In a World of Racial Tension, I Taught My Black Son to Love His White Great-Grandfather.
It Was a Natural Union.
I don’t remember the first time I brought my son to meet my Grandparents, but I do remember a welcome reception. I, the oldest granddaughter, was the last of the grandchildren to birth a child.
My Grandparents loved children. I grew up with them loving me, their bi-racial granddaughter born between their White son and my Black mother. I grew up spending countless weekends, holidays and summers with my grandparents. I consider them a very instrumental part of my upbringing, especially after my parents divorced and my father moved away.
After I birthed my son, I could not wait to have my son be involved with his great-grandparents, a gift that not too many people have.
One of my favorite memories was when my son was approximately 4-years-old and we were visiting my grandparents. They gave him my younger cousin’s car collection. As my son played on the floor, my then 86-year-old grandfather crouched slowly down to the tune of my grandmother telling him to be careful. After a few minutes my grandfather finally reached the floor and laid on his side to play cars with his great-grandson. They stayed on the floor for what seemed like an hour. They kept to their own world as they rolled the cars back and forth. My grandfather got up and returned to his chair as my grandmother fussed with him over getting down on the floor in the first place.
As my son grew older, my grandfather would come out of his quiet phase to talk whenever we arrived for a visit. After my son turned 8, he began to study the different wars. As a history buff, he was fascinated that his great-grandfather not only served in the Navy, but that he also served in World War II. They talked for hours during this phase.
Now that he is 12, my son is very political, he has been for a couple years. He follows the news, especially the growing news coverage over police brutality towards the Black community. As my son has grown, so has his anger towards racial injustice.
I’ve always talked to my son like a person, even as a child I answered his questions honestly, yet age appropriately. Though I do censor some language, I do not hold back on our discussions about injustice towards Africans across the diaspora.
With each story of a murdered Black man and woman at the hands of the police, my son’s anger towards the situations have grown. I honor the anger he feels as I honor my own. I also remind him that I am bi-racial and have white grandparents who have adored me my whole life. White great-grandparents who adore him and show it every chance they get.
I remind him of this, not to take away from the justifiable anger he feels, but to keep him grounded in the knowledge that there are White allies out there who cannot be lumped into racist categories.
My grandparents, at 90 and 94, are from a different generation. They both are from very racist areas and most definitely have racist family members. Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s all I remember from them was pure, unconditional love.
As an observant child, the family tattle tale, I watched everything. I noticed that most of my relatives actually dated and married non-white people. I watched my grandparents embrace everyone. Even when one of my male cousins moved here from Pennsylvania and eventually fell in love with and married a Black man, my grandparents greeted them both with love. I remember as a child they got the same kisses as I.
My grandfather, a very quiet man, very rarely engaged in conversation. He has spent most of his retirement, “piddling around,” as my grandmother would say, or sitting in his reclining chair. On occasion he would rise from his chair and say something profound. On one particular day while my grandmother was updating me on family drama, my grandfather sat up and declared: “Tara, I could care less about the color of a man’s skin. What I care about is how he takes care of his family.” He then sat back and drifted into his own world as my grandmother continued on with her story.
My grandparents are most certainly different. They are very much products of their generation and have beliefs about gender and roles, but I’ve not ever heard them put anyone down for their choices. I grew up knowing from their behavior that they loved their son’s Black wife, my mother, her two Black sons from different relationships, and me, their bi-racial granddaughter. Their love was obvious through words and actions. Being able to share that love with my son is a gift not too many people are able to enjoy. I continue to cherish that gift.
I bring my son to visit his great-grandparents every chance I get. Even with their declining health, we visit and my grandfather takes special time to chat with my son. During one of our last visits, pictured above, as we were preparing to leave, my grandfather got up and asked my son to come with him. He took special time to describe to my son every picture and antique in their cabinet. Just as my grandmother told me, “Honey, you’re just gonna have to pull him away cause your grandfather’s not gonna stop,” I laughed. I stared at my very quiet then 93-year-old grandfather as he pointed out every single plate, cup and trinket to my very engrossed 12-year-old son. I smiled with pride as I took a photo to capture this beautiful moment.
As a politically conscious Bi-racial Black woman I stay aware of the issues affecting the world, especially what occurs within the Black community. I stay abreast of social justice issues and have engaging conversations with my son. I validate the anger he feels and completely honor his process. I also make sure I keep him educated about the importance of white allies, our European ancestry and the unconditional love he has from two beautiful people that he’s blessed to have in his life. His great-grandparents. I have to, we come from them as well.
Thank you for reading!