Yesterday this popped up on the TL. I checked around the post to see if my friend had any additional commentary, but it was just your typical re-post from some wannabe-funny page. With thousands upon thousands of likes. I clicked out.
My head wanted to feel the mob emotion: Cute. But something about this photo made my belly feel so weird. Knotted. Nahh, I thought.
So I posted it to twitter to see what my siblings thought, and this is what we got:
85% of voters said nah, belly weird.
I felt emotionally validated. Some of my siblings even RTd with their own commentary which helped give me language to navigate my emotions.
I was feeling so many ways, but mostly I kept thinking of my own white mother and the way she used her kids to appropriate Black Culture, proudly standing with her Black Children’s Posse behind her… FROWNING. Just like this little girl in the picture.
It’s overkill. It’s ugly regardless of intent. It’s ruining her own culture for her. Just no.
So when someone asked me why it made me uneasy, I thought I had my answer. But as I began to respond, I found myself again in reflection. And I figured it out.
There are so many things coming together in this photo, but I think for me this is what it triggered.
Why I, Black daughter of a White Woman, vote this photo NAH MY BELLY WEIRD NO:
On the first day of kindergarten my mom dropped me off at the white school across town, like BYE FELICIA. I walked into an all white classroom and the kids let me feel it. I remember the girls didn’t want to play with me and when I got home and my mother asked me why not, I just asked her why I wasn’t white too? And I remember crying… trying to understand why I wasn’t white like her, wasn’t white like the other kids. Why couldn’t I be? Then wouldn’t they play with me?
When I look at this picture, I see this little girl with a sad face on her first day of kindergarten and I think about that. And I think about the way my white mother couldn’t help me when I cried to her that first day. She couldn’t help me because she didn’t understand what I was internalizing about the world and myself. It’s a struggle she’s never had to face, so, like a white woman, she dismissed the issue entirely.
The first day of kindergarten was one of the biggest moments in my life to realize I was not like my white mother and had to be quiet about it.
So for me, this picture is about how white women think they’re finally “in” because they have Black Children but do not empathize with the experiences of their Black children. This picture is about how white women, in their apathy and emotional laziness, often inflict the pain back on Black People as a witty mother’s punchline. This is about how white women erase, dismiss, and caricature their Black Daughters pain as a way to “bond”.
I wonder when this picture was taken. I wonder what this white mother is doing for her Black daughter besides using her as an all access pass to Black Culture for a cheeky photo-op. Teaching her daughter to find white women appropriating Black rhetoric as cute. Something she’s a part of. Even if she frowns. Especially if she frowns.