My wife is Black. I’m white. And we’re raising our biracial children to be Black and proud of it.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year…or the past 500 years, America isn’t a big fan of Black people. Sure, some Black celebrities seem to have overcome racial discrimination (at least in public), and Barack Obama’s presidency still manages to deceive “color blind” unicorn chasers into believing that we live in a post-racial society. But in the real world, white supremacy is alive and well, and Black people are still getting the short end of the nightstick.
Every 28 hours (research shows it might actually be less), a police officer or vigilante reminds the world that Black lives don’t matter. Around the nation, countless schools that primarily serve Black students have been forced to close their doors, reminding us that Black children don’t matter. From Brooklyn to Los Angeles, predominantly Black neighborhoods are being gentrified to make room for hipsters who need to be closer to their jobs, reminding us that Black people can be brushed aside when they’re “in the way”. In the meantime, job seekers with names like Keisha or DeShawn have to consider the possibility that their resumes might be thrown away, reminding us that Black identity in its most basic form is enough to trigger fear, discrimination, and hate.
Through mainstream rap music and reality TV, the entertainment industry promotes the worst in racial stereotypes, reminding us that Black lives exist only to entertain. Movies like Exodus erase Black people out of history and replace them with quasi British white people, reminding us that Black people can be conveniently edited out of existence. Black people aren’t even allowed to portray fictional characters, whether it be Idris Alba as the next James Bond or John Boyega as a Black Stormtrooper in the new Star Wars, without a trillion racists screaming bloody murder on talk radio and Fox.com’s comment section, reminding us that Black people have no right to exist even as figments of someone’s imagination.
This is the world in which my biracial children live: a place where Black people are made to feel inferior; a place where mixed kids like mine consider choosing their white side in an attempt to escape the hate they see around them everyday.
But in my household, Black is beautiful. It’s powerful. It’s celebrated. It goes against the popular narrative. It’s a reality my children embrace with pride. It’s their legacy, a link to greatness. It’s the freedom fighters in Ferguson and across the nation who stand on the shoulders of their predecessors. It’s Malcolm and Martin. It’s Bobby and Huey. It’s Bayard Rustin and Fannie Lou Hamer. It’s Yosef Ben-Jochannan, John Henrik Clark, and Frances Cress-Welsing. It’s Assata and Angela. It’s Charles Drew. It’s Marcus Garvey. It’s Ida B. Wells and Mary McLeod Bethune. It’s Lewis Latimer and Benjamin Banneker. It’s Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth. It’s the millions who fought for Black survival and dignity. It’s Queen Nzingha and Shaka Zulu. It’s the Ashanti people and the scholars of Timbuktu. It’s Auset and Ausar. It’s Maat. It’s Imhotep. It’s unapologetic Black genius from the inception of civilization, science, medicine, music, poetry, and architecture. It’s the birth of humankind.
It’s Chuck D and Rakim. It’s MC Lyte and Lauryn Hill. It’s Sade and Bob Marley. It’s Curtis Mayfield and Gladys Knight. It’s Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway. It’s Fela Kuti and Marlena Shaw. It’s John Coltrane and Billie Holiday. It’s Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni, and Langston Hughes. It’s Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee. It’s James Baldwin and James Brown. It’s The Last Poets. It’s Chuck Berry and Big Mama Thornton. It’s Paul Robeson. It’s Hip Hop, R&B, Reggae, Rock & Roll, the Blues, Jazz, and Gospel. It’s the drums, the syncopation, the movement, the riff, the scat, the breath itself.
It’s everything the world around them will otherwise teach them to forget about who they are, where they come from, and how much power they possess.
Are they being denied their white side? Of course not. They have half of their loving family to remind them of it and an elaborate global infrastructure set up to maintain it by any means necessary. Their white heritage will be fine. It’s never been jeopardized, compromised, disrespected, disregarded, under-valued, silenced, fetishized (see Iggy), threatened, attacked, or oppressed on a mass scale. The side I’m concerned about is the one that still requires a hashtagged reminder that in 2015, Black Lives Matter. Thankfully, in my household, not a day goes by that my children aren’t reminded of this truth.
Ironically, I know that I must now brace myself for all the hate mail and racist comments I’ll undoubtedly receive as a result of this article. And that’s exactly why my wife and I celebrate our children’s Black heritage. The rest of the world certainly won’t do it for us.
Sebastien Elkouby is a creative consultant, Hip Hop culture historian, writer, award-winning educator, and co-host of Take No Prisoners Radio. For more info, go to SebIsHipHop.com or contact him at [email protected] Find him on Twitter at SebIsHipHop.