White Mother, African Daughter

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I am white. I have two African daughters. One of my daughters is grown and does not live with me; the younger daughter is 15. My daughter that is still at home is very pretty and we live in a nice home in a nice neighborhood. My daughter does not feel the remoteness and the detachment that I feel in this small southern town we moved to several years ago, but we have talked about the effect our differences have on people we encounter and we have come to realize we are special.

My daughter says that her friends can be "mean" or "nosy." As her schoolmates become aware that her mother is white, she is asked, "Where is your mother?" This means her friends know her white mom cannot be her birth mom, so they want to know what happened to her birth mom. Depending on what the truth is, it can be an awkward moment for a fifteen year old. Her friends ask, "Can your mom do a perm?" Which means to chemically straighten African hair. She replies in the affirmative and her friends let her know when I do a "good perm." I am proud that as a white woman, I am "good at perm." There are not many of us around.

It has troubled me that my child's classmates question my ability to care for her and I know there have been times that she has worried about this also. For me, the mom, people don't ask personal questions; they are silent, and I am compelled to wonder what they might be thinking. I definitely notice slightly raised eyebrows and questioning looks, but never inappropriate questions. My acquaintances do not ask me if I can do hair or why I chose my African daughter and I wish they would. The racial barriers here in the south are oppressive and until there is open dialogue, the barriers will stay.

It is not known to many people who know my daughter or who know me that I have African children or that they have a white mom; as a result, I am exposed to racist behaviors that I wouldn't be exposed to if my family situation were known. My daughter is exposed to this on the African side. The extraordinary value to this is that her friends that know she has a white mom will correct the behavior or make her situation known and feelings will be expressed and discussed. What my daughter and I have learned is quite simple: An African person can completely love a white person and a white person can completely love an African person and one day this will be accepted. For the short term, some are gifted with a window to another world and that is a good beginning.

- Anne P.
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