Let me start this whole thing off by saying clearly, firmly, resolutely, and without any ambiguity; my wife is totally not a Black woman.
This is not meant to be a statement of value or worth, a pro or a con, or any kind of point other than to establish a fact. My wife, Mrs. Richardson, the woman with whom I share my life is many things, but among her enumerated traits, Blackness ain’t one of them. Just so we’re clear and we can move this thing forward.
That said, I didn’t marry her on purpose.
Like, I’m not one of those Black men who spin the “woe is me” yarn about how Black women never gave him a chance or how unfair Black women were to me in the past, or how some Black woman hurt my feelings and I just gave up on them as a staff, record label, and crew. Nah. It’s quite the contrary. Some of my best relationships have been with Black women.
When I look back on my track record (however spotted) of women I dated with varying degrees of seriousness, it’s pretty much a test case for equality of opportunity and failure with Black and non-Black women both having substantive representation in my fonder memories. Me marrying a woman who is not Black is more a function of timing and proximity than some kind of pathology.
Simply stated, when I reached the point in my life where I finally had the wherewithal and self awareness to realize who and what I was and where I was going, my girlfriend at the time (now my wife) was there for the ride and just happened to not be Black.
We dated. We got married. We started a family and the family we started together is very much a Black one.
Not just because our children are phenotypically Black according to the prevailing standards of race and ethnicity. Not based on some flimsy belief that playing some Motown records on Saturday morning or eating soul food from time to time gives us a pass. Not even because they have been exposed to more active and passive N-words being dropped around them to make Quentin Tarrantino blush. Nah.
We made a choices and reached conclusions (some simple, some not) about what we wanted our family to be like, how we wanted to raise our children, and what we value and each of those decisions came out Black in some way.
Our daughter had a white doll that we named Chaka Khan
One of the first things we decided was that the prevailing aesthetic in our home was going to lean heavily brown and Black. That’s not to say that we have mud cloth shower curtains or an Africa themed kitchen, but instead we celebrate the beauty of Black and brown people as well as the art and work they produce.
Before our first daughter was born, she had Black and brown girl dolls. Her first books were by Black and brown authors about Black and brown subjects. She learned to count reading Feast for 10 and spent hours watching I Love My Hair over and over and over. She knows what she looks like and that it’s not subject to someone else’s standards of beauty. She knows that she’s mixed but, at 5 years-old, she’ll tell you, “I look like Beyonce’!”.
This is not to say that we downplay or overlook my wife’s ethic background or cultural contributions. It’s simply an acknowledgment that raising a little girl who society is going to see as Black and ascribe its racial hang-ups and biases means taking extra steps to make sure her self esteem and sense of self worth are nurtured. As much as we’d like our home to be some kind of multi-ethnic bastion of inclusion, we know the world don’t work like that so we have to get our girls as ready as we can.
Simply stated, in our house, brown is the normative state and Black is always beautiful.
My daughter had a tantrum when we forgot to record Blackish
One of these days, I’m going to have the hard talk with my 5 year-old about who Anthony Anderson is and that Det. Bernard from Law & Order and Dre from Blackish are, in fact, not the same person and those are actually two very very different shows. Until then, one of the constants in our home has been that, on Wednesday nights, we have an appointment show that our family watches about another aspirational Black family.
Why is this important? Yeah, there are plenty of white families that are probably also huddled around their screens watching the same thing who would love to make a claim to Blackness from that simple act. The difference is that, our family’s cultural worldview is heavily informed by Blackness and is best exampled by our collective sense of humor and overall cynical perspective.
This is a uniquely Black thing to do. To live life waiting for the other shoe to drop and then possessing the unique ability to laugh in that moment is a uniquely African American way of looking at and living life. My wife, who is not Black, has probably been most instrumental in promoting this quality in our home and making it a cornerstone of our family. We laugh at ourselves and consciously eschew taking shit too seriously all the time.
The fact that my wife and children have adopted that survival mechanism by choice amaze me.
My wife doesn’t like talking to the cops
When we found out that we were having another baby last year, I can recall the real anxiety that overcame my wife when she thought we might be having a boy. I recall specifically her saying that, if we were to have a son, we’d have to move to the suburbs or figure out if we were even going to stay in the US for fear that something might happen to our potential Black male child.
The fact is, we all share a home and we’re all part and parcel to the same anxieties of Blackness. When the bulb went out on the tail light of our truck, my wife understood that fixing it could be a matter of life or death. If I have to interact with law enforcement, my wife understands that she’s potentially the buffer between me and some wild shit going down. While my wife may not own some of the same risks that I do, she’s beholden to the same worries and concerns that arise from living in a neighborhood that’s Black, by associating with a peer group that predominately Black, and by understanding that the standards by which our children will be judged will be through a lens of Blackness.
So yeah, I get it. From time to time people look at me crazy when I interject in discussions about the state of Black relationships of Black families and they standard retort is, “Well, your wife ain’t Black so…”. But I’m here to say that, outside of the prevailing standards that may be set by others, I have no doubt that the family that Mrs. Richardson and I are raising together is, unapologetically and doubtlessly Black.
And it’s like that because we want it to be that way. It’s a choice we made to step away from simple platitudes of Blackness or an embrace of hollow multiculturalism to, essentially, pick a side. It wasn’t simple, but it’s what works for us.
All of this is not to say that my wife, who is not Black, is actively complicit in denying her own heritage or keeping our children from knowing and embracing all sides of our family.
I feel kinda wrong that I presented this thesis as if it were a zero sum proposition of Blackness vs. Otherness in our home, which it isn’t. If anything, my wife has pulled me from my cultural “comfort zones” and pushed me and the rest of my family to embrace new norms and leverage our diversity as a strength.
Having a multi-ethnic household isn’t about the propagation of one side’s culture or history at the peril of the other’s. So while I say our family is Black, that’s just a piece of a larger pastiche of things that we are and have become by virtue of our varying backgrounds. We’re also Catholic although I’m not Catholic, Anglo-Indian although I’m not Anglo-Indian, and hockey fans although I’m not a hockey fan. We’re all of these things and still officially Black because we want it to be that way and we work hard to make sure we keep it pragmatic while still keeping it balanced.