Newly Minted

Newly Minted
Right after I was hooded

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Are you her mother?

My new job and finishing a dissertation have been murder on being a Mommy. I finally, after we survived a bout of "flu-like" symptoms, made it into my daughter's classroom on Friday. It was her Halloween parade. Parents were allowed to watch the parade and then were banned from coming in and being part of the students' party. It had become too hard for the school personnel to keep track of who was coming and going at these parties. So, access and family support had been cut off for all students who don't have stay at home mothers, fathers, or grandmothers who can commit to a year of being room parents. This is the first year I have not been a room parent. Normally I would have been in three or four times already to read, to help, and to make sure my child and my child's classroom community knew who we were.

I decided to limit the damage of class and gender performance discrimination by joining my child at lunch. I signed in and had my daughter's pitchfork confiscated "it is a weapon you know" the principal said. I saw three pitchforks in the parade, but you cannot frisk EVERYONE now can you. I got to the cafeteria late, because I had stopped to buy said pitchfork, and my daughter was still in line. As I stepped through the door the bell for "12 minutes left rang", my child's right to eat a healthy meal at a healthy pace is another blog at another time.

Anyway...I stepped into the cafeteria and several children yelled my name. I used to be a good mother and be there all the time so a lot of the third graders know me already. My daughter waved from line, because stepping out of line is a HUGE infraction in third grade and there is always an angry staff person there to remind you of that. I went over to my daughter and she wrapped herself around me. She was so very excited to see me. We hugged for a couple of seconds; and suddenly I realized children were staring at us. My daughters' new classroom is full of "new" students. She learns differently so her class if filled with other students who learn differently as well. This group includes a lot of students who move in and out of the districts around here for whatever reason. Many of them I had never seen. Finally one timid little girl poked me on the leg and said, "excuse me, are you her mother?" My daughter tipped her head up to look at me and declared, "of course she is". The other little girl stepped back into line with her fingers in her mouth and a look of wonder on her face.

We repeated this scene five different times with five different little girls. It wasn't until I was at Kmart that I realized what had happened. While processing with the supervisor at the layaway counter, I realized that those little girls had never seen a black Mommy and a white baby. That to me isn't the big a-ha here. I understand THAT. I never get used to people not immediately knowing I am her mother, but I understand it. What stood out to me as a new thought or realization was that these little girls knew that we had a mother/daughter relationship. They could see by the way my daughter and I were acting that we were mother/daughter. It was an intimate familial performance that, despite the aesthetic information provided them, led them to the possibility that we might be mother and daughter.

Yet, they could not TRUST that information BECAUSE of the aesthetic. They still had to ask, and seemed to remain a bit confused after they received the answer. It is a bit hurtful when even third graders question whether I am my daughter's mother. At least these encounters ended with confused stares from cute little faces. I have had this experience my whole life, and often it has ended with far more pain and anger.

I can remember being no older than my daughter. My mother and I were out getting fire extinguishers filled (they used to do that). The guy in the store asked my mother "isn't it a bit late for the Fresh Air kids to still be here. You keepin' yours?" My mother went ballistic. She was so angry that my step-father had to go back and get the extinguishers. I can remember one other time, aside from the same classroom scenario I shared at the beginning of this entry which occurred every year, where the aesthetic difference between my mother and I trumped intimate familial relation. We went to the local Denny's (or was it still Sambos...God that place irritates me no matter what you call it) and after waiting in line an inordinate amount of time; it was our turn to be seated. It was my mother, step-father, sister, baby brother, and myself. We had stood in line a good 10-15 minutes (yeah, to eat at DENNY'S) and had gotten yelled at for knocking over a stanchion. When the waitress went to seat us, the only people in line, she stepped in between my family and I as they entered the dining room and said something like "wait your turn". Are we kidding, I was no more than 10 or 11 years old and there was not another adult in line waiting. Who did she think I was with. My mother and step-father jumped ALL OVER that waitress. I don't remember the rest, but I know my family and I am guessing it was not pretty.

I have had black women on the street and at the bus stop me with both of my boys and comment on how light they are. The interaction with black folks is different in that they KNOW these are my children; they are simply disgusted that they are mixed. One black woman on the city bus looked in my front pack at my sleeping three month old and said "if I had one that light, I would never have kept him". Betraying my race by keeping my own offspring. Grand.

My final example of this kind of harm would be my son's fourth grade picnic. I had just had my daughter in April, the picnic was in June. I had parked away from the pavilion so I could nurse her; not because I am afraid to nurse in public, but because I don't have time to educate other people's parents. I got done nursing my daughter and walked back over to the pavilion when my son's teacher grabs me. She is laughing and says "you are never going to believe this. One of the other mothers just came over and told me that someone was WET NURSING in the parking lot and that she was offended." That mother was one of our born again christian mothers who was always passing judgement on others. But wet nursing, really? How does someone even come up with that? I guess if you will have sex with people of opposite races, you will do anything.

The good news is, as I was standing there theorizing at Kmart with this stranger, the answer to the racial divide IS the intimate. Familial relationships are the next wave of racial understanding. Long before this became about race, relationships - deep intimate loving relationships WERE how we learned about other cultures and other lands. Those brides from Japan, Vietnam, and Korea changed the face of the United States. My hat is off to those wives and mothers, because I don't know what that had to be like to raise that first generation mixed race children in a land where they and their marriages were as foreign as their children. Their mixed race children were not hidden inside the other, they were out there for everyone to see as mixed race. Those are stories I hope to capture and share soon.

More soon...


  1. I've really enjoyed reading your blog today. I would love to invite you to a new interracial family discussion community.

    Discussion forum link

    Main site link

    Blessings to you and your family.

  2. Lorrie: Thank you very much. I will go to your link. Would you be able to tell me how you found my blog? I would very much like to have it gain a little more visibility. I was afraid at first so I didn't mind; but you are the first person in a long time to find me. Thanks.

  3. hey.... i hardly need to say, but i hear you on this post. i very often have a hard time dealing with, knowing how to deal with, the various (negative) reactions of black and white people to me a) being married to a white guy, and b) having at least one daughter who many people think looks nothing like me. that "is she yours" question irks me to no end.

    love all your photos...

  4. Hello. I love the way you express yourself!

    Well, my name is Amaia and I'm Spanish, though I live in Ireland. I've found your wonderful blog through the organitation above,, even if I'm not a member of it, but a guess.

    I didn't want to go without let you know that reading about your family, your experiences and yourself, I've felt very close to you. I've shared some same experiences and feelings. I'm part of a mix raced couple myself (I'm white, my husband is a black African, ad we have two sons and other on the way)and reading you make me realised that I'm not alone. There are great normal people living and having some problems that we have.

    Congratulations for your family.

    Thank you and goodbye.


  5. Thank you Amaia. Congratulatiosn to you and your family. I really like I hope you think about joining us. I would love it if you would join my blog and write as well. I think many people and families would benefit from hearing these stories. Keeping reading and writing Amaia and thank you for your comments. Noelle