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Posts Tagged ‘race’

There was a moment in my labor and delivery room about to give birth to my third baby where I distinctly remember wondering if I might die.

I know, I know, this sounds dramatic. But I was feeling faint. Like I was about to pass out. The nurses has just given me oxygen, and they had be laying on my side to try to bring my baby’s heartbeat back up. That coupled with the fact that a couple of months before I had read a New York Times article about the maternal mortality rate for Black women in the US is is 3 to 4 times higher than that of white women. These statics are across the board by the way, regardless of income and education levels.

Hospital induction birth story

So there I was scared, on the bed wondering if I or my baby was about to become a part of this horrendous statistic.

Luckily for me, for us. We were fine. I delivered her quickly, recovered ok, and in a few months from now she will reach her first birthday.

So we are one of the lucky ones. Black women in the US are more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth than any other racial group.

Hospital induction birth story

Why? There are so many factors that go into this. And I’ve been diving in and doing a lot of research on my own. Some say it’s access to quality medical care, the fact that black-serving hospitals provide lower-quality medical care (and 75% of black women give birth in those hospitals). High-risk pregnancies, and stress are other factors I’m reading about. The TIMEs article I read linked statistics to racial bias, and stress from a lifetime of discrimination.

I’m not going to speculate on why I think these statistics are the way they are. Instead I want to figure out what we need to do to fix this. One of the first steps is shedding light on the issue. I saw an Instagram post sharing the statistic and the shocking responses it garnered. “I had no idea!” I’m seeing over and over.

Well now you do.

It’s Black Maternal Health Week… I mean, I’m right here sharing this at the tail end. But this isn’t a conversation that starts one week and ends the next. This needs to be an ongoing discussion.

For a developed country we already have too high of mortality rates with childbirth. And beyond that, we need to pledge to examine why Black women are three to four times more likely to experience a pregnancy related death than white women. And speak up when we notice inequalities. Push lawmakers to address policies. We can educate our pregnant friends about this statistic so they can arm themselves with information to advocate for themselves.

I found this website Black Mamas Matter Alliance to be a helpful place to start diving in. If you really want some nitty gritty raw stories from women firsthand, check out the stories in the highlights of @sgarnerstyle on IG.

I’ll come back and update this post as I find more helpful information and ways we can support more women.

Every once in awhile I’ll have a generally well-meaning person tell me they don’t even notice I’m black. “I’m color blind,” they say. I personally believe this statement is coming from one of two places. Either one where they’re trying to defend themselves from the appearance of being racist. Or (more commonly) in an attempt to say that they don’t care what someone looks like.

I smile, because I know it’s intended to be a kind statement, but in my mind I’m debating opening up a dialogue.

why you shouldn't strive to be colorblind

I want to say: YES, you do notice (at least I hope so), and that’s okay!

I love one of the infamous lines from Dr. martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream Speech:

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

I think one of the keywords in this statement is “judged.” Dr. King didn’t say he dreams of a nation where his four little children won’t be seen by the color of their skin. There’s a big difference.

It’s natural to notice if someone has red hair, is extremely tall, or has lots of freckles. Just as one might notice those attributes, it’s natural to notice someone’s race.

We all have unique characteristics that make us who we are and it’s wonderful. No two people are EXACTLY alike. We are as God intended us to be. You don’t need to feel like you should avoid noticing who I am, or the fact that I’m black. I’m black. It’s a fact. It’s part of what makes me who I am. Not the whole part, but a significant part. To do that would be to ignore a part of my heritage and where I come from.

I remember when I lived in southern Utah once a young child not-so-quietly pointed at me and asked her mom what was going on with my skin. The embarrassed mom whisked her child away as she changed the subject.

There’s this idea that it’s wrong if our children notice skin color. A notion that we should raise our children to not even see color.–To be colorblind. I think we should do the opposite.

I’m not saying to walk outside and have your child point out every person they see and call out skin tones. But have an open dialogue and embrace diversity. It exists. We’re all different and there is beauty in that.

When your child starts to notice race (and they will, not in terms we use like “African American” “Caucasian” etc. but literal skin colors) don’t shy away from it.

“Yes, you’re right, she does look a little like Doc. McStuffins, what did you notice they have in common?” Your child may say because the little girl has pigtails like Doc, or because they share the same skin color.

“Yes, her skin color is darker, like chocolate! Isn’t it pretty?”

When your biracial daughter says she wishes she was white: How to stay calm and work through the situation.

Lil’ J and I bought a beautiful new book earlier this week called The Colors of Us. The book takes a little girl on a walk through the town with her artist mother and describes different shades of brown skin; from toffee to creamy peanut butter to butterscotch to dark chocolate cupcakes. I loved Lil’ J’s reaction as she saw all the different shades and commented on each of their beauty (and deliciousness). She’s also a huge art fan, so seeing the colors mix up in different combinations was fun for her.

I think open dialogues, diverse toys and books like this that openly describe diversity (bonus points for being it in a cute way) are less-intimidating for parents, and entertaining for kids. And if you’re in a less-diverse area like southern Utah and you’ve prepped your kids with diverse books, they may be less surprised when they see their first black person in real life.

While I hope that my race isn’t the only thing you notice about me (or my family), I want you to know that it’s OK to notice. It’s who we are, and we’re proud of it!

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Just a couple days ago my daughter said her daddy was “blue” because the shirt he was wearing was blue. Apparently I was red because that was the color of my shirt. I was beginning to think perhaps it is true what some people claim to believe… Kids are colorblind to skin.

I’ve never honestly felt that way; that children, or people in general are colorblind to race. It’s natural to recognize someone looking different than you, or out of the ordinary. Whether it’s someone with red hair, blond hair, brown skin—whatever. We aren’t blind, and it’s ok to notice these things. But do children?

happy-little-girl-with-fall-leaves

Tonight, my daughter dropped a bomb on me: “Mom, why are you brown and I’m not?”

“What?” I looked down at my shirt, to see if that’s what she meant. But she clarified just as I was checking.

“Your skin. Why is your skin brown, and mine’s not?” She asked.

“Yours isn’t?” I thought it might be best to answer her question with questions to see where she was coming from.

“No. See?” She held up her arm for me to inspect.

“Well, who told you that?” I immediately became suspicious of kids at school. Kids at school are always bringing new things to her attention. She just started a new preschool, and maybe someone said something about us after drop off.

“Well, Daniel Tiger says…” (She broke out in a tune) “In some ways we are different, and in some ways, we are the same.”

Damn that tiger.

No really, it’s not his fault, or any fault at all. In the episode on the PBS show the differences they highlight are a kid walking using braces, and not everyone having a tail. From what I can tell, my daughter taking it to the skin color discussion was all on her own.

little-girl

“That’s right,” I said. “But what color are you?”

She wasn’t sure how to answer this either, she looked around the room, maybe for a comparison.

“Well, my kitchen is white…”

“Yes…” I said. Waiting to hear more. “Like you?” I questioned.

“No.” She said.

“Oh ok, well what’s daddy? Is he brown too?” I asked, trying to see where she was going with this.

“No, he’s yellow. Like me.” She decided.

“Oh ok,” I answered. “What about your brother?”

“He’s yellow too,” she professed. “Me, and daddy and [my brother] are yellow. And only you—“ she stopped to change her mind. “You and Snoop are brown.”

The dog and I are brown. I smiled, as I learned the workings of my preschooler’s thoughts of the world.

“Ok. And is brown pretty?” I braced herself for her answer. But I was really curious what she’d say.

“No,” she responded point blank.

“Why not?” I asked her.

“Because brown’s not my favorite color.”

“Is mommy pretty?” I asked.

“YES!” And she dove into my lap for a hug.

“Mommy?”

Oh great what now. “Yes?”

“Can we play with blocks now?”

And as quickly as that, the conversation was over.

exploring-the-world

Later, after she was tucked into bed, then came back out of her room sneaking some extra mommy time, she brought it up again while pointing to a photograph of herself against her daddy’s skin and said: “I don’t want my skin to be this color.”

This comment shocked me the most out of everything, but again, I tried to stay cool and keep with the questions, versus answers.

“Why not?” I asked her.

“Because I’m brown, and that’s not my favorite color.”

“Oh, well what color do you want to be?” Again, I braced myself for her answer.

“Purple.” She said.

I took a small sigh of relief. Apparently I’m ok with my daughter wanting to be purple. I just said “ok” (whatever kid!). It was late and she was trying to delay bedtime at this point.

“You’re beautiful the way you are.”

As I suspected all along, kids aren’t colorblind, they notice things. Though it’s not always on her mind that “mommy is brown.” For some reason it came to her mind in this moment, and was gone the next. The same thing happens with conversations with my husband. I don’t constantly think about being married to a white dude… Or even dwell on the fact that I’m black. It rarely comes up at home because we’re just mommy, daddy, wife, and husband; adorable kids… A family.

Biracial-questionsShe’s exploring and learning about the world around her, in all sorts of aspects of her little life right now. I think. I hope. No, I PRAY it’s a long time before we have a deeper skin color conversation that deals with wanting to be colors other than purple. But who knows, maybe it will never happen. And if it does (because honestly, I suspect every child, every color at some point wishes they could look like someone else) I hope… No, I pray it will be as cool, collected, and humorous as it was tonight.

I did it. I ran my first 5k! Alright I confess, I walked most of the way. Well, walked and climbed, dove, jumped, swam, balanced, and slid that is. It was as ridiculous as I expected, but more fun than I imagined!

I recruited my friend Brittani more than a month ago to do this crazy obstacle course race with me. She’s awesome and can run for days (she’s training for a half-marathon!) but promised not to leave me in the dust during the run. Thankfully she didn’t cause my legs were already shaking after running through the first obstacle.
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As I’ve mentioned before, I hate running. I prefer to reserve that kind of exertion for life or death situations. But I’ve sorta taken it up as a challenge, and a way to get some time to myself.

5ks don’t typically excite me but when I saw this one gave me the chance to pretend I’m a ninja warrior on Wipe Out, I signed up.

It’s funny how before the event, I imagined myself nailing each obstacle like a champ. Then the outcome just didn’t quite… Yea, it didn’t happen.

roc raceMy favorite obstacle was probably the wrecking ball, and yes, it knocked me in. But I did make it about halfway across, maybe a little more.

I went face first down the world’s largest inflatable water slide. After climbing to the top the guy at the top said “on your stomach!” I thought he was joking and asked him if he was serious. He was.

“Do a lot of people go down on their stomach?”

“Yea!?”

“What percentage of people?”

“About 80 percent!”

Good enough for me to quickly evaluate the odds of me dying going face first were low. If he was telling the truth that is.

20130909-040437.jpgIt was the time of my life! Can’t wait to do it again next year. Maybe I’ll run a little more. And as for crossing of the first item on my 30 by 30 list… Done and done. Just 29 more to go!

Hi! I’m Jennifer Borget

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I'm a part-time journalist, full-time wife and mother striving to make the world a better place and inspiring others to do the same. This is the space where I share my journey in making the most of every day.

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