When I entered into a cross-cultural relationship and decided to have kids, I didn’t really think much about the consequences of those actions in terms of being a white mother to coloured children. I think it was largely a white “thing” because as a white person growing up in South Africa, racism is not something that has ever affected me or my family. We have never been kicked out of a shop because of our colour or been attacked because of our colour. While I have seen racism, it has never affected me so, ignorantly, I assumed my children of colour would be immune. To a large extent they have been but there is a lot I have had to muddle my way through over the years, very little was expected to be honest.
Let’s start with the small stuff, like hair! You have all seen Kiara’s hair, it is this mass of gorgeous thick curls. People pay a lot of money for hair like hers but 10 years ago when the curls started exploding we had no idea what to do. I have horrible straight, fine hair that does nothing but hang. My mom has the same kind of hair, so that’s all we knew. Dealing with curls and the kind of curls Kiara has taken us about 5 years to get a handle on, we actually got our domestic to put corn rows in when she was a toddler because it was easier.. We have probably tried every single hair product on the market. (Please don’t suggest Johnsons Detangle shampoo, that is a great product but for my type of tangle, not Kiara’s tangle).
Then there is the racism. This is one of the hardest things to deal with because it is NOT the same as school yard bullying because you have freckles or red hair, this runs much deeper than that and I am unable to full identify with it. A while ago we went into a shop and Cam separated from me to look at whatever he was interested in. He was followed by one of the shop assistants, I didn’t think much of it until I started noticing that it happens quiet a bit, he will get watched or followed. Maybe it is because he is a child but those of you with older white kids, how often has this happened to them? As far as we have come in SA, the fact remains that certain assumptions are made about my kids based purely on the colour of their skin. My children have friends who are racists, they are challenging their beliefs and thoughts which is positive but Cameron has stood next to a child who has made very blatant racist remarks. We have been relatively lucky with this in general but I have friends with children of colour who have had to deal with much worse and it is very hard to try to help your child deal with a situation that you are not familiar with at all.
Probably the biggest thing I am struggling with is their sense of identity. I have spoken to a few parents who have adopted about this, very few, if any actually have thought about this and I think this is a mistake. This is something I am still trying to work through with my kids because it is a real issue as they get older and try to figure out who they are. They may have grown up in a white household with no interaction with coloured people but that does not mean they are white or that they will easily form an identity based on my whiteness OR that they should because, they are in fact not white.
It is too simplistic to say “colour doesn’t matter” because it DOES. Perceptions are still formed based on the colour of a persons skin, assumptions are made and things are said and I need to teach my kids how to handle those assumptions and perceptions, it is not always an easy thing to do.
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