Dear Ms. Sandra Bullock,
Congratulations on the adoption of your new son, Louis!
Right now is a very exciting time as you and your son get to know each other. I am so happy that you are experiencing the joys of new motherhood.
Because I too am a white mother of an African-American child, I wanted to share three important things you should know that I have learned from first-hand experience raising my five-year-old daughter, Paris Rose.
Number One: Be prepared–You will experience racism.
Sad fact, but it’s true. Racism is still alive and well in 2010. And when it happens–and it will happen–you will be shocked and heartbroken every time.
I first learned this fact when I became engaged to my African-American husband eight years ago. Despite having a family that is multiracial itself, my husband’s ethnicity nearly tore my loving family apart. Since then, I have seen racism up close and personal when out and about with my Black family. I’ve heard racist comments and epithets spoken as we’ve walked by to my family being denied proper service at a national fast-food chain, a well known super store and even medical care.
Each and every time that I’ve experienced racism, I’ve never been prepared for it. Racist comments and behavior have caught me off guard every time! Unfortunately for my husband and his family, these horrible behaviors and words are nothing new.
Prepare yourself now for racism to be a part of life that you will encounter because you have an interracial family. Decide now, in advance, how you will respond to these moments so your son will have a powerful example of how to stand up to injustice and hatred. You will be more than just his mother. You will be his protector, his ally and his example of how to deal with the ugliness of racism.
Number Two: Avoid “white-out” conditions.
It’s an unstated fact of life that people tend to befriend others that look like themselves. Resist this tendency to just be around people of your own race.
It is imperative that your son sees and knows family and friends that look like himself. He must know that being Black really is beautiful, and it’s in his best interest to develop a healthy respect and self-love of his race and identity as a young Black man.
Here are some ways that my husband and I ensure that our daughter is not trapped in “white-out” conditions:
* We live in a racially diverse neighborhood and attend a church that is at least 50% African-American; after all, this is what Heaven will look like, right?
* We ensure that Paris Rose has close relationships with her Black family. They not only love her as a family member, but they also mentor her and help her develop a healthy sense of self-love as a young Black girl.
* We buy Afro-centric toys and dolls with brown skin and we watch movies where people of color are the main characters and not token personages in menial positions. We read storybooks with brown-skinned characters that have positive messages.
* We do not tolerate any racist language or behavior in our home–by anybody, at any time.
Three: Educate both yourself and your son on African-American history.
This is probably the most important thing that you must do–beginning now.
African-American history is rich, diverse, as well as heartbreaking, and it’s imperative that you know our country’s horrific past in order to embrace the present and look forward to the future with optimism.
There are many ways that you can develop a knowledge and appreciation of African-American history and culture. First, connect with and develop friendships with African-American friends and community members where you live. I promise they’ll be some of your best friendships.
Second, attend cultural events that celebrate African-American heritage. Go to plays, concerts, and festivals where Black history is celebrated.
Third, take classes online or at your local college. Buy books that are written by African-American authors. I have greatly enjoyed everything Maya Angelou has written and when I was in college, I bought and read the entire I Was A Slave series.
Education is the only way that one can overcome ignorance and hatred and your beautiful son deserves to know the fullness and richness of his racial and cultural heritage.
And finally, Ms. Bullock, your best resource in raising Louis is the African-American community itself. Reach out, make friendships and don’t be embarrassed to ask for help. You’ll not only meet some of the most loving and supportive people in our country, but you’ll have a new family and community that will truly “have your back.”
With much love and encouragement,
N. E. Francis
P.S. I highly recommend buying little Louis the DVD, Dottie’s Magic Pockets, and the new Dottie CD, Super Secret Seashell Cave. They’re both favorites of my five-year-old and they teach diversity in families. They’re just lovely!
***N. E. Francis is an established news journalist, specializing in arts and entertainment features and is a radio correspondent for the weekly LGBTQ radio program, Alternative Perspectives, every Tuesday on www.WRFG.org. She also writes Tales from a California Blonde, a weekly column published every Saturday exclusively at cakechow.com.
Ms. Francis is also a published poet, ghostwriter, film & theater critic and upcoming children’s author. She owns an online art gallery featuring women artists around the world. Contact her at Artcakechow.comcast.net.***
(Copyright © 2010 N. E. Francis. All Rights Reserved. Article may not be reproduced, reprinted or shared in any manner, in any medium, without written consent of author.)
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