When I first became a mother to a child of a different race, I was terrified of black women. My worst fear was that a black woman might grab my baby from my arms and tell me I wasn’t fit to parent this child. I now see that this nightmare scenario had more to do with my own insecurities as a new parent than with reality.
As my love for my daughter grew, my eyes opened and my walls shrank. More often than not, I am embraced by the black community, while members of my white community look at me as if I came from Mars when they see me out with my children. I now realize how much I need this black community to successfully raise my children. I cannot teach my children how to be what I am not, and one thing I am not is black.
For the first time in the history of our country, we can realistically point to the President of the United States as a role model for African-American children. On his election night, I watched the TV with tears in my eyes as crowds gathered in Chicago to celebrate. I dragged my daughters from their beds to join us. I tried to explain how many doors this one event had opened for them.
In December 2009, Disney released The Princess and the Frog. This film featured Disney’s first black princess, and it was a big deal in our house. My girls invited their brown princess friends to join us at the theater on opening night, and they got decked out in costumes and plastic jewelry. We had a wonderful time at the movie. Tiana was beautiful, as we knew she would be. It isn’t every day that my children get to see a positive role model on the big screen who speaks in terms they understand.
Of course, the best role models for my daughters are the parents of their friends, their coaches, their teachers, and our neighbors. No longer fearful, I sometimes feel like I’m now stalking black women. I am always looking for new friends, and have no problem striking up a conversation with a stranger in hopes of benefitting my children through our friendship. That’s how I met one of our closest African-American friends and her daughter, who just happens to have been adopted. Don’t be afraid to stick out your neck, or the hand of friendship. You may be surprised by the response. I don’t think it is possible for anyone to have a life that is too full or to have too many friends. Every parent needs help. Every child needs a village.
So, who will your children’s role models be?