Carrying a Baby of Colour



I believed that by the time I gave birth, my child would - to quote Dr Martin Luther King Jr - be judged by the content of their character and not the colour of their skin. Now that I'm pregnant, I must face that this will not be true. With the hypocrisy possessed by all parents, I will have to ask my child to do something that I haven’t been able to do myself; that they do not live their life as angrily as I have lived my own.

My baby will be born in Japan. My husband is completing his PhD here. My baby has family in Japan, UK, Sierra Leone and Guyana. My husband and I will do everything we can to keep them safe when we move back to England. However, my child will have an experience my husband and I will empathise with but we will never be able to fully understand. Sadly, in 2018 Britain, their life will be deeply affected by their appearance. If they look more like their Dad, people will inexplicably assume they are shy, clever and Chinese. If they look more like me people will inexplicably assume they are aggressive, stupid and they will be probed, “But where are you really from?” I don’t know what it is like to be Asian in Britain. My husband doesn’t know what it is like to be black in Britain. Neither of us know what it is like for our kid to be black and Asian. They are also white but no one in Britain will acknowledge this.
         Unfortunately, in Japan, no one will accept my child is Japanese either. My husband is referred to as ‘Hāfu.’ I hate this but he doesn’t mind, which is another lesson for my kid; people of colour don’t always feel the same way about the same things. I was once labelled 'half caste', which I didn’t like - implying someone is half of something isn’t very nice - except in Japan.

The colour and sanity of the majority has a huge impact on the minority. In Japan, my kid is a Gaijin, a foreign Other and will be treated as such. Britain is predominantly populated by white people and my kid is not white. All white people are not racist. However, all white people have access to white supremacy. Some abuse it, some don’t and never would. White supremacists will be in my child’s life, in school and later on in work. White supremacy is also present in our family, which is difficult but can be overcome. My child will know racism.
         I have not dealt with racism well. In my school, n*gger was scrawled on black faces in the text books. Teachers ignored jeers of n*gger across the classroom. After arguing with a close friend, her boyfriend and his friends scrawled Jenny Is A N*gger across the entrance wall. It wasn’t until I ran home, crying, and dragged my Dad from his night shift sleep to the headmaster’s office that the school not only found it appropriate to take action, but also had the thought to paint over it. Racism is poison, a poison which infects people of colour too.

Black people have dismissed me as a ‘coconut’ because of my white cousins. Black men have told my husband he should stick with his own. Black people hate on each other. South Asian people hate on black people. Black people hate on South Asians. East Asians hate on other East Asians. It is exhausting. Perhaps the most corrosive by-product of racism occurs when people of colour buy into white supremacy - and we tell each other the limits of what we can achieve.

I know I am not a n*gger. I know a n*gger is an insane invention from an oppressor trying to justify their own depravity. I have succeeded in not living my life by the limitations of white supremacy. What I have wanted to do I have done. But I haven’t escaped unscathed. I live with a blistering boil of anger inside me from constantly being challenged, “Don’t you know you are a working class black bitch?”

Some people of colour have not experienced what I have described. Some have worse experiences. But unlike the general public who are allowed to scream if someone dares cut them up on the motorway or serves them cold coffee, my kid will be expected to not express any anger, or face fulfilling a stereotype that society has placed on their shoulders. And this is where my own mental health problems began.

My kid is not and never will be defined by any label a fool tries to stick on them. I will tell my kid; You are magnificent. You don’t need to be quiet, get on with it, keep your head down because it is not you who has ‘come so far.’ It is them. But they don’t know it. They think we are more developed. But it is they who are becoming less deranged. Not fast enough but they are getting there. Be patient. Not because they don’t know better, believe me they do, but because power is a potent potion and they have been drunk on it for a long time. It is ok to be angry. Tell me how angry you are. Tell me every day. But please don’t do what I have done and pretend to not be angry and instead take that anger out on yourself with razor blades, risky decisions and by putting yourself in dangerous situations.

Before my baby takes their first breath on this planet I will try and be a less angry person, but I don’t want them to be unprepared. Life on this earth can be rough, but just as I have, they will meet many beautiful people of various colours, races and religions and they will know love and hope. And at a certain point, my darling child will prove me wrong and be free.