White dad raising a black son -or- Am I woke yet?
Here’s our family setup: Carrie and I have been married nearly twelve years. We adopted our son, Miles, from Ghana in 2015 (he’s 5-and-a-half now). Our daughter, Maeve (biological), just turned two.
I want to write about being a white dad who is raising (or rearing, depending on how grammatically correct you want to be about it) a black son. The truth is, I’m constantly learning about how to do right by my son. Because race is very much a real, complicated, and touchy subject, I need to learn and be in touch with not only Ghanaian culture, but also African-American culture. I will also have to look out for Miles in ways I would never have to look out for a white son. It’s absolutely what I signed up for, so please know that I’m not complaining about it.
I’d like to write about issues I’m learning about and walking through as they cross my path—without exploiting my son’s blackness. I think white people in the U.S. have a ton to learn about minority issues, and I have a massive amount of things to learn. Believe me—that last part is a huge understatement.
While watching the first Democratic primary debate the other night, I couldn’t help but pay attention to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. First of all, he forcefully interjected his talking points and arguments into questions that weren’t necessarily aimed at him. I don’t blame him for that; since he’s only polling at around 1%, he needed to have a breakout moment.
To me, that breakout moment came when he discussed gun violence, specifically as it relates to police-related deaths of unarmed black men. Here’s what he had to say:
Without being inside Mayor de Blasio’s head/heart, I have to assume the best and that he is not exploiting his biracial son for political gain (go ahead and call me naive if you’d like). I trust that his passion comes from this deeply personal place of worrying about his son in different ways than parents of white sons. Many on Twitter (and especially Black Twitter, which is a discussion for another day) disagreed with my “assume the best” stance, and they probably have some good points. After all, NYPD doesn’t have a good record on handling cases of alleged racial bias. This issue isn’t going away.
Does that mean I’m on Team de Blasio? Not really, but I appreciate that he has walked this road of “white dad parenting a biracial son” over the past 21 years. His perspective makes it real for many white people who have never considered this issue.
So, I’m going to continue to learn, read, and ask questions in order to learn how to do right by Miles. Am I woke yet? Nope—I’m miles away from being woke (son’s-name-pun intended). However, I’m walking intentionally and decisively down the road toward woke-ness. Stay tuned for more posts about Spider-Man, wave caps, Black Panther, Ta-Nehisi Coates, perspectives from other dads, adoption, and preparing to send my son to kindergarten. If you have any questions you’d like me to investigate, send me an email.