Zeni is a beautiful baby. She is teeny and has this creamy brown skin, huge eyes and a mess (my fault) of curly black hair. So yeah, she's cute. But she's not that cute.
Everywhere we go people stop me to take a closer look. They ohh and ahh, they call their friends over to take a look, the bolder ones touch her hair while the meeker ones just make goo goo eyes. Yesterday in the grocery store a woman literally put her hands on my hips and turned me around so that she could have a better look at Zeni, who was in the sling. Seriously lady?
I know that people love babies. I can also admit (sorry, H) that Hayden was not the cutest baby in the world:
So maybe this is just what it's like to have a really cute baby? People make a big deal and touch them and stare and stare and touch again?
I don't think so. I think Zeni is black, and at least in Spokane most white people don't know a lot of black people. They don't spend a lot of time looking at black people let along examining their skin, feeling their hair, etc. I have a black baby. She is cute yes, but she is also different, other, "oriental", "exotic".
But not only is Zeni black, she is black with a white mother. I am their (the other white people's) access - their friendly gatekeeper. I am white, my fellow grocery goers are (sadly almost entirely) white. Therefore I am not threatening to them, and they feel more comfortable coming up to me, saying hello and scrutinizing Zeni then they would were there a black mother pushing the grocery cart. The color of my skin somehow gives the permission (access?) to inquire, feel, observe, comment, up close with a real live black person.
No, I don't mean all white people. Yes, everyone enjoys a cute baby. But really, this is different. For now it's sometimes annoying, sometimes entertaining, and makes me wish I could go back and re-write my senior sociology thesis. Bu next year, when Zeni understands that she garners attention everywhere she goes, and in subsequent years when she starts to wonder why she is the focus of so much interest and why her appearance is commented on so often, it will cease being an interesting observation and will become an issue that Jeremy and I will have to address. She will look to us to model responses. To try and explain why this is. To tell her all the amazing things that don't have to do with how she looks. To teach her to protect her privacy, to tell her story when and where she wants, to be proud of her appearance while not valuing it over her other attributes. Up to now my biggest parenting challenge related to societal expectation has been to keep my son away from camouflage clothing - I'd say we've upped the stakes, eh?