I want you to know how hard I am working to make sure you feel like the protagonist.
You know what has become so very delightful about you? I now get verbal confirmation from you that my nagging is totes working.
ME: Hard work?
YOU: Pays off.
ME: (rubbing my hands) MUHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
YOU: Nobody else’s mom is like this. What is wrong with you?
Anyhow, you require less savings of my brain and more direct deposit. I tell-nag you more than I write-nag you.
But one day when you are an adult … an adult with an undergrad from Stanford and a doctorate from Yale who between chess, fencing and academic scholarships managed to code sweaters for the needy in Sibera who has married a person that I like and respect and the two of you NOT ONLY do not live with me, but have a wonderful property with private quarters, a champagne fountain and a flock of guinea fowl for me which you INSIST that I live in for part of the year … yes, boy, when you are THAT adult, you might wonder where I was going with all of my crazy. So sometimes I’m going to write so you can understand what I was trying to do with some aspects of my parenting. ,
The thing I am grappling with lately, is tackling the anti-black images that we are all bombarded with. Both subtle, and FOX News.
You aren’t going to be a conscious brother by osmosis. I’m adjusting my lifestyle to show my work, so to speak.
For example, I normally buy Elle magazine. But I consume a lot of relevant beauty content from Essence/Ebony/Jet online. But now, I am going to get a subscription to every black magazine except King. You need to SEE black people on the coffee table.
I have to make sure you know how I feel about little black girls and other black women. Lupita N'yongo is gracing the cover of Vogue this month and I must have taken you to the grocery store a billion times to see if it was in Austin yet. We did a little “Loo-pee-TAH!” conga line over to the magazine stand, only to see last month’s cover girl.
This happened so many times that I thought you might start yelling, “GODDAMMIT! Still Charlize!”
I caaaarefully planned your introduction to the Huxtables. Not too early or you’d be bored. Not too late or you’d be JJ from Good Times.
It worked. You LOVE The Cosby Show. You want to be Theo. You love his haircut. You love the way he dresses.
That is all we watch at night. There are other good family programs, but hardly any where the black people are the protagonist. If they are, it is about how Jayquan grew up in the ghetto and survived anyway.
I will not teach you that you are a sidekick in the world. YOU are the main character and your life is not a tragedy you have to overcome.
Clearly no news programs. And no radio.
I have an entire playlist devoted to you being able to scream “WHAT YOU KNOW ABOUT THAT, YOUNG ‘UN?” whenever an Isley Brothers song comes on.
When I just want something on the television, I play Brooklyn Castle for you. It blew your mind that a kid who looks closer to Biggie than Eminem could be brilliant. In fact, you kinda want to BE Justus Williams, and it tickles me SO MUCH.
YOU: The BROWN GUY? He’s the BEST at CHESS?
But you know what hurts? Already, you could hardly believe that the white kid in the movie was NOT the best player. Nowhere close to the best. You kept asking, incredulous, the brown boy is better?
I was a VORTEX OF THE FEELS.
Well, to be accurate, the “feels” and the “pissed.”
Curating your personal library is also a crusade. Finding enough well-written, beautifully illustrated children’s books featuring black kids is exhausting. Everything is maaaaybe multicultural or “He ain’t heavy, he’s my lil’ brother."
We are in the process of writing a few of our own (under your CREATOR brand pillar). If you don’t like something in the world, solve it.
I even think about the art in my house. For a while I had a looootta oil portraits of white folks. They were cumulatively creepy. Like an oil magnate’s library. I put them in the bedroom. Because it cracked me up to watch my friends’ faces - YOU SLEEP IN HERE? THEY’RE ALL … WATCHING YOU!
But my warped sense of humor is mostly wasted on you right now. You’d just see a lot of white people. If I only find white faces worthy of display, what does that say to you?
Much to the relief of my friends, that rogue’s gallery had to be taken down. Now that doesn’t mean I replace all my art with black folks, but I am very conscious of the balance.
Luckily, I have gorgeous family portraits to put up and the people in them are beautiful enough to qualify as art.
Also, I’m not above helping people be more inclusive. Sometimes it’s nothing that a brown crayon can’t fix …
You’re welcome, IKEA.
My other little tirade concerns crayons and worksheets and products. Adults are having a hard time learning that there is no such color as "flesh.” Your color of flesh is flesh. So is mine. So is your grandfather’s. So is Auntie Seng’s. All of them. Unless it is clear? I don’t want it described as “flesh” or “nude.”
For the good of all you kids, mommy is going to have to teach some grownups a few lessons on color.
You didn’t think you were the only one on the receiving end of mommy’s nagging, did you?