Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Mirette & Me

For the sake of brevity, I'm black, my husband is white and we're both American. My extended family, like many who endured hundreds of years enslaved in America, come in a wide variety of hues. I'm a medium complected sister but wasn't shocked that my children turned out "imitation of life " light in the words of a fellow black mom to bi racial kids.

After a recent reading of Uncle Jed's Barbershop we revisited the concept of segregation. I explained yet again what my maternal grandparents life was like in SC. She's alive and well, so the kids are always enthralled about GGMa's childhood under Jim Crow. I explained to my daughter, hereby christened Mirette (after her love of this book) that the lovely school she attends would be off limits to her. Which isn't entirely true, the school is based upon principles of racial and social equality, but I took a liberty while making a broader point. Par for the course with my parenting.

Mirette looked incredulous and informed me that she didn't look any different than any of her white classmates. Phenotypes aside, I told her that under the laws of the time, my being her mother would exclude her from enrollment. She loves her some kindergarten, (cried on a snow day for goodness sakes) so the idea of choosing between me and her beloved institution of learning visibly pained her.

I thought about Imitation of Life. I thought about the actress Merle Oberon living a life of lies, rumored to have passed her Ceylonese mom off as her domestic. I thought about all of us proudly pushing our strollers, only to be asked if we're the nanny.

Then I think about how fortunate I am. That we live in a time and place that allows Mirette to love my hair which "grows up and out like a rock star", as much as she loves her own chesnut colored Shirley Temple curls. How proud she is that she tans like Mom (don't worry, we still use sunblock) How indignant she is on the rare occasion when anyone questions who we are to each other.

I have no idea what our past life would have looked like but I'm pleased with our present.

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