My Blood’s Not Black

Knowing your Great-Great Grandfather was born a slave changes the way you view your own strength. Deep inside you know that it is a miracle that your two feet are touching the earth. You imagine the slave ships carrying your ancestors and that they were sick, starving and forced to watch others tossed into the ocean. You feel them pushing their beliefs and culture deep inside of themselves to be lost forever. As a mother, your chest aches for the many women who watched their babies sold or beaten like cattle.

I am here and my family survived all that slavery had to dish out.

In January, with Black History Month quickly approaching, I gathered all of our books about African American culture and placed them in a basket in our living room. We started our Black History “Month” on Martin Luther Kind Day. I pulled out my book of Civil Rights martyrs and began to tell my children about all of the freedoms we would not have if we were living 50 years ago. This is where the trouble began.

I sat there with all of my pride and told my children that 50 years ago they would not have been able to go to school, swim in the same pool or even drink from the same water fountain as most of their friends. I told them our family could not have existed in peace. I showed them pictures of the marches, the signs that read “whites only” and burning churches. All of the historical details that made me so proud of my heritage.

Isaiah chimed in to say, “But I am not Black.”

“Honey, your Mommy is and that’s all that would have mattered.”

“But I am not Black”

“If you have one drop of black blood in you then you are Black.”

“My blood’s not black!”

Uh oh. I was shocked. Had I not told him? How could he not know? How could he not want to partake in all of my ancestral pride?

I had always intended to teach my son culture and not race. I recognize that we are a biracial family and that we have a lot of history to claim but isn’t mine the most interesting? Look at how great we were as a people to overcome such discrimination, such violence. Oh crap, my kid thinks he’s white!

Later on that month, I went to the Capital Area District Library to hear Tukufu Zuberi from the History Detectives speak about the Civil War. I went because I am in love with my culture and because I was seeking relevance for my children. I am also an extreme history dork and I was thrilled to meet the star of one of my favorite shows. Brad Pitt, eat your heart out! How is their heritage relevant to them if they don’t identify with the Civil Right’s Movement!?

Yeah, I was freaking out…

Here is the answer I found. The United States of America, after throwing off the unfair taxation without representation of the British, established a Democratic Government. Then they went down to the Black Continent and got themselves some slaves to build it. They were hypocrites. Freedom is not freedom unless it is for everyone.

The White men and women who took part of the Civil Right’s Movement understood that. The German’s hiding Jew’s during the Holocaust understood that. My friends from the Michigan Darfur Coalition understand that principle. The Somaly Mam Foundation understands, that if even a few children are forced into sexual slavery in the human trafficking industry, then none of our children are safe. Unfortunately it’s more than just a few.

My children do not have to view themselves as members of the Black race to understand that freedom is not freedom unless it is for everyone. I do not have to force the love of my culture upon them until they are pumping their fists like mini Black Panthers and claiming Africa as their homeland. It is imperative that they understand that injustice, no matter where it is or whom it affects, is injustice for us all and we are all responsible for fighting it.

So my kid thinks he’s white. You know what else he said when I described all of the inequalities suffered by Black people in the 50’s?

“Why Mom? Who cares if they drink from the same water fountain as me? That’s not a big deal.”

Isaiah knows that we are all equal and he spends time with me trying to save the world.
Thank God. I would be an idiot without him.

A picture Isaiah drew to invite me to his meeting about Darfur.
“Darfur Meeting at 6 o’clock”

Do you have a great book that celebrates another culture in your home library that you could recommend for my melting pot family?

6 thoughts on “My Blood’s Not Black

  1. As a Bi-racial child I learned about both cultures of my heritage. As he gets older it will fall into place. He will start to have a deeper understanding. Both of my kids love (now)the fact that I teach them both AA culture & German culture. Now at the age of almost 13 my son gives his knowledge to unkowning people he meets.

    Sadly to say even thorugh in 2010 we bi-racial folks do expereince the segreation from both side of the community( too dark to be considered white & too light to be considered black).

    I have realized that no matter what bi-racial children will have an idenitiy crisis at some stage. The need to fit in & belong is a natural one, don't worry I have been down that road. He will develop the sense of pride that you have in time.

    My daughter believed she was white for a couple of years that was a fight & a half in my house. In her mind b/c she looked more like her grandmother(the white one) she figured she was white. This started @ age 3 1/2 till she started kindergarten & saw other children. Now @ age 8 if someone calls her “white girl” she's ready to fight lol. She understands now where she comes from & who she is.

    It's not an easy road but us mixed kids gotta stick together! Keep ya head gurlie without kids we would be sane normal people lol.

  2. Thanks for posting this. As someone who will have a biracial child, I often wonder how I will teach my child about African-American history and culture without discounting his/her identity as a biracial person. It's a tough balance.

    How do you teach them pride, when so much of our history is rooted in struggle. Struggle that he/she will be so far removed from, it will likely be difficult for them to comprehend on a personal level. I know coming up, my mom made me watch “Eyes on the Prize” every year. It was brutal, but it was easy for me to relate to because my grandparents were still alive and I could talk to them and see the parts of Nashville that were (are) still segregated. It made it real to me and made me appreciate the freedoms I had and proud of what they had come through. I wonder if our children will be able to grasp that.

  3. Tameshia – I spoke to my Grandmother about this when Barack Obama was elected. Even I cannot grasp everything that the African American people have gone through in the last one hundred years and I had my elders to teach and show me. I am not sure he, like me, will ever grasp the entirety of our heritage. He will know at least and that knowledge will effect the way he views the world. It will also effect the way he reacts when he does face racism.

    I definitely saw WAY more racism from Black people who thought I was not Black enough. That was an obvious kind of racism. The undercover kind was dished out by White people who are more comfortable with you because your not THAT kind of Black. You know. Ghetto. You finish your words instead of the in' on everthin' :)

    I am offended by both statements and I hope by the time he is older he will encounter it far less then I ever did.We joke a lot about our heritage here too. So we don't take ourselves too seriously. We get a little Chris Rock up in here. The “N” word is forever banned though. That to me is never funny.

    I love that you are already thinking about how you want to raise your baby. The important thing, in my opinion, is that our children our love and accepted by us. So that when they go out into the world and they encounter ignorance they will know the issue does not lie with them.

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