It’s Black History Month. Every year around this time (and other times) it brings up my own mental rambling about just how Annika will fit in to the world of African Americans, or more accurately, black Americans whose history includes oppression from their own culture.
For all outward intents and purposes she is a black citizen of the United States of America. She will be/is viewed as black, I suppose.
The irony is that Annika’s black roots do not extend back into the hideously oppressive American history that includes Jim Crow laws/segregation and slavery.
Her father is an immigrant. He has told me in the past that he doesn’t necessarily relate to the black culture of this country, not fully. He is Nigerian first and foremost. He is an American citizen, but he and his family do not hold on to a lot of the American racial injustices of the past. They can relate to it on some levels because of certain stereotypes they have encountered along the way, but they do not hold it in the hearts and bodies the way it is held for many black Americans. Their minds extend back into Nigeria when they view their past.
Since my past does extend into this country’s history, but on the white side, I do not know how much Annika will take to heart the Black History of our country.
Will she relate? Will she feel pressured to relate even when/if she does not?
When Annika was an infant and President Barack Obama was running for office, I read his book, “Dreams from My Father.” He writes about the pressure in college to conform to the world of black oppression, even when he had come from a mostly white world and had barely known his own father, who was Kenyan, and had not lived most of his life in this country.
As I read that, holding my tiny baby, I projected into the future, noting my daughter’s similarities with our would-be president, and wondering if she would feel the same pressures.
I know that our world is different even now, than it was then. And will be even more different when Annika is that age. But I also know that the culture still clings together. Many black friends have shared with me that they feel the need to continue to view the world from the perspective of how someone else views them. It is not something they choose, but is done for self-preservation.
This will not be something Annika learns from me. And Toyin will give her an entirely different viewpoint, from another culture and a skin color that looks the same, but does not relate.
I don’t worry or feel concerned. But I do wonder how I will handle this when/if she feels the pressure to collect and hold the anger and oppression of a culture that, in all reality, is not fully hers. I wonder how much she will relate. Or if she will accept that many will see her one way, but she can choose to show them who she truly is.
I just wonder.
As we go in to February every year, I start to ponder this and I wonder how much I should share with her and when it is appropriate.
I just wonder.