The Question of DOOM!
On a sunny spring day, I take my baby for a stroll. It’s a really nice day. Perfect, really. Blue sky, fluffy clouds, not too cold. It’s one of the first warm(ish) days of the season. I’m enjoying the day so much that I go alot further from my house than usual. After a long walk (which I need, I’m trying to drop this baby weight after all) I decide it’s time for a break. A bit winded, I find a bench along the sidewalk and have a seat, taking my water bottle from the cup holder on the stroller. An older lady with a kind face takes a seat next to me.
“Cute baby,” she smiles. “Are you the nanny?”
Uh oh. Here it is. THE QUESTION. The one I am supposed to fear like grim death. According to those who warn black women about the perils of “marrying out”, I am supposed to be traumatized at this moment. This, my friends, is one of the serious, insurmountable, horrific obstacles to even the mere thought of marrying a white man.
At this harmless inquiry, time is supposed to stop. The sky is supposed to darken, the wind quicken, and the birds fall silent. The voice of doom is supposed to echo across the land, “You…. never…. Should have…. Married… that… white man!” *Crack of thunder*
I am supposed to, in this moment, regret having a child that the occasional stranger would ever think did not come from my womb. I am meant to have visions of cute brown babies that every random I ever come across will know are mine.
When I look at my daughter, I see some of myself in her. Sure, she’s closer to her dad’s complexion than mine, but those deep brown eyes are shaped like mine. She has my forehead (don’t laugh!) actually my chin and cheekbones too. It’s my genes that put the curl in her hair and bit of tan to her skin. Those thick, dark eyelashes? Mine, thank you very much. I know who she is and where she came from. (Trust me, I was there) Why should I care if someone I never saw before, and will never see again, mistakes me for her nanny?
I don’t. I didn’t. It was never even a thought.
I smiled at the nice old lady. “Yes.”
“Oh, she is so sweet!”
That’s true, of course. People are always saying that. We talk for a little while longer. She’s a friendly person who has lived in the area a while. Good, because I’ve only lived here a few months. I ask her how to get back to a familiar road. (I’d taken lots of turns, admiring the tulips here and the daffodils there. Although I wasn’t terribly far from home, I was a bit lost. She is happy to tell me and in no time at all, with a right here and a left there, we are back on our way.)
The next year, a friend of mine gives birth to her first baby, and we meet up for lunch. “Oh, what an adorable baby!” An older woman, this time a black one, exclaims. “Is she yours?”
My friend sighs a little “Yes.”
“You know why I’m asking, right?” she says in that familiar way older black women have. You know, sounding like your auntie.
Although my friend is not light-skinned or biracial, her daughter’s complexion is positively pinkish. Her large round eyes, the same shape as her mom’s are blue. That wispy baby hair? Blonde.
I laugh. People.
People are always making assumptions. They assume the young guy in the conference room can’t be the CEO, or that the silver fox out with the 26-year old brunette must be her father. They hear a single woman say “Carlos fixed my screen door” and think she’s talking about the handyman and not her boyfriend. They figure a skinny woman can’t cook, that white kid has never heard of EPMD, and that black chick over there goes to church.
People are oftentimes wrong. You cannot prevent people from making assumptions. You CAN control your reaction to them. You can decide that the possibility that one day, someone, somewhere, may make an incorrect assumption about you will not dictate how you live your life. Would you not pursue education because someone may assume you don’t have a degree anyway? Would you not get a luxury vehicle because someone may assume “you think you’re all that” ? Would you not start a company at 22 because you fear not being taken seriously, even though you have everything it takes?
Then why would you let that stop you from dating and marrying as you like? You won’t be living with these strangers by whom’s assumptions others would have you live your life. They won’t be holding your hand and bringing you water when you’re in labor. They won’t be playing legos with your sons and listening to your daughter talk about the crazy kids on her team. They won’t cuddle up on the couch with you and eat popcorn and watch Star Trek re-runs while the kids sleep.
They are nothing to your life. Any assumptions they make about you are quickly forgotten as they go on with their lives after you cross paths. If it does happen to be a teacher or fellow PTA member who makes the mistake, well, that’s easily corrected isn’t it?
It’s a terrible idea to close off paths and make key decisions based on fear. Too many black women have led stunted and small lives because of it. Many have not fully pursued their happiness. Many bwe and bwc bloggers have spent countless woman hours researching and writing about this topic. Ralph Richard Banks has covered this in his book. We know better. We need to be done with this silliness now.
Enough is enough. Make your choices from a place of knowledge, self-determination and strength. I did and my children and I benefit daily.
The sky is blue, there is a light breeze, and the birds are singing outside. A voice echoes from inside the house: “Salima…Where… would you like… to go… to dinner?”