Heritage: Celebrating Our Children
by Amy L. Artiste
The first time I saw my husband Robert I was sure he was the most striking man I had ever seen, and when he walked into the same night-school class I was taking he reminded me of a painting of an Egyptian god. His body was strong and muscular and his skin was a dark, rich bronze. His eyes were a deep, masculine black with long, curly lashes that gave him a boyish quality. Physically we couldn’t have been more opposite. I have blonde hair, green eyes and fair skin, and when we met there was an instant connection between us. Robert had an optimism and individuality I’d never seen in another person, and he helped me think in new ways about everything that surrounded me. Although I had been married before for many years, this was new to me and when I was with him, it felt like I was fully experiencing life for the first time. I was in love.
A year after we met, Robert and I moved in together. Because we were the first in both of our families to date outside our own race, some of our family members had reservations about our future as a couple. We didn’t feel that the color of our skin was relevant. Therefore, we ignored the negative attitudes and comments of our loved ones and continued to live our lives the way that we chose to. Another year later I became pregnant and we decided to get married. It was finally clear to everyone that we weren’t just a novelty to each other and planned to stay together for the rest of our lives.
In the spring of 1999, our daughter was born. She was gorgeous and independent from the second she took her first breath and our families suddenly forgot everything they had ever learned about the differences between black people and white people. They just knew she was a beautiful baby girl, and that they loved her as much as we did. I was glad. Because thirteen months after that, our son was born and I couldn’t have been happier.
Robert and I have been together for five years now, and though our families have adjusted, things haven’t always been easy. We’ve been through an array of hardships that have tested us physically, financially and emotionally, but during the ups and downs we remained supportive of each other, and have come through things still holding hands. Our family is intact and our relationship is stronger than ever. Although we no longer get criticism from family members about our relationship, and often get stopped by strangers who tell us how beautiful they think our children are, this hasn’t always been the case. We’ve encountered people who’ve let us know clearly, that they don’t approve of interracial couples and approve even less of them having children. And the unsolicited criticism has come from both blacks and whites in equal proportion.
While the optimist in me hopes that as my children grow up, they’re never made to feel uncomfortable by a stranger’s ignorance, I know that reality can be different. It’s possible, almost probable, that someday one of them will come to me and ask why someone has tried to make them feel bad about who they are. To prepare them for this, there are a few things my husband and I will make sure they know.
Our children will know that they are not black and they are not white, they are both. They’re the best of everything, and a bridge between an ancient world where life first began and the world we are living in now, where a woman can be a Supreme Court justice and a man has the option of being a stay-at-home dad. They’ll know that at their young age, they already have knowledge some may never experience in a hundred years, because they share a multicultural heritage that is unparalleled. They can be anything they want to be. Like all human beings, their strength is in their attitude, and this makes them capable of achieving amazing things. They’ll know how to combat ignorance with a higher level of thinking, which will make them more powerful than they were before.
I’ll tell my son to look to his father for an example of what a good man, husband and father should be, and that the color of a person’s skin isn’t an indication of intelligence, personality, ability or quality. I’ll make sure he’s confident that when he goes out on his own he knows he’s not lacking anything. He’s already equipped with everything he needs to make amazing contributions to the world. He was born with these things and will grow up to be a strong man. He is a son, a brother and a father to all the people of the world, not just one group. He is unique and loved.
I will explain to my daughter that all women are only limited by their minds and I’ll show her how to set hers free. She has special qualities that make her rare and brilliant and she has demonstrated this since birth. I’ll tell her she’s a perfect mixture of her father and mother and that we would give our lives for her if necessary. She’ll know that she has the most important capacity of all, the power to give life. Using her father as the model of how a man should treat her, she will have the world from which to choose a husband and won’t be limited by anything. Least of all race.
If you try to figure out why some people feel the need to classify others according to color, you’ll be hard pressed to come up with a good answer, because our differences are not nearly as distinct as the fact that we’re all human beings. Our children only know us as mommy and daddy and have never questioned why we have four different shades of skin color in our family. Their reality is larger than you can imagine. And if you think they’re beautiful, know that their beauty is only matched by the beauty they have on the inside. And like all the children of the world, they are cherished, and they are by far, our greatest resource.
Amy L. Artiste is a freelance writer who lives in New York with her husband and two children. Every day is an adventure.
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