism.
This mama needs to deal with the parents who constantly tell her that her children do not look like her, even when they do. She will have to respond to the question “Is their dad around?” a million times, when no-one else is asked it. Comments on their hair, their behaviour, their intellect to name a few.
But the truth is only some of these parents will ever truly rise to be these mamas. Only some will make it their life mission to go the extra mile so that their child has a culture that they are connected to. Only some will slot into papas’ family and learn how his family cooks, moisturises skin and cares for hair.
Because it hurts to say that there are these other mums. The ones I have meet across the years, for whom the brownness of their children’s skin is something to assimilate not celebrate. They talk about their children’s hair as a problem, not a thing of beauty. Their children cannot be dealing with racism because “that doesn’t really happen anymore” “and anyway she is half white”. There is no connection with culture because they have only ever seen that culture as an issue. Maybe because of a difficult relationship, maybe because their fetishization of brown children never really included a black daddy!
I see these mums and their lost children and my heart breaks. I was one of them. I never saw myself in a book or a doll, no one cared for my skin or my ridiculous, wild hair. These are the mums that the black community despises and so often, many in the black community think they are the norm.
But my heart is for the mamas, there are more and more of them, the tuned in, the switched on. These mama’s walk a careful line of wanting to advocate and offer allyship without overstepping the mark. They are the loud voices in the playground, they are passionate for diversity, and they have a thirst to learn and be more, because they want more for their children. They see their brown children, they hear them. They stand in relationships with loyal black men (because it is a lie that all black men abandon their families) and they choose to build.
So, I salute these mamas. You are changing communities; you are equipping a generation of warriors.
Giving them the confidence to stand against injustice. I encourage you to keep up the good fight. To keep speaking truths into your beautiful brown children and keep fighting for them.
We see you. We appreciate you.
You are being the change.