Guest post by Cocoa Rivera
My son and I were in line at the grocery store the other day when he saw some kids hangin’ around talking. He asked if he could join them and I gave him the nod. Before he proceeded he looked at me with a shy expression I don’t see from him very often. He said “um, mom…they’re white kids…will they bully me?”
At first I was super embarrassed because all the other moms in line were white women (wide eyed white women at this point) but then I thought to myself… “Cocoa, there is no shame in having this conversation with your son in public.”
I swallowed and asked, “Why would you think that babe?” I was shocked when I heard his response: “Well, because you were bullied by white kids and I look just like you”. I wanted to smile and say… “Yeah baby that’s why we put you in Kung Fu!” Instead, I grabbed his hand, stroked his caramel brown skin looked at him in his big brown eyes and said “oh honey, just because mommy had a hard time doesn’t mean you will. You’re a very like-able kid, just go say hi!” He made three new friends that day.
I’ll continue to speak positivity into my son’s life because I don’t want him living in fear. But he starts kindergarten in September and I can’t lie, I’m pretty concerned. I’m just praying that his school days don’t mirror mine.
My mom told me about a conversation she had with my birth father years ago. She said they debated about whether I would embrace her white, his black, or my beautiful mixture. He was adamant that regardless of my genetic makeup or the light tones in my skin, I will always see myself as a black person because that’s how people will treat me.
He was right.
It didn’t take long for me to realize I was different. In fourth grade I, along with three other black kids, were scolded and sent out of class almost every single day. I was also bullied a lot and I questioned if it was because of the way I looked. Being unsure about my skin led to an identity crisis. I got tired of being the token black kid so I tried surrounding myself with Asian kids. They used the “N” word a lot. I gravitated toward Latino kids my nickname was La Negra.
I never felt like I really fit in anywhere.
I don’t want to project my childhood insecurities on to my son but I also don’t want him to go through what I went through. My husband and I question our responsibility in all of this: Are we okay with our child being in a predominantly white school or should we make a conscious effort to make sure he’s surrounded by kids who look like him? Should we teach him to be the change he wishes to see in the world or allow him to be comfortable in his own skin? This is a conversation we’ve been having since he was a baby.
As an adult, I see the beauty of being in a position to bridge the gap between my black and my white and I’ll do my best to inspire the same self-awareness in my son. But it has to start with a conversation…like the one we had in the grocery store and those between my husband and me. It’s important to discuss these topics amongst our families and equally important to keep the conversation going publicly – which is why I appreciate being able to post about it.
While I was writing this, I was reminded of a scripture the Holy Spirit gave me for my son years ago and I would like to share part of it with you.
Psalms 56:11: What harm could man do to me? With God on my side I will not be afraid of what comes. My heart overflows with praise to God and for his promises. I will always trust in him.
I’m just a mom who wants the best for my baby just like all of you. But while I’m blogging about how worried I am for his future I have to stop and remind myself that I serve a loving God who is in control.
Cocoa is a bi-racial, self-proclaimed Jesus follower living with Multiple Sclerosis. She is married to her best friend of 10 years and mom-ing a high spirited 5 year old boy. Family days consist of church, road trips, hiking, Harry Potter marathons or social protests. Since she can’t eat pizza, Cocoa’s passions are Love + Equality and writing about it. At 28 years old, she spends most of her time at the gym, with her family and drinking Kombucha.