I don't know if you've noticed, but Meg is black. Or African American if you prefer. Whatever you want to call it, Meg has a very different skin tone, and very different hair than Ryan and me. I would love to say that it doesn't matter, and that no one really questions it, or says anything, but that would be a lie. In fact, the first thing most people ask (after commenting on how Meg is the most beautiful baby in the world, of course), is to ask the ethnicity of her birth parents. When I say they are black, sometimes they ask how dark they are, and how dark we expect Meg to be.
Yeah, I know. It's 2009.
It isn't that I think people are being racist. Well, maybe some of them are, I don't know, and in this case I want to give people the benefit of the doubt. I think people are actually trying to be complimentary when they say that "black babies are always the most beautiful," or that she has a perfect "Nubian head."And it could just be that I am being overly sensitive, expecting people to be racist, and so looking for it in any comment. After all, they can't make comments about how much she looks like me or Ryan, and they have to say something, so the race question is an easy one. Also, I think that we have spent so many years trying to pretend that race is not an issue, that we are all "colorblind" that people are not aware of when a line is crossed or something inappropriate is said.
Like it or not, race is still the central dividing line in this country. Being Caucasian, Ryan and I have had years to not have to really address the issue, or say we are involved in the fight for civil rights without actually having a stake in it (well, we've always had a stake in the the fight for equality, after all, who wants to live in a world with racism). All of that changed the day Meg was born. Now we have a big stake. Well, actually, she's only six pounds nine ounces right now.
Ryan and I are handling the race issue in our typical ways. Ryan is approaching it cerebrally, reading articles and books, and talking about how to introduce Meg to the discussion on race, and how various prejudices will impact her life, and ours. I, on the other hand, am taking a simpler approach: I am focusing on the day to day aspects of Meg's ethnicity, worrying about her hair and skin. Oh, and if anyone tries to hurt my daughter, or tell her anyone is better or worse because of her because of her race, I plan to punch them, hard. Ryan says that will teach Meg that differences can be solved with violence, and so I told him that will make sure she is out of sight before the punching begins.
Actually, I don't know how I am going to handle the race issue, which is probably why I am so full of rambling bravado about it. All I know is that right now I look at my perfect daughter, and I couldn't care less what color she is, as long as she doesn't turn purple because that means she isn't breathing. However, I know that I am going to have to care about what color she is, because it is part of who she is, and because, like it or not, it is a big part of how others will see her. To try to ignore it, to not realize her hair and skin are different, and must be treated differently, would be a disservice. So would not preparing her to face ignorant bullies trying to bring her down using arguments that have been disproved hundreds of times before.
I know I am up to the task. I have already ordered books galore to help her understand, and every hair product under the sun to make sure she is well kept. Oh, and we might as well get stock in Cetaphil lotion for the amount we use on her skin. These will be the first tools in my arsenal, which I am sure will get bigger as Meg gets older. For now though, I figure the best defense is a good offense. I just answer people's questions directly and honestly, and hold my baby tight.