When I became a new mum I lived in America. At the time a friend of mine had also just had her second baby. She was Black. I don’t remember ever considering that fact. Until one afternoon.
We used to go to a local playground together-buzzing with bubbas and mummas from all races, ages and occupations.
One day another white woman who was sitting next to us on a bench asked me first, the typical “Where are you from?” No, she insists, I mean where are you REALLY from?
For some reason stating that I am from the street across the park didn’t cut it. Neither did the answer that I have been living in the US for 7 years and I am an American citizen.
“See, I detect an accent so I need to know!” Sure, lady, I go on with my usual pride to share I am from Bulgaria, then the need to explain where this is as she lived the cliche of the American woman not knowing her Geography (all good, seems like I had gotten used to always explaining this bit).
Hm, she seems satisfied. She’s placed me in whatever inner box she had.
A moment of peace. I am left alone to just be. From the fucking playground, enjoying a moment with my friend.
She shuffles with impatience only to proceed into my friend’s placement investigation.
“So, you the nanny of this beauty?” she asks her condescendingly.
My friend’s eyebrows leave her forehead. I sense her need to respond in a very cliched way. The one of the angry African American woman we all know. She pauses and does not bite into it.
“No, I am her mother. And also the mother of the older one over there!”
We both use our bodies to communicate Get lost, lady! as we turn our backs to her and form our own little circle, a coalition.
I start wondering where am I?? Where is my place inside our little circle? How come we are even in this situation? It feels heavy with history.
“Oh, different baby daddies?” the stranger drops another well known bomb just like that. Here’s another truth to Black mothers, she seems to oh-know-so-well, matteroffactly.
See stereotypes burn deeply when you feel them on your skin. They sizzle into another layer of scars.
We leave the playground.
My black friend with a sigh so deep it carries centuries of oppression. Me, sensing the burden of my white privilege that I want to shake off.
I dart back to the “Lady” to tell her how insensitive and offensive her words had just been. Her blank expression tell me she has not even grasped it. Nothing in her has moved. No iota of understanding. It’s her absolute truth. The one she and her kids will continue to tell each other.
What has moved though is something big in me. And I make a deep inner promise to myself and my son that we will not perpetuate this. We will not reproduce the Black Mother stereotype.
We will care. We will witness. We will respect. Value. Disrupt power and privilege. See colour. And be an ally!