She got on the Number 13 at 2nd and Galer. A white woman and a little black boy. You don’t see that combination very often in Seattle, let alone on top of Queen Anne. His cherubic, brown cheeks. Bright yellow jacket. Baby hoodie with khakis and little black Nikes. What was he, two? Maybe three? They were going to the science center, she said. The Pacific Science Center. He was a black baby and she obviously loved him. She was a white woman in love with a black baby, just like me.
When you’re in love with a black baby, you learn things you already knew. You learn that watching babies grow is a miraculous, incredible thing. You learn that babies are people, too, with personalities and minds of their own, who exert more force on the universe as they grow. You learn that babies are little scientists. The whole world is her lab and she quickly professes favorite things, like blueberries and princesses, pistachios and saucisson sec. You learn that she loves to go on “bike wikes!” and to the “pwaygwound” and to see the Space Needle from the city bus. You discover that her mouth is just like her Uncle Seth’s and her feisty spirit just like her Tt’s.
When you’re in love with a black baby, you learn new things, too. You learn that people stare when they see a white adult loving a black baby. You learn that people ask pitifully if she’s adopted. You learn that black hair feels a lot like you imagined it would: springy and soft. You learn that you can tame this crazy, curly, beautiful hair by watching YouTube videos and asking your ever-so-patient black friends and black strangers at the farmers’ market lots of questions. You learn that olive oil is in. You learn that chemicals and shampoo are not. And you learn the hard way, the white fucking clueless way, that there exists another “N word” in reference to black hair that white people should never, ever use.
You learn that little black girls want to be princesses, too. You learn that up until 2009 – TWO FUCKING THOUSAND NINE – all the Disney princesses were white. You learn phrases like “white male gaze” and that brown lives really are worth less, literally.
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You learn that her existence will likely be very different from your white, privileged own. You learn that there are some things she will never be able to take for granted simply because of the color of her skin. You learn that she needs to know her black roots. Because even though she’s as much white as she is black, her skin is brown, her hair tightly coiled. Which in America means she’s black.
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If you’re sensitive enough, you learn that real knowledge of her black roots sure as hell isn’t going to come from you. You learn to appreciate the strong black women in her life who will teach her things you cannot. You learn that the knowing, empathetic bond that black people share is a beautiful thing that white people will never know. So you learn to respect being on the outside looking in. You learn that as a white person, the best thing for you to do is sit down, shut up, listen, and believe.
You learn that things that happen in Ferguson and Florida and Ohio to boys named Michael and Trayvon and Tamir really bother you. I mean really, really bother you. Because you learn that the odds are against young black females, too. You learn that that kind of injustice, which bothered you a lot before, almost rents your heart in two.
You learn that there are fires raging in your heart. One from loving that baby and the other from seething hate. Hate for the forces that conspire to stereotype her. Break her. Silence her. Destroy her.
When you’re in love with a black baby, at least one black life matters. A lot. And you learn that in that one important life lies the beautiful black lives of many preceding her. You learn that love breaks stereotypes. You learn when a child takes your heart in her hand and leads you out of your comfort zone, that maybe you’re more prejudiced than you once knew.
When you’re in love with a black baby, you learn it’s not about blackness or whiteness at all. You learn it’s more about the humanity we share than the things we don’t. You learn that it’s simply about loving a beautiful baby.