Well, this week has been quite eventful.
White supremacy being addressed in the knitting community? Whodathunkit? Welcome new readers & fellow knitters. Some of y’all might drop off if/when you realize I’m not your cup of tea. To the rest of you?
One topic that’s especially been on my mind is what it’s like to raise a biracial child. Below is the Bill of Rights of People with Mixed Heritage. I didn’t even know it existed until this past week.
This is an interesting list, and I am proud of the fact that some of these items are things I already do with my daughter. As a Black woman with unapologetic brown skin, I have heard a lot of dumb things come out of people’s mouths from when I began to show during my pregnancy until now.
- “Oh you ARE married? Oh good.” Nice. You think I’m the unwed Black mother. Cool.
- “She’s gonna have such good hair and nice tan skin.” So her skin will be nice if it’s tan? And yes, she sure will have good hair because I will make sure it’s moisturized and put into protective styles with products that suit her hair type. Shut up.
- “Matt’s white, so she’ll be in between your colors right?” She’ll be turquoise, actually.
- “Oh, you’re her mother?” No, I’m the nanny, just like you thought before. I’m just super dedicated to my job so I brought this weeks-old newborn to the pediatrician. LOVE. MY. JOB.
- One thing I’ve talked about with friends is when people treat my daughter differently and I know it’s because she’s biracial. I’ve been in the Apple store with her running whole ass laps around a display table and people say, “oh, she’s so cute, though. Let her run.” Excuse me, ma’am, do you have Apple money to replace these iPads if she knocks them over? Because, right now, you’re just waiting for your Genius Bar appointment.
- “Oh she’s so cute.”Would you think she was that cute if she were fully Black? Would you still say random things to me in passing about your own motherhood experiences? I do get people who share with me and I think her lighter skin gives them an open. I’m a little dark, but a white man had a baby with me, so clearly he saw that I’m “one of the good ones” and that validates my whole existence & character as a human being. They feel comfortable to approach us because her light skin reminds them of their own kids. It’s easier to see her as a child if she looks like their child. If not, well then, she’s just the usual hyper-sexualized Black girl, given less room to be an actual child, and labeled as a problem way earlier, and more often, in life than her non-Black counterparts (<—that article is about this book).
- I’ve had other kids ask me why I’m dark and she’s light. I tell them that her dad is white. I then explain that my dad is darker than me and my mom is like half a shade off me, too. To see a dark-skinned Black girl realize that, yes, we do come in all shades, that her shade is NOT an accident, and that somebody’s not just telling her some kumbayyah stuff? Black Girl Magic for real.
- I want my daughter to be herself. She doesn’t have to be whatever stereotypical ideal of either race to fit in with anyone. She doesn’t need to be around them if that’s the case. However, I will educate her on the dynamics of being Black and white. I mean, it was only in 2011 that 46% of people in MS wanted to ban interracial marriage. *adds MS to the list of places in which I will never live.*
- I’d rather that she call herself biracial. A friend who is biracial has a rightful peeve when people ask her about her ethnicity. “They ask, ‘What are you? Are you mixed?’ What do you mean? Mixed with what, flour and eggs?”
- “Are they/you adopted?” Don’t ask this. Seriously. If someone asks this of you, ask them what they gain from knowing that. You wouldn’t (at least I hope you don’t!) ask a woman if she’s pregnant or why she doesn’t want/have kids. Be a bit more civil and decline from asking about someone’s parenthood route. Kids are expensive as hell, which bring me to…
- …that fine intersection of race & class. They always intersect and at multiple points. There’s a difference between educating knitters on the pros & cons of yarn at certain price points. When I worked in a shop, I had a woman actually tell me, “Oh, I left my pattern at my other house. Don’t you hate it when that happens?” At the time, I was still living at home. She really thought I was going to know what that felt like.
- To bring it back to the knitting community, there’s something to be said for seeing representation in your creative world to show you that you CAN do something. Until this week, I’ve seen Black knitters here and there on social media. I’ve worn Shirley Paden’s design book down. But where are all the designers. How come we don’t see each other unless we actively seek each other out in pockets on social sites? Even in sewing (Rashida Coleman-Hale, Jasika Nicole, Faith Ringgold), there aren’t too many I see. Cross-stitching? Forget it. Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery can include ( maybe one or two) characters of other shades in their designs and all I saw in the forums & groups were women changing it to look like them. Guess what? BIPOC have had to do this for a long time, and a customization option wasn’t always there even. I used to say that I was going to be the Black Elizabeth Zimmermann. Why haven’t we had one already, though? And why can’t she (or he) be the “whoever they are”, and not the Black version of someone else?
- This week has given me a boost of confidence that I am holding on to & using to find my voice again. I kept thinking I had to be like this person or that person. “If I style my pattern layout like this…” or “If I just learn to make these kinds of garments….” I’ll make what I make and either people are down or they aren’t.