Friday, December 19, 2008

'White' Christmases for Black Boys

A couple of weeks ago Braydon bought a new Christmas book for K & O. They quickly fell in love with it and have requested it to be read to them at least once a day since. It is a great book with wonderful illustrations and I want to especially highly recommend it to parents of precious little black boys out there in the blogosphere. The book is An Angel Just Like Me by Mary Hoffman, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu. Check it out! This year, with Kyle and Owen at age 4.5, our Christmas season has included a newly emerging sense of awareness on the part of our boys. This is an awareness that was only slightly present in previous years but is now in much fuller force. Images of white Santas, white snowmen, white angels, white nativity scenes, white snowflakes, white snowscapes, 'white' Christmases are everywhere. K & O (as well as --and this is an important point-- all the rest of us) are being bombarded with it everyday. Braydon and I try very hard to counter-act it in our own little oasis of our home. We conscientiously and purposefully present counter-images --- on our walls, on our Christmas tree, in the books that we read to them, in our own little nativity scenes, on the covers of the Christmas music CDs we're listening to, in the decorations we put out, in the way we tell our own stories. But still, no amount of counter-action could possibly balance it out, and the effects of the 'white' Christmas are understandably profound. 'Where am I in all of this?,' they seem to be asking with their questions and statements and theories about all things Christmas. Things like An Angel Just Like Me are important for our boys during this season because these things give a strong, confident answer to their question by saying: 'You, too, my beautiful black boy, are right here in the middle of all of this.'


Kristine said...

I absolutely love how you are raising your children. I have no doubt God has blessed K&O and even little Ms M with you two as parents.

Anonymous said...

As a black mom of two black sons I cannot say enough about how impressed I am with this post. See now this is why I love your blog! It has given me new hope about the world just to know that there exist white people like you. I truly had no idea!!! Your boys are truly blessed. A blessed Christmas to you all.
Carla (an avid reader)

Anonymous said...

Did you know that the Governor
General of Canada Michaelle
Jean- who represents the Queen
in our country was born in
Port-au-Prince Haiti?
The world is becoming much
more diverse.
Have a great Christmas!

Chapter Two Manmi said...

Hi Heather & Braydon,
I love this post--need to get that book. We've been checking Christmas books out from our school library (run by the Univ.) and they've been diverse but not the greatest necessarily.
We do much of the things you mention in this post. I so appreciate you guys!
Merry Christmas,
K at Chapter Two

Mark and Sarah said...

Thank you for this post, Heather. As a mom to a 2 year old black boy, I am beginning to see Christmas through his eyes, and it is very white. Thank you for your ideas and awareness raising that you do so well.

cathy said...

We love this book and it has been such a great, emotional balm to my kids.

Anonymous said...

I bought that book last year for our kiddos. It is great.

There is a company called "Jump at the Sun" that rewrites classic fairy tales with Black Characters.

They have Goldilocks (who is called such because of the Golden beads in her hair) and others.
They also have a version of "The night before Christmas" with Black characters.

They are available through Amazon.

- Beth said...

We have this book as well. I want to say when we lived in the DC metro we did Foster care. We would always pick up brown santas and brown ornaments. It was a *HUGE* debate one year at the Foster Agency Christmas party.... what color is santa, exactly? They ended up having a brown santa, but the kids were very upset.... santa isn't brown!

So that was the year our discussions began about none of the santas we see being real. After all he can't be at every mall or party. He has helpers.

Merry Christmas to your beautiful family!

Malia'sMama said...

I saw the comment above about Michaele Jean and had to giggle. Americans have no idea who our Prime Minister is, for the most part, much less our Governor General. However, I am heartened by her appointment a few years ago, even she is so low profile. Unfortunately, as you point out in this post, white is the dominant colour, so what you are doing to counteract it as "might", or the only "right" is awesome. MalĂ­a is still not fully aware of Christmas hype, beyond the tree and lights, but I began last year with African ornaments, a black angel etc.
L. (but with no "e") LOL

Hello! said...

I have been thinking about this a lot lately as my 2 year old is just now noticing colors. It is indeed a very "white" season and we have to do all that we can to offer another view...
Thanks for the book info!

Elyssium Earth said...

I am most proud and happy that my beautiful nativity includes a black wise man. I love this fact.
Happy Happy Holidays Happy Family xxx Bloglove

jayme said...

I rarely have time to comment anymore, but I had to thank you for your everpresent eloquence around issues of race and identity.

I've often said that the biggest indicator of white privilege is the ability to ignore all of the little things that reinforce the dominant social structure surrounding race.

When we as white parents choose to adopt children of colour, we can no longer ignore these things. Awareness can sometimes feel overwhelming, but these are things we must do, for them.

Anyway, I hope your family has a lovely, safe Christmas filled with beautiful memories.

starz-r-crazed-as-is-my-soul said...

I ran across this blog in search of information to assist me with locking my hair. That said, finding two black kids adopted by a white couple was a little unexpected. I initially felt incredibly uncomfortable, until i began to read the blog. Thank you! Thank you so much for reaching out and inviting Kyle and Owen into your lives. I am particularly grateful for your level of consciousness about white America, be it a growing consciousness. I trust that you will raise two amazing boys; however, it will be a mighty ride. Black males are a constant threat to whiteness, their mere presence strikes fear. Make sure they know their history: not MLK and Rosa Parks. I'm talking about 1619 to now, gi bills, red lining, prison industrial complex, hip-hop before and now... Knowledge will protect them from the tools of fear and hatred.

Once again, than you so much!


Anonymous said...

I kept my eyes open for this book and just found it this week at B&N for 50% off. Thanks for the recommendation. I'm starting a collection of books as we wait for our son to come home.

Happy New Year!