A few days ago; my seven year old, who has become obsessed with football, asked me "can quarterbacks be black?" It both stunned and saddened me. He has already noticed that people that look like him, while on the field, aren't holding the most coveted position. I thought of Cam Newton, Micheal Vick, and Colin Kaepernick but that's just three out of 32 teams. I thought of my undergraduate course on race and sports. I thought of how my classmates and I were asked to write about just this; how the lack of diversity in quarterbacks had nothing to do with the lack of black players applying for the job and everything to do with the misconception of black athletes. How players of color are thought of as fast, strong and naturally athletic but not smart or level headed enough to call plays.
If you listen to a football commentator during a game you will hear very distinct adjectives to describe both black and white players. For starters blacks are athletes, they refer to their athleticism while white players are skilled, trained, have a love of the game and are hard working. Black players are born to be athletes; this goes back to race medicine which was engineered during slavery. It refers to how blacks are thought to be gifted athletically within their genes while white players are more admirable because they work at it. I know all this - like my son I love football. But how do I explain this to a seven year old whose current dream is to be a quarterback? How do I tell him that while I know representation matters that he will have to forge his own path, that while he may not be the first the road ahead is still not free of obstacles. How do I tell him that discrimination is not limited to the NFL; that he will encounter it throughout his life when he least expects it because of the color of his skin? And of course the constant question I always have, do I even tell him?
So instead I say, on that Tuesday evening while I'm putting him to bed and my stomach has sunk upon hearing his innocent question, "of course black people can be quarterbacks, just like women, people can be whatever they want."
I had a realization the other day that becoming a parent has made me much more laid back and relaxed. Things that would have been stressful or "impossible" before are now just things. Things that can be overcome or dealt with later when I feel more up to it. I'm not saying I postpone or procrastinate it's just that my to-do list no longer dictates my day.
Having two little ones means I sit on the floor alot, I play ALOT and I get to see things from their point of view. So I notice butterflies, and rainbows instead of just rushing through life I actually take my time and enjoy the things that otherwise may have gone unnoticed because I was "busy."
When I had my children, I realized that the words "busy" and "tired" took on a whole other meaning. Before it was so easy to say, I can't do that because I'm busy or I'm too tired, but when you have a baby that's teething, another that's sick and you haven't gotten more than two hours of consecutive sleep, maybe four hours total, and you still get up and manage to care for yourself (even if it's just brushing your teeth and putting on clean pajamas) and two other human beings you realize that you are capable of so much more than you ever gave yourself credit for.
I guess what I'm trying to say is, I love my kids, and so often you hear, "if I didn't have kids I would..." but honestly if I didn't have kids I wouldn't do half of the things that I am doing now. Because becoming a mom has made me push myself farther than I ever thought possible. Physically and psychologically the demands of being a mama are like none other, but I wouldn't change it.
Thanks kiddos for making me stronger.
So this weekend after lots of screaming and crying, mostly on my end, I decided that now is not the time to wean my 18 month old. I know pick your jaws up off the floor, but we're just not ready. Despite everyone's advice that 'he's too old' or 'you're gonna be on the cover of a magazine some day' and if they're referring to the above image from Time magazine, well, that's not just some trash rag, Time magazine is pret-ty impressive, although I never thought I'd be on their cover for something as mundane as nursing but hey maybe while I'm there I can plug my book, lol.
Anyway I digress the point is, Friday my toddler didn't nurse at all during the day, so I thought, maybe he's ready to give this up. Then came Friday night and bedtime was a disaster and my husband was like, 'you're just gonna cut him off coldturkey?' So then I thought, okay I'll only nurse him at night. So Saturday he went home with his grandparents sand I thought hey when he comes back Sunday this should all be a cakewalk. Well that was extremely naive of me because the moment he came home and saw me, all he saw were mammary glands. I kept him at bay by taking him outside, feeding him his favorite snacks but he was exhausted and he needed a nap and the only way he was gonna get that was falling asleep with a mouthful of breast.
There's nothing like listening to your child scream and cry out of frustration, anger, or hurt, all because society has decided that they have put up with your "hippie feeding" for long enough. Well as a mom too many times you have to hear your child cry when there's nothing you can do about it, so when it was hour 3 of crying I just thought, what the hell am I doing? He just needs to nurse. It's not like when he starts school he'll be excused from class so I can nurse him for his morning snack, or when he's married his wife will have to move over in bed so I can breastfeed him back to sleep.
Breastfeeding is so beautiful and I'll never be this close to my baby again so why not cherish if for as long as he likes, or at least until he's not getting six teeth at a time? Oh yeah did I forget to mention, little man #2 is teething and we're not talking, oh look he got one incisor, no no no, he get's two canines his back molars and a couple more random teeth in a week. Since this post is brutally honest I might also mention that he had horrendous allergies, (wheezing, coughing, can't sleep due to his runny nose allergies) and a cold last week. So yeah, also cutting him from the one thing that was providing him comfort, there's no way that that was gonna happen successfully. I know that he's not nursing for nutrition, he eats like a horse, I mean he clears his plate and then moves onto everyone else's, so obviously the nursing is just emotional support and comfort which why would I deprive him of that, no matter how many dirty looks I get??
The worst thing is, it's not just men that hate on breastfeeding, it's woman. My fellow sex has the most haters that I've encountered. I've had everything from awkward stares and glares to laughter to just plan old shakes of the head, like, 'are you seriously going to pull your breast out to sooth that child?' And they mostly come from women which is sad because we should be building each other up. So I say to all the moms out there, support each other but mostly You Go Girl, for taking on the hardest job in the world, and questioning every decision you make when it comes to your kids, and for just being awesome. You're doing a great job. That is the type of conversations we fellow moms should be having with one another, not the "Oh you're still nursing," or "You're kid still sleeps in bed with you," "They're still wearing diapers," that kinda trash doesn't belong in our vocabularies, because we all know we're killing ourselves for our kids so when you see a fellow mom out there with stains all over her clothes and gum in her hair trying to wrangle three kids, a stroller and a carseat, just smile and say, "hang in there sister, they'll be outta the house some day." Don't judge because we're all just doing the best we can.
I don't know when nursing became so taboo but it seems to me to be ridiculous. I just really wanted to publish this post because other women out there should know that it's nothing to be ashamed of, if you're nursing a toddler you're not alone and you're not weird or stunting your child's development. You're loving your baby and last I checked we all could use some more love in the world.
For those of you that believe there is no race issue in America I want you to be patient with me and ask yourself a few questions. Have you ever inherited something from your family? Perhaps it was money? A house? A piece of land? It could be the name of the city where your great grandmother was born. Maybe your last name? Or the knowledge of the country where your ancestors came from. As a person of African descent living in the United States these are things I did not inherit.
It's not that my family isn't proud of who they are, it's that we were brought to this country as livestock. Like many others, my family's name was chosen arbitrarily. It could be the surname of a slave owner that once owned of my kin. It could have been assigned by a city official or hospital worker. Like many people who share my skin tone, their family may have multiple birthdates and surnames in county records. Black people weren't allowed to pass things onto future generations. Any record of who they were was also against the law to record. Any clue as to where we came from was purposefully erased. Imagine growing up knowing you weren't supposed to be here but having nowhere else to go.
My parents grew up during the Civil Rights movement. Seeing people that looked like them being lynched, denied basic human services, killed with no consequence, sprayed with firehoses, their churches bombed. They raised me to be aware that because of the color of my skin, I should expect to be treated differently. I would have to work harder for people to get to know me rather than the stereotype that they were familiar with. There were times in school, like when I was eight, where my teacher assumed I wasn't very bright. I woke up with stomach aches every morning before school. The thing is, even today I don't know if she was racist. That's the thing about it, racists rarely come out and say it. She may have not even known. Was it a different reason entirely that she treated me differently than everyone else? When no one in your class looks anything like you and you're singled out, you ask yourself why. A child shouldn't be concerned with the motivations and personal perceptions of an adult.
As an adult my kids get called "mixed race." I usually correct the speaker by saying no they are just one, the human race. I didn't get impregnated by an alien afterall. Yet will I have to revert back to what so many previous generations have had to tell their children?
I didn't want to do that to my kids. Make them afraid to travel to southern states, expect them to be arrested for "driving while black," receive dirty looks from people due to the hue of their skin. But in 2016 with a presidential candidate spewing hate and giving the voice of radical racist leaders a platform, I fear for my son's.
What America will they face? The America that is culturally diverse and aware of its dark past but willing to face it so we all can heal? Or the America that denies there is a problem in the first place?
Race scientifically has been refuted as a legitimate category. But the fact that we still rely on it as a signifier, used to profile others, means it's not going anywhere.
After the horrific events of WWII, Germany built museums, they labeled the sites of death camps. They did this so they would never forget and never repeat. In America black cemeteries, left over from a time when whites and blacks couldn't be buried in the same land, are overgrown. Sites where human beings were once sold are long destroyed. There is no trace of what happened. It's painful but necessary that we remember our shared history. We can't keep erasing and therefore minimizing what an entire country and people experienced.
I understand it's uncomfortable but it could save lives. It could eradicate the voice in so many people of colors minds. The voice that says, you're getting pulled over, is this because of what you did or the way you look? That women glared at you, is it because she has resting B face or because of your complexion?
Racism, like sexism, was literally written into our Constitution - yet there is no reason for black people to feel they need to state that our lives matter?
Val Day-Sanchez is a professor, author, activist, mom, wife, social justice warrior.
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