Sunday, May 19, 2013

Ruminations on race

We walked to the store this evening, me carrying the reusable bags and my husband carrying the baby.  I had a chance to really look at them both, compare their profiles as they stared ahead at the trees and traffic and dog-walkers.  I've gone on about how similar their personalities are, but this was the first time I noticed how much they look alike as well.  She inherited his prominent upper lip and long head (granted, it's hidden under her mass of hair).  I see the beginnings of his well-defined cheekbones and narrow chin.

I still think she has my eyes.

Almost 10 months later and we still marvel at this little creature, how she's a perfect blend of the two of us, how we had absolutely no idea how she would look before she was born.  Every parent wonders who their baby will take after, how their features will blend to create a unique, yet similar, little person. Being from such different ethnic backgrounds, and looking as different from each other as we do, the spectrum was vast - Amaliya could have come out with very dark skin, very light skin, or anything in between.  Her facial features, as she grows, may gravitate more towards Caucasian or African, or both, or neither. Her hair! Her hair, with its infinite possibilities, deserves a post of its own.
I look at her, and I see beauty.  I see something special.  She is an amalgamation, not only of races, but of cultures.   An American by birth, her perspective will never be limited by nationality. Her African father, a man who is deeply connected to his home is ever seeking to deepen his understanding of his own culture, will teach her to see beyond the constructs of the society she is raised in.  We want her to be a part of each of our families, intimately understand the individual threads of her cultural background, and yet not be bound by either.  She was born out of the immense, boundless, mundane, worldly love shared between her father and I - a love that thrives despite numerous cultural differences.  She will always be evidence of the separation, yet proof of the connection.  She is the river, and the bridge.
I can't help but wonder, though, how the rest of the world is going to see her. Will they see beauty, or strangeness?  Will people see her as a symbol of how cultural divides can be conquered, how love transcends social boundaries.... or will some people look at her, and think she shouldn't exist at all?  That her father is a sell-out, her mother a love-starved man-thief - accusations that have been thrown at us on a regular basis since we first got together?  That is a lot of baggage for a little girl to carry.
When the other kids at school ask her innocently, as kids are prone to do, whether she is "black" or "white," how is she going to respond?  It is not fair that she will be confronted with deep questions about her identity at such a young age, but there it is.  This is the world we live in.
I know we have to help her navigate these issues.  I just hope we at least have a couple years to figure out how.

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