Trying to explain race to your biracial son... Thanks human people for making this more complicated than it needed to be!
You cannot begin to imagine how excited I was when my son came home with this artwork. For those who are like, “Girl, what’s this?”. I gots you hun. This is a map/continent of Australia illustrated using Indigenous artwork. It speaks to recognising & acknowledging the First Nation people of this beautiful land l now call home. The artwork was done in celebration of NAIDOC week.
My favourite son was so proud of his efforts but had no concept of the significance of the work he had done. Based on what I could ascertain, the teacher had tried to explain - but didn’t quite capture it well enough. So naturally & eagerly, we had a history lesson.
A quick history lesson for you
NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia each July to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. NAIDOC is celebrated not only in Indigenous communities, but by Australians from all walks of life. The week is a great opportunity to participate in a range of activities and to support your local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. NAIDOC originally stood for ‘National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee’. This committee was once responsible for organising national activities during NAIDOC Week and its acronym has since become the name of the week itself. Find out more about the origins and history of NAIDOC Week.
Back to my favourite son
Nic and I have agreed to delay any racial conversations with our children until either they are mature enough, or they have questions or there is a situation demanding for said conversation. So when the questions arose & the awareness heightened, we slowly started to break it down for our highly self-aware almost 6 year old. We've made it clear that he & his sister are biracial as a result of our differences. I explained that I am black and his father is white or caucasian. How did he take it? Well, he's first response was, "Mum, you must be colour blind! Do you know what black looks like! You're brown not black! And dad's definitely not white except maybe for his hair!". So that was the end of that conversation. Clearly he's not as smart as I thought...
“Does this mean I get to speak Wakanda?”
We’ve since started the long and complex process of explaining that though he is biracial, we are raising him to understand what it means to be black. Our vision is to break this conversation into two folds - culture and identity. I am very invested in helping him find identity and affinity within the black global family as well as recognizing that whilst he has his father's blood, the world won't see him as white, and therefore the challenges that this might pose as he gets older.
Listen! Trying to have a chat with an almost 6 year old about Black Lives Matter in way that is accessible to him and doesn't give him nightmares will do your head in. I empathise with parents who have to fully broach this subject based on where in the world they live. Seeing that Lwa is currently shielded from the full extent of the BLM challenges, we've placed more emphasis on culture as the most pressing lesson.
For now, he has adopted and understands the following cultural norms:
anyone old enough to be his mother shall be called aunt or mama NO QUESTIONS asked, you never call people by name - EVER
we've been ploughing along on our zulu lessons. A bit of a struggle, but we're getting there. It's literally his mother tongue, and I'm not going to let him lose his language
he's also learnt ukukhothama “clapping your hands when receiving something from an elder”
Raising kids is not for the faint hearted
When I look at Lwandle, I see my son - not a biracial kid or a black kid or a white kid. I see my son. A beautiful little boy who tells me all the time that he is not little anymore. With that in mind, my core vision is to raise a well mannered and well centred big boy who has a wonderful childhood filled with laughs and rolls at the park. I want him to be kind to himself, to others and to the world. I want him to know and believe that he is loved, he is wanted, he belongs and he is important.
If I can accomplish the above, issues around his colour won't matter, even though they do.