Your Comments about my Son are Microaggressions.
Your comments about my son are microaggressions. The way you compliment his appearance is layered with indirect discrimination. The conversations all usually start the same. It starts with comments about my son’s beautiful skin, which is true (I might be biased). I don’t take these comments as compliments, though, because I already know what is coming next. “What is he mixed with?”
I haven’t been able to name the feelings that this phrase brings. My gut reaction is that I don’t like it. It makes me feel like you are equating my son to an animal. I have even researched to see what others think about this phrase only to find conflicting reviews. So far, in his 21 months, my responses have varied in the language I use and the tone that it is delivered. At this point, I am still working through this and will have to keep you updated on where I fall…if I ever get there.
Recently though this commonplace stomach-churning small talk went one step further, I was at a playgroup with all “new-to-me” moms when a white woman sat by me and started that same old conversation. Quickly the conversation went to what my son was “mixed” with.
I replied that my husband was black in what I thought was an annoyed/taken aback tone (I am also white). Not getting the hint, my son’s hair became the next talking point. Without ever having met/seen my husband ever before in her life, this fellow mom said to me, “He’s lucky he got your hair.”
I am sad and ashamed to say that at that moment, I was so shocked that my response was only an audible “ugh” and then awkwardly walking away to go join my son, who was playing with some trains.
The comment she made was a microaggression. Whether she fully understood what she was saying or not, the implication was there. She was implying that white hair is good, and black hair is bad.
I wish I could go back in time and educate that woman about the more significant effects her comments have on children. I wish I wouldn’t have just awkwardly walked away. I wish I could say I was a better ally for my son at that moment, but I can’t, and I will own up to that and do better next time.
Photo Credit to Studio 29 Photography (Instagram: @studio29photography, website: www.foto-29.com)