Dear Black Parents: Please Love Your Children So They Won’t Grow Up To Be Clarence Thomas
My daughter will be six months old in a few days. She is a smiling, rolling, bouncing, and burping bundle of Blackness. She’s amazing, hilarious, and perfect. She is also a minuscule masochist who doesn’t waste opportunities to find new ways to potentially injure herself. (For instance, just yesterday, while holding her while typing, she decided to head bunt my laptop. And then she started crying for 10 seconds. And then I got scared thinking she was really hurt. And then she starting smiling and laughing like “Got you, nigga!“) Which means that my primary parental objective at this point is to make sure she’s still breathing.
She will eventually age out of this slapstick infant stage. And while keeping her alive will always be paramount, other more complex objectives will enter the picture. Like making sure she knows how to recognize a high ball screen and when to hedge on her man. And cultivating a sincere appreciation for pancakes. And sugar on grits. And teaching her the lyrics of Radiohead’s “Talk Show Host.”
But mostly I want her to be in love with who she is. Not a suffocating, consuming, constricting, and narcissistic love where she’s the only meaningful entity in her universe. But a love where she’s able to acknowledge, accept, embrace, and find the beauty and the value in all the things that make her her. A love of herself and her skin and her nose and her lips and her hair and her people and her parents and her Blackness that exists without reservation or shame and permeates and inspires others around her to strive for their best selves.
Basically, I do not want her to be Clarence Thomas.
Because if she were to become Clarence Thomas — a person whose shame of and disgust with himself and his Blackness is so pervasive and palpable and, unfortunately, powerful that it can literally alter history — it would mean that I failed. That I was an abject and thorough disaster of a parent. That something I did or didn’t do turned this smiling, rolling, bouncing, and burping six-month old bundle of Blackness into a joyless and self-loathing schlemiel who grew to rue the day she was born Black.
So whatever I can do to enable this process of self-love and acceptance and to create an imperviousness to self-shame will be done. Because I love her too much to allow her to suffer like that.