April 19, 2014

On seeing color

On seeing colorI’ve been in an interracial relationship since 1997. It’s been a long time. In the beginning, I was adamant that I did not see color- that I was colorblind and that love is colorblind. In fact, when were were both attending college, I wrote an article for the campus newspaper bashing the student population for all the crazy crap they would say and said loudly that color doesn’t matter. Oh, to go back and change that article now!

At 34, I am no longer naive enough to believe that skin color doesn’t change things. I see it more as half of an interracial couple and the mother of a biracial child than I probably did ever before. I see it at family functions when I am often the only Black person because my side of the family is not local. I see it when we travel or go out to dinner. I even see it when we are sitting at home watching a movie or homeschooling. When cashiers think that we are two separate customers I know it’s because our skin color is different. When we go to the doctor’s office and he stands to come in with me, I see the double-take by the nurse as she has to figure us out. When the woman in the grocery store called me the “nanny” as my family of three finished our shopping, I knew it’s because of my skin color and nothing else. And as much as I want to say color doesn’t matter, it obviously does.

So, we talk about race and color a lot in our home. With a 5 year old who says, with pride, that she is “Tan,” color is something that is present and will aways be present. She knows that I am Black and that her dad is White and she recognizes that our family is different from others because we are not the same color. And we, as a family, embrace those color differences. We acknowledge that the assumptions made about us and those that we make about ourselves are in large part due to our skin color and how we are treated because of it. We have made it a point to teach my daughter that color does not designation intelligence, beauty, nor anything else.

Recognizing how color has driven people throughout history and how it continues to do so can make us more sensitive to the challenges that others face. It can help us to see  that the world is not an equal place for all and that as much as we would like to say that things are changing, some things are very much the same. I firmly believe that recognizing color and all that doing so entails can encourage us to make real changes to create a better world. So I say very loudly that “I SEE COLOR!”

Are you embracing the diversity of color in your life?

Kristina Daniele

Kristina Daniele

Kristina, Founder and Oz of We of Hue is one of many doing it across hues-homeschooling, wifing, mothering, and business building. She is a web designer and social media consultant with a love of building communities on line. She looks forward to intelligent conversation that is eye-opening and statement-making.

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Seeing Color

Channeling my last Moms of Hue post, I think an appropriate place to start here is to admit I may have made a mistake.

When I was a child, my mother put me in this amazing daycare.  Since we will be discussing race, I will start by saying it was predominately Black.  It was in a middle class neighborhood in Queens and run by a bi-racial ex-hippie, the focus of the school was not only on educating the “gifted” child, but it was also on enforcing a sense of identity in its young population.  For instance, every morning, after our pledge of allegiance, we turned to the African American flag and chanted the following:

Red is for the blood of my people.

Green is for the land of my people.

Black is for the skin of my people.

Red, Black and Green.

I can not tell you how much this start did for my sense of identity as child.  Admittedly, it made me a little defensive and militant in my first all white school in the fifth grade, BUT acknowledging that the skin I was bathed in came with a unique set of strength, community and characteristics, made me incredibly proud.  I can confidently say, even in the face of the most egregious stereotypes and ignorant people, I never doubted my worth as a Black woman.

Then, somewhere between the start of my higher education and motherhood, the definition stopped being as important.  In fact, it began to irritate me.  I adopted a new outlook that being Black was a smaller part of me.  It came with a long list of definitions.  First, I was a daughter, sister, student, writer, etc., etc.  I resented the fact that I spent seven years educating myself only to be seen in my first professional experience as a Black lawyer.  Black first, lawyer second.  Relegated to “specific” organizations for mentorship and guidance.   As if I studied only the Black people law books and passed the Black people bar.   I felt like holding up a sign like Ossie Davis in Do The Right Thing and screaming, “I’m a man, I’M A MAN.”  Well, a woman….

As a mom, I unintentionally imposed this new sense of identity on my son.  Yes, he is my beautiful, golden brown, black child BUT he is also funny, intelligent, energetic and kind.  I did not want people to look at my husband and me, both over six feet tall, and see our son and think future athlete.  I wanted them to see his two educated parents and think: this child can be whoever he wants to be. 

When I was looking into a new daycare in preparation for our move last summer, I was looking for the best.  While the concept of diversity was not completely lost on me, it certainly did not measure as high on the list.  In fact, like my own racial identity, I placed it last on the list.  I wanted to find an environment that was clean, safe, valued education, was nurturing, family friendly and yes, somewhere down the line, I wanted it to be diverse.  Maybe this came from my own rearing.  After my wonderful daycare experience, my mother worked hard to find the best school for me.  In our neighborhood in Queens, that meant sending me a predominantly white area where I was only one of three.  So, with only a scintilla of reluctance, last fall, I placed my two year old son in a daycare where he was the only child of my new found least important definition.

Like I said, I may have made a mistake.  Shortly after my precocious, fun loving, intelligent child started the day care, we received a progress report from his school describing a child completely different from our own.  According to his teachers, our son was quiet, un-imaginative, and generally withdrawn from the other children.  Our son, who sings Bob Marley songs at restaurants, serenades house guests with his favorite toy microphone, counted to thirty at two, knows all of his colors, playfully encourages the younger children at the playground and challenges me with a “Why?” or negotiation at every request was none of the above at his new school.

Now, I am not going to point my finger and say we had a racist experience.  Racism is a strong word and I do not believe anyone intentionally treated my son differently because of his race.  In fact, I think our experience begs the answer to a much deeper question.  Is it possible that at two years old, he noticed the difference?  Is it possible he looked into a sea of faces and seeing none like his own he felt uncomfortable?  I consider the alternatives, he may be shy, he may feel intimidated by the other children because at home he is the center of our universe or….

Well, consider this.  When I was sixteen, I was a camp counselor at a YMCA Nursery Camp in New York.  The camp was the most diverse representation of races I have ever encountered.  Although it was predominantly Black, in each class there was at least one member of each race.  I remember coloring with two little children in the three year old room, one black and one white.  “Charlie”, the black child looked at my arms and then his and then back to mine and proudly announced, “Me and Ms. Tiara are both brown.”  I smiled at him, thinking his little observation was harmless and continued to color. 

“That’s right, Charlie.”  I encouraged. 

“Sam”, the little white child stopped coloring and looked at her own skin.  Her brows furrowed in worry and she looked at Charlie and I observing our skin and she started to cry.  I was her favorite teacher and she did not want us to be different.  I hugged her tight and convinced little blonde hair, blue eyed Sam that her fair skin was equally as beautiful (that was probably the first and last time someone had to do that). 

So there it is, children see color.  Why wouldn’t they?  It is the most apparent characteristic when we enter a room and the first on the list of descriptors when we leave it.  No matter how hard we try to highlight our other definitions.

So, how important is race in your child rearing?  When and how did you decide to discuss race with your child?  Do you think it’s possible for a toddler to notice the difference? 

Oh and I should note, I am looking for a new daycare.

Tiara Faith McCray

Tiara Faith McCray

Tiara is native of New York City and reluctant resident of the DC Metro Area. She is a writer in her heart but a lawyer by profession. She is a wife and also a mom to two boys. She is a self proclaimed and self loving oddball. She is determined to find both spirituality and happiness and like any true totalitarian matriarch, impose both on her family. She is wise enough to know that this may not happen simultaneously.

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Hue says my voice doesn’t matter?

by Talibah Mbonisi

In October 2008, I started to conceptualize what would eventually become the what I claim as my calling—encouraging and supporting African-American mothers and fathers who despite living apart are, want or could be parenting together. Like many vocations, mine was born not of some brilliant idea but rather of an almost desperate need to see myself and my experiences reflected among the plethora of stories and images of women, mothers, parents on this journey of parenting alone or together after a split.  Although I found many resources that supported single parents, single mothers, even, as well as those which addressed the challenges and the possibilities after divorce, none really felt like “home” to me.

I was a single, working, Black mother of a brilliantly busy little Black boy.  I was among the unwed, and I was struggling trying to find a way to manage conflict with my son’s father and keep our family as far away from the court system as possible.  I felt alone, and the absence of my resemblance in the books I studied and the sites I visited mirrored back to me that I was.

But the truth, which became clearer to me through blogging, is that I am not alone.  My experiences, my voice, colored (pun intended) by everything that has converged to create me as I am in this moment…it all matters.  Somehow it connects me to people who on the surface seem most like me.  But mysteriously, it also opens me up to those who at first glance do not.  Being able to express myself fully through this medium, through this beautiful place called Moms of Hue, knowing that what I say, who I am is embraced, provides me with a potent reminder that the same is true for all of us.  That all of our voices matter…and that there is a place for each of us to call home; a retreat to which we can retire to be fed, filled and empowered to stand strong in who we are so that our mattering might make a difference in this world.

Guest Authors

Guest Authors

We love publishing diverse articles from diverse men and women. If you have something to say and would like your voice heard on We of Hue, please head here to submit and article or here to inquire about joining our team of talented regular authors.

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Who I am is…

what I eat. You what you eat or what?

I’ve been thinking about food lately. Not like, what will I eat or cook, but really thinking about the ways people view food. It started when I joined Facebook!. There is an application titled “Ghetto snacks“. Eye roll, grimace. Now, I’m all for having fun and was thrilled to receive several other less…uh what word am I looking for [insert] applications, but this one stuck in my craw. Many of the items are candy, but a few stood out to me as regional/ethnic foods (plantain chips, pork rinds, Malta etc.) and, that sorta saddened me.

I grew up in a GeeChee/Gullah home for the most part. Sure, my grandmother-in her quest for ultimate northern exposure made pasta and potatoes; which my resistant grandfather would eat in addition to rice. We ate rice everyday, and I still do. It is a part of the coastal Carolinian culture, it is part of who I am.

As a Native New Yorker and a vegetarian, rice and the West African peoples’ rice history has been one of very few cultural items I’ve been able to incorporate and pass on to my own children. Rice as it may, also conjoins the Carolinian and Caribbean cultures Favorite Guy and I share. Rice though, is not served at high holidays, weddings, graduations et al.; rice is low brow, rice isn’t classy-rice is ghetto.

“Low-brow, ghetto food”?! This didn’t make sense growing up, but now at 36 I’m tainted enough to understand and have even partaken in the food caste system. Perhaps, seeing the Facebook! application opened my eyes to just how ignorant (that’s the word) this practice is. I have to say, I was flooded by thoughts of all the ways in which the things we eat define us. From Ernest J. Gaines’ salt meat reference in The Sky is Gray, Jill Scott’s, “rice and gravy, biscuits baby and black-eyed peas”, Machito’s Sopa de Pichon and many others. Yet, this tale and songs of which I speak aren’t tales of poverty and despair, but rather comeuppance, joyous occasions, kinship and love even. Attaching caste and class to foods and the people who eat them-food shaming, if you will, is the antithesis of the true meaning of food and dining, of culture, of civilization.

So, let’s dish-Who are you? What are some of your regional/cultural/childhood food favorites?

This post was originally published [here] in April of this year. With the holidays fast approaching, I thought it a fine time to revisit the ways food has enriched our lives and the lives of those around us.

T. Allen-Mercado

T. Allen-Mercado

T.Allen-Mercado is a mixed media artist, award-winning essayist, student of anthropology, blogger, wife and, mother of two.

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Don’t you know we’re talking about a revolution and it sounds like a whisper-Tracy Chapman

One of our house rules and, one I think a fine rule to follow in all of your interactions, is “Don’t talk about it, be about it”. If you see/feel something isn’t right, make it right. From the simplest to the most complex, make an impact. But how, you may ask? Many of our current problems have lengthy, painful histories; how can any one of us bring about the kind of revolutionary change we’d like to see for ourselves and moreover our children? By “being about it”.

I was inspired by a fellow friend, mother and artist’s post [here] to reflect on the meaning of revolution. Rotation: a single complete turn, I read. And immediately thought of the opportunities- the power we each possess to be part of the revolution one small, good turn at a time.

This week, I forwarded the video featured above to my husband, brother and son. Turning the tables on feminism, and presenting it as a way of life we all can benefit from. I want my men to be feminists too. They are the fathers, sons, husbands and brothers of daughters, mothers, wives, and sisters.

I wrote about racism, both blatant and perceived. I turned the painful topic on its head and asked if in fact race; the human race in all its flawed humanity could be mistaken for the construct of race in all its flawed complexity? It isn’t an easy question or a comfortable one to ask as a Black woman, but if one person thought about the current social clime from a different angle for a fraction of a second, I made a difference.

I wrote a friend and wished her “Happy Roshanah”, followed by an awkwardly humble, “Is that the proper greeting”? Because, I didn’t know. She said it was and, then we talked about apples and honey and Challah bread; knowledge is power. Love, friendship and the Jewish New Year are sweet.

Now, I sit and write this post to encourage and invite you all to share your stories, plans and ideas for the revolution. When you know better, you do better. -O. Winfrey

T. Allen-Mercado

T. Allen-Mercado

T.Allen-Mercado is a mixed media artist, award-winning essayist, student of anthropology, blogger, wife and, mother of two.

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On differences

For children growing up, family represents the beginnings of our sense of societal cohesion and those experiences influences our ways of defining different. As the mother of mixed children, it occurred to me that I would inevitably be called upon to answer some awkward and even appalling questions regarding these differences ; race relations in the US being as they are. But, what I never imagined was that I- progressive mom extraordinaire could and ultimately would, struggle for years before finding the answers.

One of the more comical albeit awkward moments happened in a NYC playground between my son Jordan when he was about 4 (now approaching 18), and a boy he befriended who was about the same age. After a few hours of play, the close of their time together drew near and, the other child’s parents’ called him to leave. The children mournfully said their ‘goodbyes’ and, just as the other child turned to exit with his parents, Jordan said, “Hey, is that your mommy and daddy”? His new friend nodded and Jordan, still staring turns, looks up at me quizzically and says, “How come his mommy isn’t Black?”

Cue the chemical onslaught; emotionally, I’m flooded: laughter, sobbing, anxiety, trembling-I’m reaching new heights on my internal awkward-o-meter. “Well, because Jordan… his mommy is different from your mommy. Some families don’t have Black mommies”. Of course, Jordan is now talking about [insert toy, show, insect] and I’m well, flummoxed; we don’t talk about race, like ever. I’m so embarrassed, where could he have learned such a thing?! It occurred to me then, Jordan’s tiny social circle- until this fateful afternoon, consisted of our mixed race/multicultural friends and family; a group of people who shared the same unspoken differences.

Fast forward a decade or more and our second child, Yael, has made yet another high volume tear and snot laden entrance after being called a “half-breed” and ridiculed for being “not really Black”, by two children in an AZ playground. Hmph, now I’m looking quizzical- okay livid and quizzical. After a brief tirade, I gingerly deliver the same lame, vague speech about differences. But, all the while, I’m thinking, “Uh, yeah, so what. There’s nothing wrong with being  not really blackHalf breed isn’t the most diplomatic term, but…well, have we gotten too diplomatic, too politically correct, too hypervigilante, too homogenous”? Are we so focused on explaining the pedantics of our differences that we have turned a blind eye to the ways differences enrich our single commonality?

To expect our fellow humans to ignore our differences is not only disingenuous but insulting as it undermines the beauty of our individuality. You see, it isn’t about looking different or being differently abled that continues to plague society, but a willful ignorance and indifference to the fact that we are all different; even those of us who look the same. If we, as a society are ever to achieve on a macrocosmic level, the cohesion that exists in families on a microcosmic level, we’ll need to begin with asserting ourselves and affirming our identities as unique members of the human race.

So, if you pass the playground and overhear a child declaring that they “are not half anything but completely, 100%, one of a kind”, that one belongs to me.

T. Allen-Mercado

T. Allen-Mercado

T.Allen-Mercado is a mixed media artist, award-winning essayist, student of anthropology, blogger, wife and, mother of two.

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