When I saw that Motherhood- Reconstructed was hosting an event on Raising Excellence, I knew it was an event I needed to attend. Unfortunately, I was unable to do so. Then, Today, I managed to catch Tamu Thomas’ (one half of Motherhood-Reconstructed) video on her Instagram story. She shared her feelings about a statement Sareta Fontaine (creator of Kiki Blah-Blah site) made during the panel discussion at Raising Excellence about being perceived as ‘the angry black woman’. Tamu stated that Sareta shared how she felt it was better to let her husband deal situations when their children experienced racism in school. Tamu also talked about the shared experience of many black people, how we have been taught to make ourselves small. I got a chill! You know when you receive a message that speaks to your core. I knew what the ladies were speaking about. I’ve done it myself. As black, West Indian, female, expat, I know quite a bit about trying to be inconspicuous.
Taking up Space
I didn’t normally feel stifled… until last summer. Then again that’s the danger with conditioning. Last summer, my family and I went on a staycation in Berkshire. We stayed in a lodge at a holiday park. It was an amazing break. However, one thing that stood out to me. In our vicinity we are the only non-white family. I realised the difference in the way I kept an eye on my children. My children made friends easily so they played did crafts together. The families were friendly and accommodating.
Then, during a ball game Angelo was involved in, the ball went under the car of another holiday-maker. I got so anxious. No one complained but I made Angelo and Valentina return to the lodge. While my children were inside the other children continued to run around, being loud and simply having a wonderful carefree time as children should. I felt guilty, angry and jealous in equal measure.
I discussed with my husband. He totally understood. The thing is you don’t have to be black to know what it means to try to be small, fly under radar and not draw attention to yourself. He was raised by his Chinese mother. We have similar ‘training’ and experiences. Nonetheless, he’s more free than I am in many ways perhaps because he’s mixed race. Also, he grew up in London. I had to agree with Tamu, our children deserve to have the right to take up space, to be themselves.
Touch wood, we’ve never had any racial problems at our kids at school. Still, I did feel the importance of ensuring our children’s teachers understood who we were as a family. If you know me, you know that I value education. Hubby and I try to give our children a wide variety of experiences to support their learning and broaden their mind. As a result, they don’t always fit the boxes to be ticked for formal school assessment. You can imagine how much fun parents evening are … no not really.
Hubby and I usually attend together. If we have a concern, I let him state our case. but say my piece if there’s something to add. On occasions when I’ve had to attend on my own. I usually rehearse what I’m going to say to remove my emotion from the delivery.
Black Motherhood and (De)conditioning
Question is how do you reverse a lifetime of conditioning and NOT pass it on to your children. Tamu Thomas raised valid points and gave me a lot to think about. I don’t want my children to feel less than.
They must be free to express themselves. My children are British. England is their home but I want them to be confident and stable wherever may go. The change will have to begin with me.
Black motherhood is not an easy road, especially, if you are doing it on your own. Yet, if you find a community of people you trust, you can draw strength from them.
Social media can be a saviour if used carefully. It certainly helped me along the way and continues to do so.
We are not alone.
(updated 10th May 2020)