I feel like white homes always bring trauma to Black babies.


I don’t have any children of my own, so take everything I say here with a grain of salt. You can use whatever can be distilled from my tears, if you have to. They don’t have any other use, I am told.

I don’t have any children of my own, but I have been a child before. A Black child specifically. And I have had white adults in charge of my care. I have been told by these adults that they loved me even as they hit me and never told my parents that they did. I have heard those words leave their lips without feeling that love. But I have also been told not to trust my feelings when it comes to white people. My feelings are too Black, too angry, too violent, too resentful. So it doesn’t matter what I feel, just like it doesn’t matter that writing this brings me to tears. Take all of these feelings with a grain of Blackness, a grain of Hari is too extreme, too radical to ever be legitimate.

Do you have enough grains yet? No? Here are more tears. Here is a story about two little Black girls, Alexis and Ava, who were thrust into YouTube stardom and the scorching spotlight that comes with it by their white father and Black mother. Here are some posts where their father calls Black people stupid, unrefined, brutish, ghetto. Here is a lifetime of trauma that will haunt these girls for their entire lives.

Here is an ocean full of Black bodies. The bodies of 15-year-old Devonte and 16-year-old Hannah are among them somewhere. They are still missing after their adoptive white parents, Jennifer and Sarah Hart, plunged their vehicle into the ocean, killing four of their siblings, their sister Sierra’s body being recovered almost a month later. All of the children were Black. One of the children told neighbors that Jennifer and Sarah were “racist,” and had been torturing the children before their murder. This wasn’t enough for the government to save them.

Whenever I see Black children with white caretakers, I want to save them, but I can’t. I am told that’s the government’s job, not mine. I want to let these children know that when people say “care” we don’t all mean the same thing. I want to tell them that their feelings matter more than white people say they do, even if those white people are their parents. I want them to be able to escape anyone who makes them feel stupid, unrefined, brutish, ghetto. I want to show them what love feels like—Black love. I want them to know that this type of love is enough.

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I don’t have any children of my own, but I have cared for children on many occasions. For a few years, I was a counselor at a camp for young kids. One of my favorite campers was a little Black girl. I knew her parents were white before I met them because when we say “care” we don’t all mean the same thing. Her hair was knotted and dirty and uncombed. Her skin was ashy and unmoisturized when she arrived. And still she was the cutest thing in the world. But the other girls with blond hair were told they were cute by my fellow (mostly white) counselors much more often. And those counselors loved this little Black girl, they swear. So did her parents. And when white people say they love you, you have to believe them, even if you don’t feel it.

And I know there are too many Black kids who need homes, but have you ever wondered why? Who creates the conditions that make their birth families insufficient? Who destroys our support structures? Have you ever wondered where Black and brown children go after they are ripped from their parents’ arms at the border? When their mother sees them five years later, like Maria Louis did, will they recognize her, or will they say, “No, you’re not my mother,” like her Angie? Who will become their mother instead and call that love? Who will fight their mother in court, and call that love? Will the child believe it, even if they don’t feel it?

What happens to these babies’ names? Will they be stripped of all their color, muted from Encarnacion to Jamison? What else will they lose? Who teaches them that losing themselves, their color, is a good thing? How long will they believe this? Can they ever learn to love their color again? Who celebrates when their mother loses her custody battle because now they officially have a child of their own? Because according to the government, which we are told must be believed because their job is to make sure the kids are alright, now they own this child? Who celebrates when children are owned? Who owned the children who were lost in the ocean hundreds of years before Devonte and Hannah? What types of things did they celebrate? What did they mean by “love”? By “freedom”?

Johnny Nguyen/Special to The Oregonian

Now I am all out of tears, but have some of Devonte’s. We watched as everything else was taken from him, so why not take those too. Some of us even cheered, just as we are taught to do with white expressions of love. This viral photo of Devonte crying while hugging a police officer was taken 4 years ago during a protest in Portland after a grand jury declined to indict the Ferguson police officer who murdered 17-year-old Michael Brown. Devonte’s adoptive parents—his murderers—explained in an interview that they encouraged him to hug his oppressor, to hug the embodiment of what keeps killing us with impunity, because that is better than being too Black, too angry, too violent, too resentful—so he did.

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Last Thanksgiving, my sister forced me to watch NBC’s This is Us for the first time. The episode’s main conflict was a white woman trying to convince an abrasive Black judge to allow her to adopt a Black child. He doesn’t trust her with the child because she is white, which is too extreme, too radical to ever be legitimate. Ultimately, the woman corners the judge outside of court and makes an emotional plea for why she is the right parent for this child. I feel where the judge is coming from, but he is made to look too stupid to trust these feelings. The woman is made to look too righteous to trust these feelings. The judge doesn’t even trust his own feelings, and ends up approving her request. When a white woman promises to love you without showing it, you always, always, always should believe them.

I shouldn’t believe it, but I feel like white homes always bring trauma to Black babies. When I say romantic and sexual relationships are political, that race matters when you start a family, this is what I mean. Yes, I mean that the intimate company you keep shows who you admire, but I don’t really give a fuck about who you admire. I give a fuck about who you don’t, about who gets discarded. I give a fuck about the Black kids who are thrust into this world and the scorching spotlight that comes with it, and how often we just watch as they are abused by it because we would be too Black, too angry, too violent, too resentful if we did anything about it. I give a fuck about how often they are abused because people “can’t help who they love” and their white partners can’t help who they don’t. What can we help? Who can we save?

I don’t have any children of my own. For a long time, I feared having kids because not being able to save them from everything in this world would break me. Until I realized I didn’t need “my own” to feel this way. Until I realized I was already broken, and didn’t know it because I was told so often our type of brokenness didn’t matter. Until I realized Black children aren’t supposed to be owned in the first place. Until I realized all of these feelings are important, no matter how illegitimate anyone says they are.