Is she yours? Where’s her father from? And even: ‘What’s her lineage’?
In Zahra’s short lifetime I’ve had a lot of enquiries from complete strangers about Zahra’s ethnic origin. Although, I’m not asked if I’m the nanny: a common experience of black mothers of biracial children. I understand curiosity but I wonder why we prioritise knowing someone’s racial identity above everything else? Why do we prefix descriptions with racial identity but not for white people?
Because the world is all about ‘us’. There is no need to state it. If I need to buy a plaster it already matches my skin tone. This ‘othering’ of my baby makes me think about our narrow definitions of racism. One of the frustrating things I’ve noticed from this moment is the lack of critical thinking about these issues, cue: ‘all lives matter’. Our definition of racism needs to go beyond the n-word, black face and direct discrimination. This is just the tip of the iceberg. White supremacy runs so deep its like the “carpet and wallpaper” (Race Traitor @theheartradio)
This subtlety to white people means we often lack the awareness to see most of it. I will never fully understand Zahra’s experience of growing up in a whitewashed world; and as her mother this does not make me somehow exempt from racism myself, or any ‘less white’. I’ve been doing lots of reading, listening and reflecting over this past week but I’ve still not ‘arrived’. I never will. This is a lifetime’s work. It’s ok to get it wrong, to be called out and to feel uncomfortable. This is where the real work begins.
As a baby learns to walk she doesn’t give up just because she stumbles. Ask yourself: What is it that makes me feel uncomfortable? Why do I feel defensive when I’m challenged? Why do I feel the need to change the conversation or avoid the subject? As a white person I can choose to walk away from the difficult work, that is my privilege. Comfort is my privilege as is safety when I need the police. But I will continue to do the work. Don’t be afraid to have the difficult conversations, to acknowledge your lack of knowledge, and to take those tentative steps. Let your journey continue long past this moment.