Tag Archives: race

apparently i’dda been on the bus

this morning dutch was flipping through a book about dr. martin luther king that he had gotten from his school library. he stopped and pointed to a picture of people on a bus and here’s the conversation that followed:

dutch: see, the brown people couldn’t get on the bus. me and daddy wouldn’t have been able to get on the bus but you would. [in the book the whites were illustrated on the bus while the blacks stood outside of the bus.]

mama: well, why do you think that?

dutch: you would because you’re white.

pump the brakes. my child thinks i’m white.

i guess that when he compares my skin color to his skin color then yes, i probably do seem a bit white. or peach as he usually calls me. it’s all good. i used to refer myself to peach as a kid too. it the crayola crayon color that i matched best.

lightskinnned. red bone. yellow girl. zebra. oreo. high yella. light bright. reds. i’ve been considered it all, but never white. and i definitely don’t think this high yella lightskinned red bone would’ve been able to pass back in the day.

so yes, we’re definitely in need of a skin color conversation, but not today. i just had four wisdom teeth pulled.

now he knows he’s black

one thing i love about little kids is they make friends with everyone. it doesn’t matter what color a kid is, what size a kid is…a friend is a friend is a friend. there’s no black or white, brown or yellow. if only the world could be as color blind as small children.

about a year ago i showed dutch, my five-year-old son, this picture:

i told him that his lolo (his grandfather) was in this picture and his response was, “look at lolo with his brothers!” and all i could do was laugh.

see that cool white dude sittin’ up there on the fence? that’s my pop. dutch didn’t make a color distinction when he saw this picture. he just saw his lolo with some other dudes and thought, they must be brothers.

and you know, i thought that was pretty daggone cool. especially knowing my pop and his feelings about his friends that he grew up with in his s.e. dc high school. they were brothers. black. white. it didn’t make a difference.

not to them anyway.

yesterday dutch brought home a book from his school library about jackie robinson. me and my husband were excited about his choice because up until this point he’s picked out books about wolves and sharks and crocodiles. so we were all siced, like yeah, jackie robinson!!

but you know, there’s really no way you can tell jackie robinson’s story without mentioning that although he was great, he endured a tremendous amount of racism as the first black baseball player.

so here it was, the moment when i’d have to explain skin color to dutch. black is not a description he uses to explain himself. black? he doesn’t know anything about being black. ask dutch who he is and he’ll tell you he’s five and he’s a big boy (of course, because he’s five now, remember?) and he wants to play football when he gets older and have a black motorcycle. but this book all of a sudden brought color to the forefront. black. white. differences that he never paid attention to.

so i explained his skin color to him, and also that i’m half black and half white. i told him that he’s black and so is his daddy and brother and most of his family. it was an interesting experience to say the least and yet another thing i’ll add to the checklist of things my friends and family didn’t tell me about parenthood.

it’s not like telling my son he’s black is information i was trying to withhold from him. i mean, really, imagine that! but honestly, it wasn’t a conversation i was necessarily ready to have. reading a book that tells about the horrible experiences jackie robinson dealt with at the hands of white folk, and then saying, and oh by the way, you’ve noticed you’re lolo and your nana are white, right? was a wee bit awkward.

obviously, we don’t live in a colorblind world and in time dutch will learn more than enough about his blackness and the injustices that blacks have experienced. but i want him to understand that not all white people are racists who just want to keep the black man down.

i’ll tell him that although some white people hate black people, i was never a shame to the white side of my family. in fact, my pop’s brother was mixed also. i realize that my experience growing up biracial in the washington, dc area is different from what many other biracial women experienced. sure, i was the lightest brightest thing in my anacostia elementary school and i was later teased and called oreo when i transferred to pg county schools in maryland, but it never fazed me because somehow i had a strong sense of self about being mixed. i just figured that the other kids had the problem and not me.

one day i’ll tell dutch about how his great-grandmother (my paternal grandmother) worked for a black man named andy who disrespected her and treated her horribly, but when he became older and had no family and nowhere to go she took him in her home because that’s how big her heart was. i’ll tell him that when my grandmother passed there were more black folk there than white folk because people loved my grandmother. and not because she was a little nice white lady, but because she was a good woman. period. a lil’ feisty in her younger years, but good nonetheless.

oh, and andy? well, he outlived my grandmother and as my grandmother wished, he stayed in her home. i’ll tell dutch about how his lolo went over to see him, took him to doctors appointments and cared for him just like family, and when andy became elderly and ill and later passed it was my pop and stepmother who were there. his ashes sit on a shelf in my pop’s home.

me and dutch talked for a little while yesterday about skin color and i’m not sure that he fully grasped it all. in time he will. and i can’t wait to share the stories of our family so that he will know that although skin comes in different shades, it ain’t always about color. as corny or cliche as it might sound, it’s what inside that truly counts the most.

i really do belong to my mama

it’s been an interesting ride being a mixed chick. i’m darker than my pop and lighter than my mama so there’s always a bit of confusion going on as far as exactly who i am to these two folks.

for instance, while my mama was sitting in the hospital bed after giving birth to me she was waiting for the nurse to bring me back from the nursery when she noticed that the nurse stopped right at her door with a newborn in tow. the nurse then slowly moved on after taking one look at my brown mama, and then one look at little white ol’ me. my mama yelled for the nurse to come back and after a few wristband checks, it was determined that this little white baby, did indeed belong to this brown woman.

the second case of confusion happened when my pop decided to take a crew of 8- and 9-year-old girls (me, my cousins and girlfriends) to an amusement park called king’s dominion that’s located right outside of the dc metropolitan area. just imagine a cool white guy with a band of brown little girls in every hue. i’m sure all kinds of assumptions were made that day. my pop told me years later that when we stopped for a quick bathroom break a woman walked over to him and said how wonderful she thought it was that he would pick up children from an orphanage and take them out for a day at king’s dominion. oh, the nerve… well, naturally my pop set her straight on that one.

then there was the time when i was 11 or 12 and i entered a community beauty pageant. my pop and uncle jay (my pop’s best buddy who’s also white) came through to show their support. but of course, the pageant’s organizers didn’t assume that one of them could actually be a parent of one of the girls. oh no. the organizers thought my pop and uncle jay were there to report on the event for a local newspaper.

as if.

when i was in my late teens my pop and i were at the mall when we were mistaken by a coworker of his as being a couple. the comment to my pop was along the lines of, “hey, nice going…”

then there was the time my pop went with me to get my car repaired (you know, to make sure i didn’t get ganked and taken for every little penny i owned) and the mechanic thought we were married.

my mother and i have even been mistaken as a lesbian couple. twice!

i find all of this stuff pretty interesting and funny to say the least. people always jump to conclusions about other people, but you never really know what’s going on in people’s lives unless you know them.

but i’m not going to sit here and play innocent when it comes to guessing about folks. i remember when my son was about five or six months old and my husband and i heard an unexpected knock at the door. my husband went to the door and after i asked him who it was he responded, “i dunno…some white chick.”

indeed, it was our blond, light eyed neighbor who lives in the next building. after i went over to open the door for her she laughed and said, “i heard him say, ‘some white chick.'” i kinda cringed from embarrassment, but she took it all in stride as she handed us a few things for our new baby that had been gently used by her own son who is just a few months older than dutch.

over time my neighbor and i have become closer. our sons play together while our husbands sit back and talk smack about which football team is the best. one day my son and i were visiting their place when she pulled out a picture of her dad and i was in total shock.

her dad was a full-blood native american with warm brown skin.

so hey, you just never really know, do you?

you know, you remind me of…

all throughout my life people have said, “you know, you remind me of…”

or, “did anybody ever tell you you favor…”

or, “hey, is your name lisa ’cause i had a friend named lisa in the 2nd grade and you look…”

i even had a guy (who was really popular in the dc area at the time because he played in a popular go-go band) try to hit on me and when he realized i wasn’t trying to give him any play he said, “you know, you look just like my wife.”

i really didn’t know how to respond to that one.

apparently i favor quite a few different folks. or so some seem to think.

the first time i remember someone saying that i looked like someone famous was in the 3rd grade. i was sitting on the floor (i guess it was reading time or something. i don’t really recall whyi was on the floor) and a visitor came to our classroom. she was talking to my teacher when all of a sudden her eyes locked with mine and she said, “she looks just like brooke shields!”

brooke shields?!

maybe it was because we both had thick, caterpillar-like eyebrows and long dark brown hair. that’s about all i had in common with brooke.

“a different world” first aired in 1987 and everybody, i mean, everybodytold me i looked like jasmine guy. it didn’t help that i later dated a slim, brown-skinned brother who kinda favored dwayne wayne a little bit.

in 1991 it was prom time and i told my hairdresser i wanted an up-do. after she was done she said, “ooooooooooo… you look like julia roberts in pretty woman. and everybody in the salon seemed to agree with her.

ummmmmm… she was a ho in that movie, but thanks!

at one point i stopped straightening my hair and i just went natural with it. my hair was (and still is) a mass of curly craziness. it was right around the time that mariah carey came out. you guessed it, “you look like mariah!!” i really didn’t. we both just happened to be rockin’ the same wild locks.

Continue reading you know, you remind me of…