Halle Berry, Racial Identity & What White Moms Struggle to Understand

Janelle Harris
29

Halle Berry Ebony Cover March 2011
Halle Berry
Gorgeous, wealthy, accomplished, and now single hot mama Halle Berry is going through another set of unceremonious relationship woes following her breakup with model man candy Gabriel Aubry. But this go-round of love TKOs is different than any of the others she’s publicly endured for two glaring reasons: her ex-flame is white and their union produced a now 2-year-old daughter, the über-cute Nahla. Most folks argue that racial remix makes the child biracial. And technically, because Halle considers herself ‘black,’ it does.

But Halle considers her child ‘black,’ too. And man, has that ruffled some folks’ highfalutin feathers. All that hype aside, her decision to pare down her baby’s biracial background doesn’t make her a racist -- it makes her a realist. 

By giving her daughter a strong identity in her black self, Halle is prepping Nahla for the real world when people are going to want to know "what she is," when they’re going to make stupid, off-base comments to her, assume things about her based solely and specifically on her race (and maybe a little on her gender, too). It’s part of the routine experience of a black child -- and man and woman -- in America. And as much as folks tout and bleat that we should “let it go” or “move on from the past,” the residuals of overt racism, Jim Crow, and 400 years of oppression have grown roots as part of a day-to-day reality that hasn’t vanished, regardless to what generation we’re in or what race our president is (or, in Obama's case, what race he identifies as ...).

According to the gajillion gossip sites feasting off of their public falling out, Gabriel insists his daughter is white. Whether that’s true or not is something only they and people in their inner circle honestly know. But Nahla’s got to be prepared to know that, despite being born to parents who enjoy wealth, pomp, and privilege. She’s still going to be subject to unfair questioning by the police. Stalked in upscale stores. Perceived to be less educated. Maybe even called a "nigger" or a "porch monkey" by another kid who picked up that phrase from parents who still believe in the good ol’ red blooded American birthright of calling a spade a spade. If Halle doesn’t prepare her baby girl for these things, she’s doing a disservice to her child.

Don’t get me wrong: being black in the U.S., or anywhere else for that matter, isn’t a tragic experience. It’s beautiful, brimming with testimonies of pride and survival and community and a deep spirituality that spans religious faiths, socioeconomic backgrounds, and geographic neighborhoods.

But save the Black in America on CNN series and the 28 days of February we get every year to really learn about the history and culture of African descendants, a parent still has to make a conscious effort to teach their children about their blackness. But trust and believe that, living in this country still very much dominated by Anglo-Saxon Protestant dudes, Halle’s daughter will get plenty of education about her “white side.” We all do no matter our race -- white, black, Cambodian, Pakistani, whatever. I mean, come on: We still celebrate Presidents' Day even while history tells us that Lincoln had a very un-humanitarian agenda for wanting to liberate enslaved black folks.

Don’t worry that little Nahla will be shortchanged an education about her whiteness. In fact, she’ll be immersed in it.

As more and more Americans grow up the product of relationships that have blurred racial and ethnic lines, biraciality and even multiraciality are becoming more the norm, even a bragging right in some circles, giving kids the flexibility and option to claim what they want to claim when they want to claim it. But as far as American culture goes, when you lay down and make a baby with a black person, you best to be prepared to have what will roundly be considered a black child. Halle Berry didn’t create the one-drop rule, but as a mother of a child who’s going to walk down the street in obvious non-whiteness, it’s her right to put its theory to use.

What are your thoughts on biracial children identifying with one race or another?

 

Image via EBONY

 

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