When as adults we look back on our conversations with our parents, much of their words may be forever lost.
And then there are conversations with our parents that remain with us for life. That’s been my experience.
It was during the height of the chatter about Spike Lee’s new movie Jungle Fever that my mom said these words,
“Boy, don’t you bring no white girl in this house.”
I’m sure when she said that I probably promised I wouldn’t. But I’m also sure I thought what she said was racist.
What’s wrong with white girls, and why didn’t my mom want me to bring one home?
My mom was born into a middle-class family in Ohio. She attended all Black schools and she dated and married a Black man. She grew up in the 60s and the 70s, so she’s a daughter of the Black is Beautiful era.
But my parents chose to raise me in a primarily white environment. I grew up with white people, and I had white friends. In my mind, there was distance and dissonance between what she said and what I experienced.
While in junior high and high school, I tried to date both Black girls and white girls. The white girls wanted nothing to do with me, so my mom’s words were never tested.
But as I think about my mom’s instructions, I struggle a bit to understand what she really meant.
Is she a racist? No. You have to take my word for it. She’s the one who took our family to a white Southern Baptist church every week. She’s the one with a variety of friends.
Was she a good person who happened to say a racist thing? I don’t think so. Mom wasn’t trying to say Black is better or that white is worse.
Was she trying to keep me from what she thought would be a hardship? Or, would she be embarrassed by a son who chose a white girl?
But more than anything, I think she was trying to tell me to value Black women. Mom was trying to give me a message to counter the pervasive white standards of beauty and the idealization of white women. She was trying to say, choose Black women.