You are the white father to two black daughters. You have had privilege your entire life, but now that privilege only goes as far as that of your daughters. This is new to everyone, but you have no choice other than to succeed, because those little girls are my most prized possessions, my best rewards in life call you “daddy”.
Even though you have older (caucasian) children, this will be a different parenting experience. There is no denying that my children, my Skylar and Charley, will need to be protected more. The older girls are smart, beautiful and talented……and privileged. Sure, they will have issues in life and you will be there to help them; but you are now raising two black girls in a world that does not have a track record of fairness and equality awaiting them.
You will tell all of your girls that they are pretty, they are the smartest and most beautiful girls in the world. All little girls need to hear their father tell them they look beautiful. However in a country that just made it legal in 2019 to ban hair discrimination in the workplace, you will need to reinforce the narrative with Skylar and Charley. These two little black girls are growing up in a world where literal laws need to be passed for their natural beauty to be accepted.
These two little girls will grow up in a world where their caucasian friends may say things like, “Look I’m almost as dark as you,” after getting a tan. Unless that tan comes with systemic racism and oppression….they will never be as ‘dark’ as your children.
The same way you taught your older girls to speak properly, you will need to do the same for the two younger ones. It is amazing watching the two year-old form sentences and begin reading. These milestones have given me such hope for her future. Maybe we should begin the conversation on how she should react when her friends tell her she doesn’t ‘talk black’.
There will be a number of times in life when they will be told, they don’t sound black, simply because they are articulate and enunciate. People will be shocked and amazed at how well your children can put sentences together. So you should be prepared for that.
You will not hear those type of comments about your older children, because the world expects them to be smart.
One of the things I love is that you spend time combing Skylar’s hair and showing a two year-old all the patience in the world. Even though your parts may need some work, it is the time spent with her that she will remember.
With that said, we need to make sure at an early age we teach her how to react when strangers approach and reach out to touch her hair. They likely will not ask to touch it. It typically starts as a conversation with you or me, they will verbally compliment her hair, then they will go in for the kill without asking. Of course, if you are there, you will not let a stranger invade your daughter’s personal space; but, we need to prepare her for the times when mommy and daddy are not around.
This will need to be something that is handled early in life. If gone unchecked, she will be a grown woman allowing her peers to pet her and invade her personal space as if she is there for show, or their personal entertainment.
Yes, you will have to talk to all four girls about boys and teach them how to be safe in a variety of situations
But with Skylar and Charley, you will need to talk to them about how to be safe with the police and others in positions of power in their life.
The standard line about being nice and respectful the police will not be enough for the younger girls, because so far that has not worked for young men and women who look like them.
You will need to explain to them, that just like the kids in their classroom and their neighborhood, some are good and some are bad. Their only goal is to make it home alive.
You also have to make sure they are very aware of how their actions may be perceived by others. Unfortunately, there is a group of people who think small acts of normalcy are suspicious if done by a black person (i.e bird watching, sitting on a park bench, working out in the apartment gym, etc). These people then take it upon themselves to call the police because what the girls are doing seems abnormal to them and must be illegal.
Best case scenario, the girls will just have their feelings hurt and will not understand why someone would do that to them. They will then call you crying or worse, not crying because they are used to it, and you will have to explain the injustices that come with their skin color again. Worst case scenario, yet still highly probable, the police will come and escort your daughter away from whatever she is doing. Unless…….unless…..someone catches it and videotapes it for the world to see.
We talk to the older girls about college all the time. This will be an exciting time in their lives and I can’t wait. The older girls are so smart, I am sure they will have their pick of colleges to attend.
We have a while before those conversations start for the younger two. Financially, I would be ecstatic if the girls earned scholarships or are awarded grants based on academic, artistic or athletic achievement.
Wait….we will then need to prepare them for all those who will say they only received the accolades because of their skin color. Their awards will be seen as a way to fill a quota or stay compliant with a form of affirmative action.
You have to understand, in their reality, major accomplishments will be reduced to skin color. You might think…who cares what other people think. Right? Until those ‘other people’ are her boss who networks with everyone on the team except your daughter because he sees her as the ‘diversity hire’ and not really qualified. Until she is passed over for promotions because she should be ‘lucky to have a job’ and upward mobility is halted because people at the top do not look like her.
Even through the complexities and negativity that come with receiving accolades as an African American, your daughters will shine! They will receive their degrees and accept a position at their dream job.
Be prepared for the phone call home from a frustrated young Charley will have trouble at work. She is having trouble because all of the things we taught all four girls to be are now backfiring on her in the workplace. We taught them to be strong, outspoken, honest, brave, smart and confident.
She won’t understand why those strong characteristics are helping her older sisters thrive, but are getting her labeled as the “Angry Black Woman.”
Don’t worry babe, you will definitely be able to talk her through the “Angry Black Woman” fiasco. You will teach her to continue to be strong and stand her ground, but be able to back up her statements with research. You will let her know that unfortunately she will have to work 2-3 times as hard to get 50% of what her white counterparts have.
Then the day comes when she finds out the salary of her white female colleague who has the same exact credentials. She will call you frustrated and ready to give up because she doesn’t understand why her colleague is making nearly 25% more than she is. She will try to put logic to this, but there will be none. Your daughter will go back and forth trying to figure out what her colleague does better or different that would cause her to get paid 25% more for the same job with the same background.
She will find nothing.
This is exhausting, right? Imagine how the girls will feel. It is exhausting writing this letter as someone who lives EVERY bit of this reality as a black woman in America.
Now it is time to purchase a house. Skylar is excited because this will be her first home and she has all of the money saved to put down a respectable down payment. However she doesn’t understand why she isn’t having any luck. The owners of the first house she attempted to visit never answer the door even though she saw their cars in the driveway. She shrugged that off.
The next house she visits, you will go with her and the homeowner will request a copy of her driver’s license and not yours. After looking at the home and learning it is solely for Skylar (and not her white father), she will inform Skylar that the house is no longer for sale. She shrugs that off.
She finally finds a house, in a great neighborhood. Unfortunately, there are very few minorities in the neighborhood, but it is her dream house. As she is at the bank, she finds that the lenders are not offering her the same deals they are offering their white clients thus causing her to pay more. For some reason, they are making her put down a larger down payment and the loans terms are more restrictive.
She has the house, the job and now she has the partner and they want to have a family. We are going to be grandparents!
You will spend much of nine months making sure Skylar and her partner have everything they need in expectancy of a newborn.
……and then you start hearing about maternal death rates among black women and how it is much higher in the black community.
I am laying this out for you because this is the life and family we chose, in the country we were born into with its flaws and inequalities. As a white man you are in a unique position that can either hinder you, or help many. You can use your voice and privilege in a way that can shine a light on inequities and help your daughter thrive, or you can turn a blind eye and think everything will work out.
It is unfortunate that the same life lessons, goals and experiences that your four girls share as they grow will lead to very different life lessons and experiences. It is naïve to think that giving all four girls the same life experiences would lead to the same outcome, it will not.
Here is the thing you need to know. No matter what life throws at them, they will thrive. They come from ancestors who have endured more and had more to risk. These girls come from kings and queens who know how to handle themselves in all situations with poise and grace. Skylar and Charley come from a hard working and thoughtful father and a mother who empowers them.
But the secret key is magic…they have magic…they ARE magic. They are black girl magic and that can never be taken away, only passed on to the next generation.
As much as you think you are here on this planet to lead and teach them, they along with their peers will lead and teach us. The inequities will make them strong. The battles will make them persistent. The disrespect will make them compassionate. Your love will make them unstoppable.
Dustin, you are a great dad! You are placed in a position to help direct the future of your two black girls. You are now and will continue to be great!
I love you. We love you!