I never thought I would write this blog when my son was born he was very light skinned. I was disappointed that he didn’t look like me. My 80 year old mother was
delighted. She called him her little white boy. I was horrified and embarrassed. I prayed no one would hear her calling him that. When I talked to her about how uncomfortable it made me she dismissed me. “I brought you you didn’t bring me. You can’t tell me what to do.” That is what she said when she disagreed with me. I understand why she gave him his nickname.
She was from an era when a light skinned child like my son was special. His complexion meant he could pass for white and he could be successful. He wouldn’t have to ride in the back of the bus. He could be whatever he wanted to be.
In my eyes those days were gone and her nickname was an embarrassing throwback to those times. Hadn’t we gotten past all of that? I was sure that people would look at my son as he was an intelligent little boy.
And then there was Trayvon Martin and then there was Michael Brown of Ferguson Missouri. These were very frightening incidences for me because I could easily imagine my son in these situations: Walking down the street in a hoddie and someone not liking the look of him. But there is a difference. I think my son’s appearance would give him an advantage with the people who took the lives of these others. They might see themselves in my son; He might have a chance where those boys did not.
With a heavy heart I found relief in my son’s appearance. He would have a chance, he looks white. Driving down the road I saw I handsome little boy walking. He was a dark skinned child, just a beautiful boy. It broke my heart to think that in 2014 that beautiful child has less of chance in front of some than my son.
Ultimately my mother was right to revel in his light appearance. He does have an advantage. I explore this revelation in a painting: “My son is going to make it: Granny’s Lil White Boy”. Because what is true so many years ago is still true. My son’s light skin is an advantage. The painting will be at the Girls’ Club Collection Art Fallout event.