“Mommy, I don’t want to be black like you.”
Almost instantly, I could feel the eyes of strangers upon me. It was as though a spotlight had suddenly appeared overhead, and dozens of shoppers spontaneously generated behind me, all eager to see how I would screw up this moment.
Any second I expected a voice on the intercom to come on alerting the oblivious shoppers to the incident. “Attention Target shoppers. We have a black mother dealing with an identity crisis on aisle 3. I repeat, we have a black mother dealing with an identity crisis on aisle 3.”
Because the truth is, in that brief moment, I was terrified. I didn’t want my daughter to be black. Because to be a black woman in 2017 is a lot of things. And none of them are easy.
It means pretending not to hear comments that are intentionally designed to provoke a reaction of you.
It means you’ll battle with double consciousness and are more likely to silently struggle with depression.
It means you’ll deal with daily micro-aggressions that will eat away at your self-worth.
It means struggling not to buckle under the unbelievable pressure of being the model minority.
It means that no matter how many injustices you have experienced, someone, most likely from your inner circle, will have a counter argument at the ready designed to undermine and invalidate your experiences.
But mostly, it means your journey will be emotionally and physically exhausting.
The reality is that my daughter is so young she likely doesn’t yet understand the complexity of racial identity, or the heavy burden that comes along with being black. But, she’s not so young that she’s hasn’t started to notice the subtle difference between my husband and I, namely our skin color.
And that’s why this conversation was so important. I couldn’t afford to wait until someone else took control and led my daughter down the path of self-hate.
Control the conversation, or let it control her