14 September 2017

Why saying “I’m not racist” isn’t enough

In a previous post I wrote about some of my experiences being mum to a mixed race child. Since writing that post I've come across other mum's writing about the same sort of thing, and I've realised that talking about it helps. It helps! It allows people experiencing the same things to connect and help each other through and gives people who haven't experienced it a bit of an insight. Both are crucial to overcoming the racism (though I'm not naive enough to think that a bit of conversation can end racism, it runs much deeper than that unfortunately) that comes from those who say "I'm not racist", because that just isn't enough.
It isn't enough for me to say "I'm not racist" because my son (and any future children we might have) will experience racism, and I need to prepare him for that. It isn't enough to say "I'm not racist" but not do anything to challenge perceptions. It isn't enough to say "I'm not racist" but allow my son to constantly feel different or like nothing more than the "mixed kid". It isn't enough to say "I'm not racist" but not learn as much as I can about black history, his history, to make sure he is equipped to deal with any racism he faces.
I am in over my head. Obviously my husband is black; he understands and will be teaching our son from a place of true understanding because he has lived experience. He has taught me a lot in our relationship, and I can see that growing up white meant that I felt I could say things like "I don't see colour". I didn't see colour because I didn't need to. Marrying a black man meant that I needed to see colour, to acknowledge the struggles that I had no prior need to know about. 
Being in love with someone who not only sees colour, but feels colour and experiences being of-colour every day changed my perception, and made me see how wrong I was (and am. I get it wrong sometimes. I forget my white privilege regularly, because I have the luxury of doing so) Now that I am mum to someone who will, inevitably, feel his colour I need to make sure I am equipped to help him through anything he will face. 
I read. A lot. Articles, books, blogs..anything I can. I want him to know his Scottish culture and also his Nigerian culture, I don't want him to feel more proud of either side. But how do I prepare him for racism? 
I've never been racially abused, or felt like I had that extra hurdle to jump purely because of my skin colour. Any help I give him will be incomplete, and while my heart will break for my beautiful boy when he realises that the world has so much racism in it, I won't be able to fully understand what he is going through. That is crap. Really, really crap. 
As mums we all want to be able to be what our children need and, while I realise that every mum will feel out of their depth about something, I really feel unprepared for this. I've already failed him on so many occasions, in order to avoid awkwardness. I need help, and luckily I have a husband who knows how to teach his son. Maybe it's a pride thing, but I don't want to have an area that I'm totally out of the loop of with my boy. It isn't enough for me to just say that I'm not racist, my boy needs me to learn about racism and to actively try to combat it.
I'd love recommendations on things to read (or watch, or places to visit) so send me a DM on Instagram (@kirsten_abeeohyay) or comment on here with any ideas.

Written by Kirsten


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