Question: I’ve got one for you, Mama. We’ve got a few years before kids, but pretty early into our relationship, we discussed that — in very basic terms — our potential kids would have to navigate between Black and White worlds. I would love to hear how you instill “Black” values and sense of pride in your beautiful girls, without alienating their White heritage.
Answer: This is a tough question for many reasons. First, what I consider black values may not hold the same distinction for others. Second, families, regardless of race, ultimately decide what does and does not work for the unit. As long as everyone has a say, all will work out well. Third, having pride in one area doesn’t necssarily negate pride in another area. How’s that for a disclaimer? That said, I will give four examples of how I try to instill black values or a sense of pride in Simone and Nadia.
First and foremost, I want Simone and Nadia to learn and understand black history. Right now that comes in the form of books. Later, we will take family field trips.
When Simone was a toddler, Ken and I took her to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute on Martin Luther King’s birthday. She looked and pointed and asked questions. She had no idea she was learning about civil rights. I was so proud and then she asked when we were going home. The lesson: Make sure your teachable moment is age appropriate.
Second, I collect black folk art, which often depicts black life. I should say, I collected folk art because I purchased most of the pieces before Simone and Nadia were born. We once were at an arts festival and Nadia saw a painting that resembled a piece in our home. She pulled Ken by the arm, smiling and chattering, all the way to the artwork. When I caught up, I explained to the artist that the reason my daughter was so excited about her work is because we have two of her pieces hanging in our living room. The lesson: Be a model for your children.
Third, I require Simone and Nadia to respect their elders. Friends and family have limited choices about how the girls may address them. The choices are: aunt, Ms., uncle and Mr. I think it’s important for children to learn adults are not their friends. This strategy also serves as a way for me to welcome family and friends into our village. The lesson: You had better listen to and respect these folks or else.
Fourth, family is everything. I would like for Simone and Nadia to be close. (They are only two years apart.) For that reason, they share a room. When they are older and want and need a bit more independence and privacy, they may have separate rooms. For now, they can share time and space. They are individuals and they are family. Family always comes first. If they leave together, I expect them to return together. The lesson: You are your sister’s keeper.
So, what do you say? Answer the question and leave your answer below.