Husband, for the last few years, we’ve been very firm in our decision to not have a child of our own.
You have two sons from your previous marriage, I have my daughter, and that has seemed like plenty. I’ve been so firm in this decision that I’ve gone as far as telling friends that they’re wise to only have one, or none at all.
Then about two months ago, we had a change of heart, and lo and behold, we’re taking steps to prepare for pregnancy.
There are a litany of physical things we need to do to put the proverbial bun in the oven – sonogram to check the health of my uterus (history of fibroids makes this mandatory), pap smear (history of HPV make this mandatory), genetic testing for me and you (history of children with special needs makes this mandatory), and weight loss (arthritic knees will make the added weight of pregnancy painful and uncomfortable).
However, there is no blood test you can take or vaginal swab I can provide that can prepare you, White husband, to raise our Black child.
Yes, our Black child. Because even though our child will technically be biracial, having a biracial child who is half Black means you have a black child (by social, legal, and sometimes medical standards), and that comes with a whole new set of rules.
While your oldest White child may be targeted for his mental illness, statistically speaking, our Black daughter is 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police. So yes, there are some things you need to know before we embark on this journey.
Because in the words of Aladdin, you are about to enter a whole new world.
1. We’re Raising a Social Justice Activist
Today, more than ever in our lifetime, this is crucial. Not just to the world that our child will grow up in, but also, to our child’s survival.
The world at large will see our child as Black when it comes to crime, academia, housing, and everything else, but it will question their loyalty to their Jewish heritage when they stand up for the rights of people that look like me.
It’s crucial that we remind our child that one identity and experience does not negate the other, but that as a Black individual living in this country, it’s our collective responsibility to ensure that everyone is entitled to (and receives) fair and just treatment.
By that same token, we also need to teach them how to leverage their access to Whiteness and all of the privileges that come with it to help achieve this goal.
We need to gird them with the confidence, wherewithal, and history of both our heritages so that they can not only speak out against all the -isms with knowledge, but also with empathy.
It’s critical to our child that they understand that while they are in fact, Jewish, Puerto Rican, Panamanian, and African American, the beautiful bouncy curls and caramel colored skin that earned them oohs and aahs as children can also earn them an all expenses paid trip to Rikers Island, or worse, the morgue.
We are raising a social justice activist. Their life depends on it.
2. I Need You to Follow My Parenting Lead in Public
Black people are exonerated at an exponentially higher rate than other races (four times more than Latinx folks and 1.2 times more than White folks), which means that our child is more likely to be arrested, tried, and convicted for something they didn’t do – simply because of the color of their skin and the kink in their hair.
So if we’re out and about and I scold our child for touching things, or I preface every outing with “when we go in the store, you stay right by my side, and you don’t touch anything,” it’s not me being mean.
It’s me educating our child (as subtly as possible) in the ways of the world, so that we aren’t one day paying for court appeal after court appeal.
Yes, it seems old fashioned. But those old fashioned rules are proving to be tried, tested, and true in today’s times. I will need you to fall in line with me, and not admonish me with “they’re just kids.”
You will need to be right by my side as we explain to our child why these rules are important, and why if a punishment is incurred, why that is happening as well. Our child will need to see that we’re united in this teaching.
They’ll need to see that their future wellbeing is equally important to both of us.
As a matter of fact, it’s important for you to impart these rules when I’m not around. You can’t rely on your Whiteness as their parent to get them out of trouble, should trouble arise.
This will lead to the expectation that if they’re out with their White friends and trouble arises, their White friends will take up for them because “they weren’t doing anything different than us,” and all will be okay.
Sadly, we know that this is not usually the case because study after study has shown how Black people are inherently and subconsciously viewed as “bad” from as early as childhood. The likelihood that our child will be so lucky as to walk away with a slap on the wrist is slim to none.
So as strict as I am is as strict as you’ll need to be. I hope you’ll embrace your new role as Meanie-in-Chief.
3. If We Have a Daughter, Fill Up Her Cup of Self-Worth on the Daily
Yes, to the point of obnoxiously overflowing. I really mean that. Obnoxiously. Overflowing.
As Black women, our styles, beauty regimen, body shape, and facial features have historically been mocked, shunned, and in the case of Sarah Baartman, even put on display in a traveling circus.
When we’ve been nothing but ourselves, we’ve been told it is not good enough, not pretty enough, not right enough – simply not enough.
However, when these same looks, regimens, and shapes are worn, relished and co-opted by other races, it becomes socially acceptable, the hot new fad, and all the rage. But you know this. This is nothing new to you. What you may not know is how to counter this.
Well, I’ll tell you.
To proactively counter this, from minute one of her girlhood, she needs to hear the words “hello beautiful girl,” and every day from that day forward (unless she tells us otherwise).
From the moment we teach her her first anything – rolling over, holding her head up, tracking with her eyes – she needs to be told how fiercely intelligent and unstoppable she is.
Because husband, when a woman can turn in her graduate level paper and have her word choice questioned, and then be accused of plagiarism even though she has work published in a peer-reviewed journal, and is consistently on the Dean’s list, we know that implicit bias is alive and well.
It’s our job to help her steel herself against it, but also recognize it when it rears its ugly head. She needs to know that you, her dad, who looks like someone who may one day be her boss, expects nothing but the best from her because you are pouring your absolute best into her.
Also, little secret for you: The fact that our daughter will hold her head high as she crosses the stage at graduation will have less to do with the countless ballet classes we enroll her in, and more to do with the pride, determination, self-worth and confidence that we, her Black mom and White dad, have poured into her.
Our Black child will not wear inferiority as a cloak about her shoulders. This, you will help me make sure of, and this you should be incredibly proud of.
Husband, being the father of a Black child will not be easy, because by nature (and history), it forces us to confront the fact that the world we thought we knew is not the world we know at all.
There will be times you will feel a rage you didn’t know existed because of someone’s “innocent” microaggression towards our child. However, those moments will be countered with earth-shattering bliss as you watch our child break through every ceiling with ease.
And when those moments come, I’ll turn to you, give you some dap and whisper in your ear, “Congratulations, husband. We did that.”
But today, as we prepare ourselves to bring a beautiful Black child into this world, I only have one thing to say to you.
You got this.
Adiba Nelson is author of the children’s book Meet ClaraBelle Blue, and a columnist with her local paper, Tucson Weekly. She is staunchly committed to social justice, disability rights, size acceptance/body autonomy, pizza, and Chubby Hubby ice cream – in no particular order.