Mom, I want to be white like you.

I always felt somewhat guilty raising a black child.  The “powers that be” preferred that children be raised by parents of the same color.  What if there aren’t enough adoptive parents of that color?  Is it more important that children stay in the foster care system rather than be adopted by  parents of a different color?  Thank goodness there were social workers in the early 1980s, who believed in the priority of placing a child in a loving home even tho our skin colors didn’t match.

One night when BJ was about 4, we were in the midst of our night-time ritual, and he blurted out, “mom, I want to be white like you.”  It hurt me to hear that.  I tried to reassure him that being black was a good thing, “black is beautiful,” but I knew it didn’t address what he was feeling.

I had tried to be intentional about buying brown and black toy figures for him to play with.  Every action figure that was black, I bought.  That is the reason we started collecting GI Joes.  He was given a black Cabbage Patch boy doll at his baptism.  Family members would look for books and other printed material that showed people of color in a positive way.

Internally, I continued to struggle with BJ’s statement.    I wanted to be able to say to him, I wish I could be black like you, but it wasn’t true.  I knew that my race did afford me certain privileges and my life would be tougher if i were a single, black woman with a child.  This was also the time period that I brought up his birth mom, her color, that he looked like her and some day we would find her when he was grown up.

I continued to struggle with BJ’s wish.  At some point that year,   I knew I could honestly say to him,  “I wish I could be black like you!”   He didn’t express wanting to be white often.  However, the next time he brought it up,  I was able to genuinely respond,  “and I wish i could be black like you!”

I suspect that my wanting to be like him,  was a truer affirmation that “black is beautiful.”  I don’t recall that issue coming up much after that.

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