I’m helping her unlearn her fear of Black people.
Last month was the first time I’d ever kept my grandchildren for any significant period since being out of diapers. They are ages, 3, 7, 11, and 14. I haven’t been the stereotypical grey-haired, babysitting grandma because I didn’t want to care for anyone’s needs but my own. As a woman, daughter, big sister, mother, and family catch-all, I needed a break. The pandemic and quarantine have made it so parents get no breaks from their kids. I’m sure most people with children are sick and tired of being cooped up in the house with kids day in and day out. I remembered how much I appreciated when my dad kept my kids during summer and Christmas breaks, so I decided now was the perfect time to be the other grandma to pay it forward. I needed to mentally prepare (and budget) for this adventure for 4 additional kids.
It’s taken me a while to get here because of the informal pact with my sons since middle school that I would not be doing any regular grand mothering until I hit the ripe old age of 50. My oldest son thought I was playing around as he was sowing his seeds all over the place, making more babies than he could physically and financially care for. He learned pretty quickly I would not be a fallback or helping in the grand parenting department until I got ready.
I also wasn’t ready to deal with my biracial grandchildren being raised as White (see my story below). I detest racism and I knew I would have to find the patience to exorcise the White Supremacy out of my biracial grandkids. Fighting racism is a full-time job for those reading who casually check into and out of the antiracism fight. My home should be my refuge away from racism, but having biracial grandchildren with racist maternal grandparents means I’m inviting trouble into my home. I must endure racist microaggressions from the family to transform it. Black grandma’s love had to conquer White grandma’s hate and ignorance. I tire of dealing with White people’s racist bullshit some days.
But I was ready now, so I planned my grandma time for July 2020. Shockingly, the grandkids were excited to be traveling to Florida. So was I.
The Grand Kids
For context, I have a blended family that includes three biological grandkids with two bonus grandkids. My biological grandkids have other siblings who are older and not my biological grandkids, which makes me something of a bonus grandma. I claim them all. I hate leaving kids behind. I view this as punishment. I’m everyone’s grandma, and if I can’t do for all I do for none. Two of my grandkids are Black/African-American other two are biracial, Black/White/biracial. While some will say race doesn’t matter, those people are usually White and are ready to discount race because it makes them uncomfortable.
This is an uncomfortable story because it’s about race and young children. It’s also personal.
Normally I would agree that the most important thing is the content of one’s character and not the color of one’s skin, but the race of the kids for this story matters. The parenting styles (or lack thereof) of the two mothers matter. All of it matters because we live in a world where race influences one’s upbringing. Two of the grandchildren’s mom is Black. The other two grandchildren’s mother is biracial (part Black and White). She’s able to pass as White.
The race of the biological maternal grandparents matters as well because it adds additional context. One maternal grandma is Black. The other maternal grandma is a racist White woman who hates Black people now, but apparently didn’t when she slept with the Black man that gave her biracial children. Please make it make sense.
Racist maternal grandma is proof that fucking someone Black and having kids with them doesn’t mean you can’t still be racist. It just means a lot of White people, especially White women, can compartmentalize their racism, turning it on and off like a water faucet. They turn on and turn off their racism with the flip of the switch, in the same way Black folks code switch. I’m trying to make sense of this nuanced, compartmentalized racism so many White people quietly walk-in. And while the adults may walk around in it silently, their biracial and grandchildren do not.
I was about to learn over a two-week period just how much racist White people invest in messing up their biracial grandkids. I would also see why so many biracial children feel they never fit in. Their families make fitting in impossible.
First Summer With Black Grandma
The trip down from Carolina was good. To avoid airport cooties, I rented a van and we drove from SC to Florida. The grandkids were preoccupied, so with devices chatting and all the snacks grandma got for the long trip. My biracial granddaughter was quiet the entire time. She was polite but nervous. We arrived at my house here in Florida and I could see the confused look on her face. She didn’t expect my home to look the way it did. She said nothing. Her expression said it all. Having been the victim of microaggressions all my life, I knew she’d been taught Black folks didn’t live the way we did, especially not better than White people, even poor ones pretending to be rich and better. We break myth number one. The score now is Black grandma one, racist grandma, zero.
The next day, Black grandma was up at 8 am making breakfast as good old-school Black grandmas in the South like myself do. My Black grandchildren’s maternal grandma is old-school like me, so there was no surprise about the food prep they’d be getting. In our homes, food is a way we express our love. I prepared the classic Carolina breakfast fit for any Southern belle with grits, pancakes, sausage, eggs, fruit, juice, and biscuits with a side of Al Green playing on my wireless speaker because I was feeling nostalgic. My biracial grandchildren apparently weren’t accustomed to being served big spread breakfasts or our music.
She looked at the food I’d prepared, then at me, then around as if she was in the wrong place, politely. I could tell by her reaction I pleasantly surprised her. I’m not sure what she was told about our food, but apparently, it was negative. She ate all that she wanted, her little soul was happy. She noted it was one of the best breakfasts she’d ever had. Black grandma two, racist grandma zero.
After breakfast, we all cleaned up the kitchen together so we could blow up the pool toys.
All the kids were excited, but I could tell by my bonus biracial grandchild’s expression that she was again not expecting what she was receiving. She quietly and cautiously helped blow up all the pool toys. I had her help me put them in the pool. We played all day. I had lunch delivered so as not to disrupt the moment, but I could see the wheels going around in her head anytime I moved. She watched me as if I was defying her expectations. I pretended not to notice and carried on as I normally would.
I didn’t know what she’d been told about Black people, especially Black women, but I could tell she was processing truth from what she’s been told each day.
After a few days of watching her being politely uncomfortable around Black people, my bonus granddaughter’s demeanor improved. She got her life together and we all had a blast.
Baby girl had never been to Florida before. Although we weren’t able to take them out to sight see pre-COVID-19, we did what we could from the car. The kids were getting bored with swimming in the pool, television, cellphones, tablets, books, and eating. The kids and I packed the cars with our beach stuff, ordered sub sandwiches from Publix, got snacks and drinks, and to Miami we went. We found a good isolated beach where we could social distance relax and a spot where my grandkids could experience the ocean for the first time.
On the way to the beach, I drove my grandkids through some affluent old Florida areas where there were enormous mansions in old Miami to gaze and stirs the kids’ imagination. Yet again, I could see the amazement in the face of my biracial bonus granddaughter. She told me how beautiful it was there and how she couldn’t wait to show her photos of the things she saw to her cousins. The score is Black grandma three, racist grandma is in the dust now. I had exposed my bonus biracial granddaughter to things her racist grandma had not, and that apparently meant something.
Eventually, we made it to the beach, making the long hot trek to our spot for the day. We pitched our tent, pulled out our lunch, and began eating. Going to the beach with creature comforts is hard work.
As my Black bonus granddaughter (she’s 14-years-old) looked around, fully aware of the lack of diversity on the beach. It vexed her young soul. She asked me where the Black people were as if I was the Black people whisperer. For her, Black represented family and comfort. She could see herself at a beach if Black people were there. “How could there be no black people anywhere,” she asked? So like good Black grandmas all over the country who are well-versed in American and state history, I began explaining to my Black bonus grandchild about South Florida’s unique history of segregation and immigration and how the island, now comprised mostly wealthy White Cubans and White people, dominate the island. I also shared with several Indian tribes lived in the area before the colonizers came and killed them off.
I continued giving her a micro-history lesson on the Miami area, along with a crash course in the lifestyles of the rich and not-so-famous. All the big kids sat silently eating the rest of their lunch and meditating on my words. My Black granddaughter sat silently, thinking about our conversation no doubt.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, my Black bonus granddaughter blurted out, “I wish I was White.” Everyone suddenly stopped eating as if we had committed sins before Black Jesus — because there had been sin committed. On no day do we wish to be White people in our family just because it appears they have good lives and money. We Black and Brown folks know White wealth comes at our expense in some way, shape, or fashion. All the big kids began having their own side conversations on race, their experiences with Whiteness and the statement made by my granddaughter which led to the discussions. I sat and listened intently to what the kids had to say. They all proved how aware they were on the issues and complexities of race in America.
Before I could give my infamous “We are the descendants of Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth/ I Have My Own Black Dream” speech (lol), My biracial 11-year-old granddaughter spoke up for the very first time about my Black granddaughter’s White wish in a way that changed all the children’s lives forever.
Baby girl’s Black side arose in her, spilling all of her White family’s racist tea. She said with all the conviction in her little body with her sweet Carolina drawl:
“No, you don’t want to be White. They say many bad and horrible things about Black people behind their backs. They say you’re lazy, nasty, stupid, poor. You all live better than my mom and my grandma. Your house is nicer, your food is better, you have a pool. Nothing my grandparents told me about Black people has been true. You wouldn’t believe how I feel when they talk about Black people in front of me, as if one half of me is not Black. They lied about Black people so I wouldn’t want to be around them. I was scared when I came here because of the stuff they told me about Black people. You don’t want to be White. They are terrible. Trust me.”
Silence. The only thing you could hear for about 2–3 minutes was the ocean waves crashing. And just like that, all of my suspicions were confirmed. My biracial grand daughter’s grandparents were raising her to be white despite her being as Black as I am. They were also teaching her racism. She was smart enough to see through their bullshit. She was in an environment where she could express without retaliation. At that moment, I felt sorry for that poor child. She will have to do all the unsorting of the lies told to her about Black people all alone. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be a biracial person being raised by racist White people when you physically possess ALL the characteristics of a biracial non-White (Black) person. I never had to say a word about White people to the child. She already knows.
The kids slowly began talking again about the games they would play in the ocean, forgetting all about the impromptu lesson on race that came from an 11-year-old child.
Black grandma continued eating her sub sandwich because her biracial granddaughter came through like Toni Morrison, snatching that false pursuit of happiness from the mouth of my Black bonus granddaughter.
On that day I got a confirmation about so many things I already knew without my grandbaby ever having to say a word. We enjoyed the rest of the day at the beach.
Racists White people teach their children and grandchildren, especially their daughters, to fear Black people.
Biracial children raised as White by White people, regardless of their physical attributes, can perpetuate racist stereotypes without exposure to Black people.
Many biracial children are confused as fuck, and now I see why. They deal with a lot of things about race internally and may often associate where they feel most comfortable. If White people have worked hard to make White the default, Whiteness, reinforced, becomes their default.
Racists White people with biracial children and grandchildren will attempt to teach those children and grandchildren White Supremacists tendencies even when their skins are not White.
There are plenty of biracial children who have spent no time with their Black extended family members because their White mothers and grandmothers fear Black folks. They can love the Black man’s penis, hate the Black man’s people. Not sure how that works in the minds of White people, but whatever.
The best way to bust destroy the myths of Black inferiority is to expose White and biracial people being raised as White to Black and Brown people.
We got a lesson from an 11-year-old child about some ugly things White people say and think about us behind our backs. I saw how they teach and preach hate. I understood that even when we’re better than they are, most White folks still don’t want to give us credit. Our success is a fluke. I can’t say I was really surprised about what White people say about us Black folks behind our backs and in the privacy of their own homes, but to have a young child convey it to us all at that moment was like a breath of fresh air.
That little girl is going to be fucked up in a few years if she doesn’t spend time with folks that can help decolonize her poor mind. Despite what anyone says, America judges Black and Brown people based on the color of our skins first. To pretend you don’t see skin color, the thing America uses to determine where we fit in our national social order, is to deny your own racism and prejudices.
My poor bonus grand is all confused and a two-week trip with Black grandma can’t solve it. Her confusion may also eventually cause her to act out, which may be detrimental to her physically and emotionally in the long-term. I blame her mom and grandparents for planting seeds of hate and inferiority, even though they’ve both slept with Black men. I will never know how some people compartmentalize their racism and compromise those beliefs just for sex or lust which leads to children. People in these types of situations need to ask themselves, can you love someone you hate?
The main takeaway I got from the impromptu lesson on race was that we can never truly be free of racism as long as White people can indoctrinate their White and biracial children and grandchildren with hate, anti-Blackness, and views of Black inferiority in the privacy of their own homes. I am glad I exposed my bonus biracial granddaughter to Black people.
No one felt the need to be White for the rest of the trip, and my biracial bonus granddaughter was fully immersed in Blackness. She and my grandson saw what life was like around Black folks. My bonus biracial grandkids experienced the Southern Black culture, made new Black friends, got some Black wisdom from her Black grandma, she got to help Black grandma make a cake and icing from scratch, and from time-to-time, she got some Black grandma discipline in love (which I could tell was also shocking), she ate some good Southern comfort food, and had plenty of love.
The best part of the trip for my biracial grandkids was they experienced Black love, Black concern, Black compassion, and Black family life. They now know there are good Black people and they can trust Black people, no matter what their racist biracial racist and White grandmother tell them.
I’m still trying to process how do folks have sex with people they don’t like and then make kids with them, bringing kids into their already messy lives. If you know you’re racist, don’t screw the people you hate and definitely don’t have kids with them. You’re fucking up the next generation of kids with your irresponsible lustings masked and faux “one-love” and superficial anti-racism shenanigans and it’s affecting Black and Brown folks including grandmas like me.
And if you decide to throw caution to the wind and proceed against friendly advice, could you please use protection? It should be common sense, but I guess common sense ain’t that common these days.
Exclusion Is Silent Anti-Blackness
That 11-year-olds child’s anti-Blackness could have injured any other Black person because of the microaggressions the child committed based on her biases. But because Black grandma is an old Southern raceologist (I made this name up so don’t at me) like so many of us Black moms and grandmas, we already know our. Living with White people hurts. Living with them causes scars.
White people plant racist seeds early in how they intentionally practice excluding Blackness from their lives. Sadly, many Blacks engage in anti-Blackness too, thanks to us chasing the suburbs for a better life. Our Black kids are screwed up too. I’m a living witness via my son.
If it weren’t for me, my biracial bonus granddaughter may have never had the opportunity to be around any Black people because, like most White people, they spend their entire lives living and functioning in White spaces. She’s never spent the night with Black people. How does this happen? Her mom doesn’t have Black friends but sleeps with Black men. She passes as White and she lives her life as if she’s White despite having biracial children who look more Black than White and living with my Black son who is Black. The kids had a great time and I made sure I talked and laughed, danced, and cut-up the way my extended family does so the kids get the opportunity to see a Black family in action up-close and personal.
Before my bonus biracial granddaughter left my house, I made sure I pulled her to the side and told her that I wanted her to know that I understood she was afraid when she came here and didn’t know what to expect, but I hoped that her time with us had shown her that Black people are not the way her grandparents had taught her. I shared there are bad Black people, but there are also bad people of every race and ethnicity.
My biracial bonus granddaughter smiled as if someone had lifted a weight from her shoulders. It was the dirty little secret I wasn’t supposed to know. It’s the dirty little secret most Black people know, even the ones who deny their Blackness in preference of Whiteness. I gave the child a hug before sending her on her way. Black grandma also sent her home with new school clothes, shoes, canvases to paint, a brand new camera, and a new tablet with a keyboard for school.
Black grandma scored a home run, made a slam dunk, and score a touchdown in the Super Bowl. I am committed to ensuring she spends time around Black people, in particular Black girls and women. I want her to experience both cultures. I also want her to know her grandma is a liar.
White people need to know that we know what most of you teach your White and biracial children and their grandchildren. They not only show us what you teach them when they are around us. They eventually get around to telling us. One of these days me and White grandma might have to have a talk about her racism.
Ms. Marley K. in Quarantine 2020
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