Don’t leave our black children behind

I’m a sucker for good news, so much so that I’ve culled my social media to cultivate this in my daily scroll. As you can imagine, I was very excited to hear Queen Naomi Campbell’s motherhood journey, especially since she’s desired to have children for so long.

As a mum of two, I understood what Naomi wanted – to love and nurture unconditionally. I was also inspired by Naomi embarking on this journey alone. We’re blessed to be afforded the opportunities that our parents dreamed of. Modern developments in science have made the impossible possible, and our Naomi was finally going to have her biological child.

I rushed to see March’s Vogue cover.

Stunning.

But, I couldn’t help but see the elephant in the room. Naomi’s daughter was of mixed heritage. I was super confused. I know we can pick and mix DNA nowadays, but as a key advocate of Black Lives Matter, I was perplexed (although not surprised) that Naomi had chosen to have a mixed-race child, especially as a darker-skinned black woman. What was wrong with having a black daughter? Did she not believe in her solid legacy? Did she think a black daughter would damage this?

I read the piece. It didn’t take long to feel Naomi’s evasiveness; she was only willing to share parts of her journey and for me, this dented her credibility in the plight of BLM. Too many high profile black individuals don’t walk the walk. I question why it’s common to see influential black people making decisions that directly contradict what they preach. It’s as though they’re blind to the exacerbation of the very issues we’re trying to eradicate.

This also got me thinking about the well-being of our black children in the social system. There are real racial disparities in the UK care system. In 2020, black children made up 7% of looked after children and 2% of those adopted. This is proportionally smaller than their share of the under-18 population (5%), whereas white children make up the largest share of the under-18 population (79%) and made up for 74% of looked after children and 83% of those adopted.

And unsurprisingly, there are layers and intersections to this.

Research shows that darker-skinned children are repeatedly discriminated against, both by potential adoptive parents and the social workers charged with protecting their well-being. To compound things, a 1999 study at the Institute of Black Parenting showed that as many as 40% of black couples expressed a preference for a light-skinned, mixed-race child or black children with European features, regardless of their own complexion.

This has left black children waiting in foster care for extended periods, particularly black boys. How do we expect to break this cycle if society is unwilling to treat our children equally or empathetically?

For the children, the experience of racism means they are forced to confront the difficult issues of identity. These experiences can lead to difficulties in forming safe and lasting relationships, in achieving at school and children reaching their full potential.

The odds are stacked against them and we all have a role in this. We need to collectively break down the stereotypes that seep into every corner of society. We need to check ourselves and impart what’s right on our children.

How? We can take some easy steps like broadening our interactions with those different to us, contributing to the celebration of black success, listening with perspective (i.e. get the facts), and being intentional in our anti-racist thinking.

No child should be left behind in life because of the colour of their skin or be made to feel that they are less than. We need to halt discrimination and drive equality. Our children deserve better.

Sending light and love always.

DiDi x

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