On Ben Carson and black kids being “raised white”

As a white mom raising two black children, one of the concerns I have is making sure that they both feel a solid sense of identity as black people. Some of this concern is due to stories I have heard adult adoptees share about criticism they received from peers of their own race . . .  being told they aren't black enough, being told they are an Oreo (black on the outside, white on the inside), being told they "act white", etc. In an effort to mitigate this, I am constantly reminding them that they are black, and that no one gets to define that for them. There are many expressions of being black.  I want my children to understand African-American culture, but I also want them to understand that the black community is not a monolith, and that there is no one right way to be black.


The idea of an individual losing their “black card” because they have white parents is damaging to kids being raised by white parents, because it leaves them isolated from their own racial community. So it was extremely frustrating to hear a presidential nominee parrot this narrative. In a recent interview, Ben Carson suggested that Barack Obama is not really black, because he was "raised white." He then went on to suggest that he had a greater understanding of the black experience because he was raised in poverty, and in a volatile neighborhood . . . which is problematic because it suggests that our poverty and crime are hallmarks of the black experience. As if we don't have enough white people perpetuating that stereotype. 

Here is the thing, though, about blackness and being "raised white." No matter what environment a black person is raised in, if they live in the United States, they will eventually experience racial bias and systemic racism for the color of their skin. White parents do not inoculate them from this. Barack Obama has been a black adult for much longer than he was a child with white parents, and no doubt in that time he has experienced the same oppresion, suspicion, and general racism that any other black man has encountered, parental heritage notwithstanding. Black children can only sit under the privilege of white parents for so long. And I can tell you that at 9 and 11, both of my boys have outgrown that, and are well into the understanding of what it means to walk around in black skin.

Someone wants to suggest they aren't really black? Jesus hold my earrings.

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