Monday, February 10, 2020.
I will never forget the day.
I will never forget the moment.
One of my deepest fears came to life.
While I ordered a chicken burger and fries from one of my regular lunch spots in the local market, with my daughter in my arms, while my wife ordered her meal from another stand in the marketplace a few meters away, a man turns to me and says, “very cute, is she yours?” With confusion on my face I answer “yeah she’s mine.” As I turn away from the other customer to pay for my meal, I hear him say,
“No way, must be adopted”.
Have you ever heard something, or seen something in your life that puts your body in a shock. Freezing you physically and mentally, making you unable to respond the way you want? Well that was me.
The inner me wanted to say to the man, “No she’s not adopted you a**hole! She is 100% my daughter. Why would you even ask that you idiot?”.
But I didn’t.
I walked away in disbelief and told my wife what happened. Of course, my wife being the passionate mother and wife she is said “Dylan why didn’t you say anything? I wish I was there I would have said something. That’s so rude. What the hell!”
Personally, I wish I did say something, but I know why I didn’t. I always had a fear this day would come because I’ve experienced it growing up and I feared it would happen once me and my wife had children of our own.
Sounds crazy, but let me tell you why.
I grew up in a household in which all my siblings were biracial. I am the second oldest of seven and am the only child, in which both my parents are black. My siblings and I share the same mother, but have different fathers. My oldest brother's father is white. And my five younger siblings' father (my stepfather) is also white.
Although my skin color is the darkest, by a long shot, from my siblings, I never really realized it growing up. My mother did an amazing job creating a bond between our family in which we did not see any physical differences between one and other. We literally just loved each other that much that color didn’t matter in the slightest form.
There were only two occasions I remember growing up in which I realized I looked different than my siblings.
The first came when I was six years old and my older brother was eight. My brother and I would go outside to play with one of our neighbours, who was white. When we played together in the community area, it was always the best time. We would have so much fun. But for some reason when we would go to his house, my brother would go inside his backyard to continue playing while I had to stay outside the gate. I didn’t realize what was going on at the time. I thought, because I was two years younger than the both of them, I couldn’t join them.
They would play for up to an hour while I watched them from the outside, and then when they were done, my older brother would come outside the gate to get me and we would walk home together like nothing happened.
Why didn’t I say something? Why didn’t I just head home? I was a younger brother who just wanted to be around my older brother and do what he did. I thought this was me participating.
As I grew up and turned into a man, I asked my mother about that neighborhood we once lived in. She told me it was a predominantly white area and the people who lived in that area would look at her “funny”. Insinuating that she did not belong there, but would be welcoming to my step-dad, who was white.
I told her what would happen to me and she asked why I didn’t tell her about it. I told her, while reiterating it to myself that I didn’t know what was happening at the time. As I processed it later in life, I realized that it was my first encounter with discrimination.
The second time I realized that I looked different than my sibling was when my older brother, myself, my younger brother, and a few of the neighborhood kids played some pick up basketball on our street. I was around 10 or 11 years old at the time. We lived in a different neighbourhood than the first incident.
It was my turn to sit out of the game. So as I took a seat on the sidewalk curb, a white boy, around the same age as me asked me if my brother, were my brothers. I answered in a confused tone “yeah, they are my brothers.” Because to me, we looked exactly alike.
He then responded with,
“Really? You look adopted. Are you sure you aren’t?”
I will never forget that day. I remember it so vividly.
Because of these two incidents, and others down the line, such as people looking at me and my step-father with a weird look when we are out together acting like father and son, I took what the man said to me, about my daughter being adopted, to heart.
My wife is a white, Australian woman. I am a black, Jamaican-Canadian man. We birthed a biracial daughter who was born and has lived in Europe most of her life. Is this normal? Some can say it is, and some can say it isn’t. Regardless of what side is viewing us, I can confidently say that I am aware that our daughter will face cultural speed bumps because she is biracial and that is okay. It's a part of life.
My wife and I are not oblivious to this fact. Yes, I would love to tell my daughter, “sweetie, color doesn’t matter in this world. No matter the color of somebody's skin, we are all equal and will be treated equally.”, but I know I would be doing her a disservice by telling her that.
She was born with two different backgrounds within her genetic makeup. We understand that as parents and will do our best to educate her about both cultures. We will teach her the history of both sides. We will teach her how certain people may view her. We will teach her that she might not seem “black enough” at times for some people, or “white enough” for others. We will inform her as much as we can so that she understands every angle on how somebody might view her. In hopes that she stands confident and proud of who she is, no matter the criticisms she may face.
Living in Europe makes our job a bit harder doing this, but we are up for the challenge. The places in which we have lived so far in Europe, I am the minority by a long shot. It's a rare occassion in which my daughter encounters a person of color. And although she is still young, it is something for us as parents to be conscious about. We try and do little things to keep her culturally balanced. For example, we bought her two dolls that resemble children of color. Most of the babies around her age, that she has encountered, in Europe have been white. Therefore, these dolls will teach her that there are also babies that look like her too. It might be something minor now, but I believe it's a necessity for her as she grows older, and understands more about the world and about herself.
Yes, I am fully aware that I am a black man, my wife is a white woman, and my daughter is biracial. However, there is not a soul on this Earth that can ever say or do anything that will make me see any type of color or disconnect between me and my family. We will continue to love each other unconditionally, but also be concious of our surroundings, while dealing with race.
And no, Amiyah Rose Ennis is not adopted, she is the proud daughter of Dylan Ennis.
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