Photo Credit: WTTG Fox 5 DC News Story
A summary of the story: A White man takes his three bi-racial (Black/White) daughters to Walmart without his wife (their mother). Someone notices them in the Walmart and decides that he looks suspicious because the children are browner than he is. They alert security. Security calls the police. When the family gets home (after, at some point, picking up the man’s wife, who is Black), a police officer is waiting for them. He says that Walmart called to report the oddness of a White man with three young Black girls. He asks for the man’s identification. He then asks the 4 year-old daughter (the oldest of the three) to point out who her parents are. She identifies the man and woman as her parents. The mother, infuriated, calls Walmart to ask why they would call the police on her husband. What is quoted next says it all:
“Keana [the mother] says she was told, “Well, the customer was concerned because they saw the children with your husband and he didn’t think that they fit. And I said, ‘What do you mean by they don’t fit?’ And I was trying to get her to say it. And she says, ‘Well, they just don’t match up.’””
This story presents so many troubling details and challenges, and what disturbs me the most is that Woodbridge, Virginia is part of the Washington DC area, which is one of the most diverse and integrated areas in the country. Seeing interracial families is not new in that area, and seeing bi-racial people is certainly not new in that area. What also bothers me is that somewhere along the way, someone could have stopped, thought, and walked away. Either by listening carefully to one of the girls speak to their father, probably saying “Daddy” or “Dad” or something. Or the security guard, who could have observed the man, via cameras or something, and figured out that clearly they were related. Or maybe the police officer, who obviously saw a White man and a Black woman get out of a car with three brown children. He could have said “Sorry, I think that there was a mistake here” and then walked away without anything else. The Walmart could have then taken responsibility, saying “someone, somewhere made a mistake. We’re so sorry, ma’am.” Every step along the way, it was decided that this family didn’t deserve the opportunity, nor the dignity, to be lumped together as a family.
Someone on the feminist website wondered if people are being hyper-vigilant in the wake of the Cleveland kidnapping case. This is a possibility that may very well explain (but not excuse) the behavior of the anonymous tipper, but not the Walmart employee, nor the responding police officer.
I don’t want to seem like a crazy woman who continually harps on the same old thing, but I am continually surprised by the presumptions of people who come across interracial families. While you would think, when children are involved, that people would be a bit more judicious in their commentary and behavior, I’m finding more and more that people become more egregious in their actions. For some reason, people say more, do more, assume more once children are brought into the equation. It troubles me that those three little girls were exposed, in the worst possible way, to how utterly racialized and radical their existence is, though being bi-racial is as old as the concept of America itself. As a matter of fact, it’s older.
So when you encounter an adult who looks one way and some children who look another way, do the racial calculus in your head and leave it there. And please don’t assume their relationship is nothing more than a business transaction (or worse, a kidnapping!).
My sons “fit” with me because they are mine. I conceived them, carried them and brought them into this world thanks to my love and strength with the assistance of my loving husband. My husband and I don’t look a like, but we love each other no less. The depth of our love and devotion to each other, the depth of our understanding and resolve to traverse this world and raise our sons to be the best that they can be, goes so much further than the color of our skins. We’re four people of four different shades and we “fit” because of love, joy, blood, faith, fear, excitement, and every other emotion that connects a family.
That loving couple in Virginia “fit” with their children because they did the same thing: They created those children in love and contemplation, and they’ve raised them with that same love, joy, and reflection. They “fit” for so many more reasons than the color of their skin.