Today, I want to talk about how cultural boundaries are often crossed, but I want to do it in an expansive way if that make sense. I will be expanding on one of my podcast episodes, where I talked about cultural boundaries being crossed. If you haven't listened to that episode, I encourage you to stop reading here, and click on the above link to listen to the podcast. As I always say, you will do yourself a disservice if you don't follow the instructions. Today's newsletter will make more sense if you have listened to the podcast, because the newsletter is an extension of the things I talked about in that episode. The episode is only 26 minutes, you can listen to that while you're driving, cooking, or cleaning. So go on, take a listen, and then come back and read this newsletter while the episode is fresh in your mind.
I have wanted to shed light on some of the topics I will cover today since I was pregnant, and I find myself having a deeper pull to continue to shed light on certain things now that I have my daughter. Cultural boundaries are crossed on soooooo many levels in regards to babies, and although people may not be aware of how they are crossing cultural boundaries, the boundaries are crossed nevertheless. Rather conscious or unconscious, when someone crosses cultural boundaries, the impact is heavy and can have a lasting effect. Today, I want to highlight some of the cultural boundaries that I have noticed being crossed since being pregnant and having my baby. So, get comfortable and prepare to read along as I expand on some things I said in the podcast. Today, in part one of this two part series, I share my observations from the past several months, and how certain things do not sit well with me as a Black woman and a Black mother of a Black little girl. . .
"PSA for folks out there, babies of people of color come in all different shades, okay. Their hair comes in all different types, and please DO NOT comment on that. Just 'cause you are another person of color does not give you the license to cross that cultural boundary!"
I wanted to expand on this point so much more on my podcast, but I didn't want to make the episode too long. However, the great thing about my newsletter is that I can expand on points much more extensively, which I plan to do now. The complexities of skin tone in the Black community has a long history and that history runs deep, so making a comment about the level of melanin present in a persons skin tone (especially a baby) is just inappropriate on many levels. There are so many reasons why commenting on the skin tone of Black people is inappropriate, too many to count, but here are a few that I have expanded on from that episode of my podcast.
Number 1: Our skin tone is complex
"That is the complexities of our color, and that speaks to what happened when our cultures mixed together voluntarily and involuntarily. Let's not forget that slave masters raped Black women which then began the process of changing the melanin in our skin."
Yes I know this is rough to read, but it is true and others need to be reminded of this, especially to help people not comment on the skin tones of Black babies. And yes, I can hear you now: Narissa?! What about people who decide to interracially date? Not all African-American skin is a result of slavery rape. You are indeed right, but I want to highlight the difference in those situations. Interracial dating simply speaks to the voluntary choice to mix races. It wasn't forced, it wasn't traumatic, it was a decision that was mutually agreed upon by two people, and that's totally fine.
But, for the many families in the African-American community who have an array of skin tones EVENTHOUGH there is no history of voluntarily mixing races; that is when the variation in our skin tone reminds us of the soul of our Black ancestor who was raped and gave birth to a lighter skinned child as a result of that rape. This is a reminder that doesn't need to be brought up in the post office with a random stranger commenting on the difference between my skin tone and my babies skin tone.
Number 2: This is not a big deal in other cultures
"We just don't do that with White babies! So why are we commenting on babies of color skin tone? Please don't do it, it's not cute and it's just so inappropriate on so many levels. Because it is so deep rooted with skin tone and what that means, especially in the Black community."
This statement that I made is so true. Really think about it. There is not this huge fascination when there are differences in skin tone or eye color or hair color with white babies and their parents. There isn't much questioning or commenting about these differences. So why when we see a Black baby and a Black mother (or father) is it such a curiosity about the differences present? This curiosity can yield to the danger of putting Black people on display, as if we are spectacles or an endangered species.
The truth of the matter is, although it was painful for our ancestors to endure such trauma and mistreatment, we have turned our pain into beauty. The fact that we have so many different shades of melanin in our community speaks to the uniqueness of our race. It speaks to the resiliency of our race. And it speaks to the history of our race. But, it doesn't allow you (regardless of your race) to speak to this delicate topic of skin tone.
Number 3: Just think about it
"What needs to be considered in not crossing this cultural boundary is: how does that make a mother feel when you comment on the fact that a baby that she carried for 9 months does not have a skin tone reflective of her? Just think about that the next time you want to make a comment about somebodies skin tone or about what a baby look like."
Really think about the above statement I made. Take a moment to soak it in. I will not speak for all women I will just speak for myself, knowing that there is at least one or two women out there who this will resonate with. Yes, I love my baby to PIECES. And yes, all professionalism and poise will go out the window, I will fight you if you mess with her. But, with that said, it is hard when people comment about the fact that she looks just like her father. Praise God that my husband is just as handsome as he wants to be or else it would be even harder, but all jokes aside, my journey to physically bring this baby into the world was not easy. Down to the minute she was born required nothing short but Faith in God. So a part of me wants to be able to look at my baby and see some physical reflection of myself.
Why am I saying all of this? Because THIS is what you need to think about the next time you comment on who a baby looks like. As mothers, we endure A LOT physically. So we hope that a part of the reward of motherhood will be seeing some physical aspect of ourselves in our babies. Remember, when people comment on parts of a baby that is not reflective of the mother, that can trigger old wounds for a mom. ESPECIALLY a mom who had a tough journey to motherhood. Just think about these things before you speak on a babies looks or skin tone.
"I don't know why people think in society that it is okay to touch babies. My stomach was touched when I was pregnant without folks even asking, my baby has been touched without people even asking, and it is violating! DON'T touch babies if you don't ask!"
Number 1: The cultural boundary of personal space
"I don't need you that close to me unless I'm actually close to you."
Enough is said with these two statements I made, it's pretty clear. But incase it isn't, let me break it down. DON'T TOUCH BABIES OR THE BELLY OF PREGNANT WOMEN. For me as a Black woman, personal space is important. If I am not close with you on a personal level, I don't want you touching me or my baby. Boundaries of personal space are in place for a reason. They keep us feeling safe and protected, and when that safety is violated its frustrating. It's particularly frustrating for Black mothers because our boundaries have been violated for generations. From taking us from our land and stripping us of our basic human rights, to continuing to not respect us and value our lives; we have been violated as a people.
There were times I had to move someone's hand from my stomach. And now I have a rehearsed line to ensure that random strangers don't touch my baby. But why do I have to do this? Because society uses the excuse that pregnancy and babies are just such "precious moments?" People out there reading, that's not a reason to reach out and touch! It's actually a reason to NOT touch. This precious moment is sacred and should only be shared with this who have permission to touch. Don't continue the cycle of violating the bodies of Black people.
Over the next month, I want you to really think about this last sentence I just wrote. DON'T CONTINUE THE CYCLE OF VIOLATING THE BODIES OF BLACK PEOPLE. I purposely stopped the newsletter here because I want you to meditate on that. Even if you are not someone who has engaged in this form of violation, you have witnessed it. So think about it. Next month we will finish off this topic of cultural boundaries with part two. In that issue I will finish expanding on point 2, and will wrap it up with point 3. I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy new year if you celebrate these holidays. If you don't celebrate, I am simply wishing you happiness and peace over these next few weeks. And please remember this take away point from today's newsletter: cultural boundaries are in place for a reason. Until next year. . .