My son and I are two peas in a pod. We share a love for anything sweet, dogs, have the same laugh (so I hear), we’re both currently sporting a farmers’ tan and both have a major stubborn streak. We are alike in so many ways, but to look at we are different.
I have classic pale Scottish skin and blue eyes where he has cappuccino coloured skin with minstrel eyes (isn’t he delicious?! I’ll stop describing him using my favourite drink/chocolate combo when he’s old enough to hate it). He is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen, with his tight curls and cheeky smile.
So why do I get odd looks regularly when I’m out with him? Why do people assume I’m not his mum, or that he’s adopted?
It is something I assumed I was overly sensitive to and that I was thinking things that weren’t actually happening. Like I was playing the “race card” unnecessarily, because if I talk to anyone about it they reply with something along the lines of “no, they’ll just be looking because he’s cute”. Until a good friend of mine brought it up after pushing him round in his buggy one day. She had experienced it, and it made me feel like it wasn’t totally in my head.
I love to teach my boy about the highlands of Scotland, where I am from. In the same way my husband loves to teach him about Nigeria, where he is from
There are plenty of kids the same race as their parents who don’t look like them. When my child is quite clearly mixed-race, why would it be assumed that I couldn’t be one of his parents? Even if I wasn’t his mum, why do people feel like it’s ok to comment?
I’ve had people assume I’m a single mum, purely because of the race of my child (a double offensive: racist as well as having a negative attitude towards single mums. As a mum who has a husband to help with daily parenting life I take my hat off to single parents. No idea how you do it, I’m in awe of you!).
I love to teach my boy about the highlands of Scotland, where I am from. In the same way my husband loves to teach him about Nigeria, where he is from. He is learning Yoruba, Abe’s first language, as well as English. We hope that Christopher will learn about, love and be proud to be from both of these vibrant cultures.
I remember when he was about six months old and a lady sat behind me on the bus and described him as a “poor half-caste”. I wish I could go back in time and tell her that he is not to be pitied, that he has double the cultural heritage and was born into a family full of love. I wish I could ask her to keep her racist and disgusting comments to herself. Instead I pretended to not hear her vile words… an anxious new mum needing to hide away from any attention being brought my way. I got off the bus at the next stop and cried (though, in fairness, I was doing a lot of that. Hormones are no joke!).
I am proudly Scottish, and unapologetically tied to Nigeria. My child should never feel anything less than equal to others just because of his skin, and he shouldn’t have to choose between his two cultures because of small-minded racists making him feel like one culture is less than another.
I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone about that lady on the bus before. I’m so ashamed of my lack of response, and for not sticking up for my boy. I’ve always shied away from confrontation, but leaving people to behave so openly racist is unacceptable. I really hate when people decide to put in their negative opinions, especially about new mums.
Motherhood is such an emotional and overwhelming time anyway, we need to support each other and show kindness in our communities. Not knock someone down because they have a mixed-race child, or because they are breastfeeding in public, or any of the many reasons that people knock mums down.
You can read more from Kirsten Abioye on her blog: My Afro Celtic Clan; and follow her on Instagram.