Dear White Women [My Brown Baby]
Dear White Women,
I know the breastfeeding world is all abuzz over reports that Beyonce breastfed her beautifully brown baby, Blue Ivy Carter, in public last week and that we consider this a victory for all nursing moms everywhere, but I need to claim this moment for African American women. And I need to ask you to step aside or better yet, step behind us in support, while we relish this extremely significant time.
You see, as you may have heard, black women have had historically low breastfeeding initiation and duration rates for over 40 years. And while we had made some solid gains in initiation, when it comes to the gold standard of infant nutrition, exclusive breastfeeding for six months, we have a lot of work to do. But when it comes to the power of celebrity breastfeeding role models—to normalize breastfeeding, add the lifestyle cache and make it trendy like has happened among white women—we have very few. The fabulous Laila Ali comes to mind. But not many others. And certainly nowhere near the A-list nature of your breastfeeding celebrity roster which includes: Angelina Jolie (on the cover of W magazine, no less), Gisele Bundchen, Madonna, Gwen Stefani, Nicole Ritchie (take breath), Jennifer Garner, Jenna Elfman, etc, etc,etc… You do the math.
Beyonce is our Angelina Jolie. Our Gisele, Madonna and Gwen wrapped up into one fabulously black and married woman.
Meanwhile, with all the news reports about Beyonce, and all the breastfeeding “advocates” talking about its impact on the nursing world, not one advocate mentioned the particular significance to black women–which is so striking since many claim to be interested in our breastfeeding plight.
Shame on you.
We are moving to Philadelphia [Regular Midwesterners]
I could imagine a life here in which, supported by these other interventions, Miles becomes known and well liked. We could forge a community in which we’d be respected for our differences yet welcome. Who knows? Miles could emerge as the kind of kid with resilience and natural charisma (not the kind you have to feign in order to survive). What if ultimately he didn’t struggle much with race and being part of a queer family and benefitted from the quality of life here?
It was possible but not likely enough. To make things work here felt too much like threading a needle. It seemed too risky, the stakes too high. If we had an opportunity to surround him with a community in which he might not feel like the only one, we decided we better take it.
The next time he tells me he wishes he had light skin, I want to know the only kids of color he sees aren’t just the ones in his books. I want to know he’s going back to school the next day to friends and classmates who have darker skin too.
But then again, they can get it from us [Coloring Between the Lines]
LaToya writes, “(L)et’s please recognize that these children learned this behavior at home… Their parents don’t have friends of other races – they don’t have to. Their kids witness their parents having mono-racial ideas of who is worth hanging out with and who is not… And they make an inference that if Mom and Dad don’t hang out with these people, then I shouldn’t either – for whatever reason.”
According to psychologist Krista Aronson, community and dominant cultural norms are indeed stronger than family ones in influencing children’s attitudes about race. But when these norms are not only not contradicted in the family but actually upheld through the absence of cross-racial relationships in our lives and our silence about race, children do learn from us.
Absence and silence are powerful teaching tools.
Limbaugh has been widely criticized for his outrageousness—a process we seem to go through at least once a year when he says something ridiculous. And then, seconds after the furor dies down, prominent Republicans continue to line up to appear on his show and elevate his stature into some sort of right-wing kingmaker. But there’s a contingent of men in the country that need to be a bit more vocal when Limbaugh attacks yet another woman: Dads.
As a Dad myself, I can say with certainty that I’m not going to have much tolerance for a grown man directing foul names at my daughters for exercising their first amendment rights to free speech. For being strong and courageous young ladies. I read that President Obama called Fluke and told her that her parents should be very proud of her. I agree. Every father should want to raise such an articulate, inteIligent daughter. But every true father also has the instinct to protect his daughters under all circumstances, to throw his body in the line of any fire they might be taking. From that perspective, I wonder what the POTUS might say to Limbaugh in a private conversation if the right-wing lunatic had used words like “slut” or “prostitute” in referring to Malia or Sasha. I suspect the conversation would not be pretty.
So let me put Mr. Limbaugh on notice now. My daughters are currently in training to be smart, articulate, proud and strong young ladies. In other words, your worst nightmare. And right behind them—not too close, but close enough—they have a father who is as proud of them as a father can be. A father who can see himself getting a little crazy if he perceives that they are under attack. And I know how to get to Palm Beach, where you do your show. Maybe I can pick up Sandra Fluke’s dad on the way there.