Motherhood & Race - A conversation continued.....
It was August of 2018, and we were so excited about Miles entering kindergarten. It was Miles’ first time attending school full time. Prior to this, he attended a Christian daycare for a half day. His preschool was predominantly white and in a part of Raleigh that was highly sought out for families.
Miles’ elementary school was right up the road from his preschool, it was a public school that specialized in World Languages and the fact that it was close to our home was a plus. Now, back to the first day.
It was August 2018, and we were overly excited about Miles entering kindergarten. Terrance and I walked him into the school hand in hand and wished him well. I did not cry or do anything dramatic because I knew he was ready.
I ran some errands one of which was going into Target and picking out things that I didn’t need, I enjoyed a latte with a friend, sat, and got some work down as I watched the clock for 3:45 to roll around. Finally, 3:45 was near so I hopped in the car and headed towards the school, did I mention I was one of the first moms in the carpool line? Don’t worry, that only lasts for a little while.
Miles enters the car and the questions started pouring out of me, I honestly couldn’t help. Our conversation went a little something like this:
Me: "How was your day? "
Miles: "Good "
Me: "Did you eat all your lunch? "'
Miles: "Yea! He replied"
Me: "Was your teacher nice? "
Miles: "Um huh!"
Me: "With my 4th and final questions: did you make any friends? "
I honestly couldn’t stop asking questions so I call my last question a bonus question because I couldn’t help it!
Me: "What were their names?"
Miles:" Idk, I can’t remember. "
It was obvious that I was way more excited about the first day of school than he was and honestly, I was okay with it. But his next statement/question threw me for a loop, and I was not prepared for it at all:
Miles: "Mommy, there were a lot of kids at school today with the same skin as me, does that mean that they are my brothers and sisters”
I paused for a moment because I could either go super Jesus on Miles or give him an answer like “no they aren’t your brothers and sisters”. But if you know me, I went super Jesus on Miles and said “yes! They are your brothers and sisters in Christ” and how we are all God’s children which makes us all siblings. It was probably way more than what he was asking for but listen I am that “mom”.
But when I arrived home mom's quilt settled in. I asked myself the question “had I not exposed my black son to children that look like him” now you may be wondering why that question from Miles would spark mom's guilt and shock. The reason this was a shocking moment for me was that my experience growing up was an all-Black experience and because his experience was not, I felt the weight of it all.
Were the parks that we were choosing to play at like his preschool? Were the sports we were exposing Miles to practiced at locations that were a totally different demographic from him? Was the place we were choosing to worship the Lord all white? Well, the answer is YES!
I had somehow not exposed my son to people that looked like him. You see my experience was different. I had a totally Black experience. In fact, I never was around people who didn’t look like me. The white people were the minority in my circles. I was always told that I had to be smarter, study harder, and overall better than my white counterparts because this world, and I quote “ain’t built for Black folk”. I had no choice but to operate differently. So, the fact that my Black son's 1st encounter with a school full of Black kids was to ask the question if they were his siblings bothered me. The idea that he was less familiar with Black and Brown children touched me deeply.
The fact that we owned what seemed like every book by Black authors, or his father was the executive director of the NAACP for the state of North Carolina wasn’t enough. I needed radical change, so I prayed. I went to Lord and asked for more moms with Black children and tangible things that I could do to make sure that Miles was growing up in an inclusive environment. I began scheduling playdates at parks all around Raleigh all while maintaining and cultivating the relationships that we had already developed.
I wanted Miles to be in spaces that valued his skin and who he was as a person. I wanted to dwell around moms who were opened to having conversations around race issues, equity, and inclusion. I wanted to know that when things got hard around the height of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmad Arbery that they were holding the Black and Brown community up in prayer. I wanted Mom friends that love us genuinely.
Throughout my motherhood and even before kindergarten. There are so many things that I have had to address with Miles. Some of which include:
“Mommy can I change my hair color”
“Mommy he asked me why my skin looks like that”
“Mommy do you think that he didn’t pick me because I am Black”
While I have addressed these questions head-on with my child. I always wonder if my answer were logical or were they emotional, I digress. So, I leave you will these few things:
What questions are you hearing from your children?
How does your story contribute to the answer to the questions that Miles has about his skin?
What is your story surrounding motherhood and race?
At the Thrive Motherhood Event, we move into workshop time and I had the moms share their stories of Motherhood and Race. We also answered a few questions within a small group and then as a large group. We came up with a tangible list of things that we can walk away with.
Photos by: Anna Teem Photography
I want to personally thank Thrive Motherhood for being open and willing to hold space on the topic of Motherhood & Race. Also, thank you to the Flourish Market and the women who showed up. I am forever grateful!!!!