Kwynne left a long and very thoughtful (and though provoking) comment on my post Making Space for Race, that I thought I would respond to here, rather than in the comments section. Hopefully this will interest everyone, if not, well, then, just think about cheese.
Kwynne, thanks for commenting. I was really wondering what you had to say on this subject.
Yes, I am saturated with white privilege. I am uncomfortably aware of this just as I have very little practical knowledge of how to step away from it, how to dismantle it. But I realize that the very fact that Kristin and I were upset that someone would dare to racialize our child is based on the fact that whites have the luxury of not expecting that their children will be racialized.
We did talk about what birthing and raising a biracial child would mean. From the time our donor offered (yes, he offered, we didn’t know him well at the time, so we never would have asked) to the time we actually conceived, Kristin and I (and our donor) had countless discussions about how we would raise our child, how we would feel about parenting a biracial child, how we would present him/her to the world until he/she could present herself. We were aware that we were in a unique situation since most biracial children are either adopted (not the bio kid of either parent) or are being raised by a biracial couple. We wondered if we were capable of being good parents to our child. Before we accepted his offer we talked with each other, with our friends, with therapists, with the (potential) donor. And we decided that in terms of expectations, availability, temperament, and medical/ sexual history he was the perfect donor. And though we heard the arguments against bringing a biracial child (particularly a biracial child of lesbians) into the world, they sounded very much like the reasons against queers having children at all: how could you willingly bring a child into the world knowing that people will have a hard time accepting it, that people will treat it differently because of who it is and who it’s parents are? We don’t buy that argument, and finally we decided that to turn a perfect donor down because of skin color would be racist and hypocritical. And, further, we felt that even having the discussion in the first place was racist and hypocritical. So we drew up donor contracts and sealed the deal.
After we began inseminating we read articles and websites and books like “Does Anyone Look Like Me?” and we talked and we talked and we talked some more. And it felt academic. And it felt hypothetical. And still we felt prepared. And then we conceived and skin color and racial heritages seemed so much less important than simply getting this child healthily into the world. And after she was born, skin color still didn’t matter. I don’t look at my child and see a raced child. I see my beautiful daughter. When the comment on her face was made, Kristin and I had to get out the baby pictures of our Caucasian friends and hold them to Julia’s baby pictures to see that she does, indeed, look different. Blind, naive, yes, we are.
I hear what you say about Julia never being accepted as white. You are right about that. She won’t be. But I worry that she will never be accepted as black by the black community either. So Kristin’s and my task becomes two-fold -- trying to educate those (including ourselves) who will have a major influence on her life; and trying to give Julia the tools and the love to hold to her own and move through both worlds as gracefully as she can as well as to deal with racism – whether it comes from the outside world, or from her parents and family. Yes, I know that despite my best efforts she will encounter some residual, unconscious racism from me, and I know this will hurt her probably more than racism coming from outsiders. This is similar to the way I feel when I experience homophobia from my parents and family – despite their monumental efforts to understand and educate themselves. Such things seem impossible to eradicate completely. Though one must not stop the effort. And so the discussion continues.
Now another question if y’all don’t mind:
When Kristin got pregnant, I started to join on-line groups and websites dedicated to the care of black hair. Silly, I know, but I barely know how to take care of my own super-straight, baby-fine, oily-if-you-look-at-it-twice hair, let alone something so delicate and beautiful and curly as African-American hair. And I learned something. Well, something was explained to me. See, when I taught pre-school, we would have these black girls, sometimes as young as 2, with these full heads of extensions. I used to feel so bad for the two year old who could barely hold her head up under the weight of braids and beads and she definitely looked uncomfortable trying to sleep. But on website after website I would read black women telling white women that they were seriously damaging their daughter’s emotional and social health by keeping their girl’s hair short, not putting extensions in their hair, and/or not keeping their hair braided/twisted/beaded. And I read on Daddy, Papa and me about their hair-related decisions, and I worried. As a white mother raising a biracial daughter I don’t want to do anything to alienate her from the black community. As a lesbian, I strongly object to forced gender conformity (one of the main reasons against cutting hair short is so the girl won’t look like/be called a boy) especially one that results in discomfort for appearance’s sake. As a lesbian in Utah, I am very much aware of the fact that very few people will see me as Julia’s legitimate parent and so I am sensitive to anything that remotely touches upon parental legitimacy and authority. Our donor doesn’t seem to think it’s a big deal what we do with Julia’s hair, to extend or not to extend doesn’t matter to him. I did finally find a site that focuses on natural hair (no extensions) and I plan to use that site as an educational tool. Still, I wonder what other people think of this. Not that Julia’s hair is long enough to worry about now, but I’d like to be a little pro-active here.