By Jennifer Johnson
I strolled around the grocery store with my daughter’s car seat wedged in the shopping cart. Normally I’d carry her in my wrap but she was sleeping peacefully and I didn’t want to wake her. I was going to get that rare opportunity to shop for what I needed without interruption.
I’m used to the usual reactions to traveling with a baby: longing looks. Big smiles. And the extremely intrigued, who will stop me and ask about my baby. But the reaction I got this time as I made my way back to my car after my shopping trip was a first, and, hopefully a last.
An elderly woman, much shorter than me, came closer. I had the car seat shade pulled down partly to cover my baby’s face from the sunlight, partly to shield her from people who say things like this woman was about to say to me.
“Can I see?” The woman pointed to my baby hidden below her cover.
Normally, I’m more than excited to show her off, but she was sleeping and I didn’t want to wake her. I hesitantly pulled the shade back to let her see my sleeping beauty.
“Oh, she’s a half-breed,” she said so matter-of-factly.
I couldn’t have heard her right. I must have misunderstood. “What?” I asked with a half chuckle, trying to mask my extreme shock.
“A half-breed,” she repeated.
I had heard right. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know what to say. So I didn’t say anything. And she didn’t stop talking.
“Oh, it’s ok I have a couple of my own.”
While she blabbed on, I tuned out. Had to. Was she talking about people or animals? She couldn’t have been talking about my baby. Could she?
I didn’t say another word. I couldn’t find words to say to her didn’t even try. I was too offended to speak. As she continued with her one-sided conversation, I tried to wrap my brain around it as I got my groceries and baby or is she a dog to some? into the car. The words burned deeper into my memory. I was fuming. Mostly angry with myself for not having a better comeback on hand.
My husband commented to me the other day about how when we were together before our daughter came along we got some stares, but now it’s multiplied by a thousand. I don’t think they’re stares of “How could they?” as much as they are “Aw, look at that cute interracial family.” At least that’s what I tell myself.
Clearly, though, what I think and believe isn’t necessarily going to be the same for others. I’ve run into similar nicknames like this in the past when people aren’t sure what to “call” me do they call me “Black?? “African American?” “Negro?” “Colored?” So I knew my biracial child would face the same questions even more so. But I had no idea it would start so soon. And that people would be so cavalier about it.
I told my husband what had happened when I got home and he wasn’t as upset as I had expected. As I had hoped. It made me doubt my emotions and question myself. Am I overreacting? Should I just brush it off and go on with my way? Is it just my mama bear instincts to protect my child from ignorance?
I knew things wouldn’t be perfect. I thought we might run into issues from time to time. But I prayed the world had gotten better. I pray it’ll get better. And I hope I can think on my toes next time someone calls my daughter something so derogatory and base to put them in their place.
On the air, Jennifer Johnson delivers the news to the great people of the Lone Star State. Off the air, she's a new mom and wanna-be Domestic Diva. She started documenting her journey through motherhood long before the baby was in the picture and has since blogged for Conceive Magazine, Parenting.com˜s Project Pregnancy, and Bravado Design's Breastfeeding Diaries. Her journey began and continues on her blog Baby Making Machine.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.