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USA: On Having a Brown Baby in the Age of Trump

Thursday 19 October 2017, by siawi3


On Having a Brown Baby in the Age of Trump

Patricia Valoy
Science and Social Justice, Contributing Editor

September 26, 2017

Photos: Patricia Valoy
- Radical bookshelf in Patricia’s nursery.
- Social justice wall in Patricia’s nursery
- Here For The Revolution Black Baby Onesie

These days I spend a lot of time preparing. Most people call the time when parents-to-be spend hours on end cleaning and organizing for a new baby “nesting,” but I’m doing so much more than that. Between folding baby clothes, creating space for baby gear, and buying things I’ll need for after the birth, I wonder and worry about how I will manage to raise a Brown baby in the age of Trump.

My pregnancy has been fairly easy on my body. Besides some fatigue and aches associated with carrying a baby that is due any minute now, I’ve felt mostly fine. What ails me is the fear of a future under a white supremacist president, who is known for being a rapist and a racist, in a country that was built by the subjugation of people of color. This country was not built for people like me or my child, and now more than ever I’ll have to navigate a future in which I will be more vulnerable than I have ever been, with a baby and limited resources.

How will I be able to raise a child that enjoys that wonderful innocence that only the young can truly feel, but also understand the inequality that they will surely encounter? How do I show my child how important it is for them to be a warrior for justice?

It seems almost ridiculous for me to have these thoughts when my child is still a fetus, safe inside my body. They are as happy as they’ll ever be in this moment, and for some time after being born, that they won’t know what is happening beyond the safety of my embrace. But babies grow and learn faster than I’d like to believe they will, and I can already feel my armor building up in expectation for the years ahead in which I will be called to protect and defend my child. I already fiercely protect my environment and the people in it, knowing full well that I won’t be able to do that forever.

When I used to think about having children I imagined a completely different scenario. Not only did I assume I would be working at a company with great parental benefits, I thought I’d have enough savings to last through a long maternity leave and the best healthcare my insurance could give me. But without realizing I was already pregnant I left my career as an Engineering Project Manager to pursue consulting work and lost my health insurance. Although I didn’t have nearly enough savings to survive a year without work, my husband agreed to work as much as he needed to get us by, and I predicted I would be making money in no time.

Then, suddenly I was a pregnant and unemployed woman of color living in a country that had just elected a white supremacist as our president. I had hoped this presidency would be all talk and no action, but early on it became clear that we were not safe. As I was scrambling to secure health insurance after leaving my job, the GOP rolled out a health insurance package that would make pregnancy a pre-existing condition. Shortly after, Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Agreement and made various executive decisions that would devastate our environment, particularly for vulnerable people of color. And just when things seemed like they couldn’t get any worse, Trump threatened to jeopardize the health of insurance of millions of poor people to get Democrats to comply with his health plan. As weeks bore on, violent white supremacists organized marches and rallies in number of cities across the United States.

It was clear to me that my pregnancy and parenting were going to have to be a lot more militant than I had ever imagined, and that still weighs heavy on me. I never assumed we lived in a peaceful country, so I knew that whenever I decided to have children I would have to teach them about our history of racism, slavery, genocide, and colonialism. And I always knew that a child of mine would need to know about the discrimination and hate that people of color face in this country. I knew I would have to work extremely hard to teach them to love themselves in spite of a world that sees them as alien, even more so if that child identifies as a girl. What I didn’t expect was the immediacy in which these lessons would have to be taught.

As I approach my due date I get a lot of questions about my birth plan, and the inevitable question “are you scared?” comes up. People want to know if I am afraid of physical pain, and they wonder if I am concerned about a medical emergency or my baby needing special care. The truth is that I am not at all afraid of the physical pain that I will experience, because that pain is temporary. I may scream and cry and wish it was all over when the time comes, because I am human and I don’t enjoy being in agony, but the really scary part is not knowing what comes after that.

I’m learning to cope with this specific fear in ways that may be imperfect but bring me joy and empowerment. Our baby’s nursery is full of inspirational posters about environmental justice and immigration rights. We have radical baby books like A is For Activist and Feminist Baby. We even have onesies with powerful messages like The Revolution Will Not Be Pacified. We even have science-themed blankets, as a nod to my passion, and Arabic alphabet blocks, in acknowledgement of my husband’s heritage. While I know that a radical poster or a onesie with a cool message won’t change reality, they help me to keep fighting.

My child will be born during a tumultuous and uneasy time, but I am grateful that they will be welcomed by a wonderful community of activists and people of color who are happy for my family and want to help raise a child that knows they are loved and cared for. My radical community is saving me every single day and I can’t imagine doing this without them. They remind me that my baby is needed now more than ever. There is strength in numbers, and while I don’t know what kind of person my child will grow up to be, I know that I will ensure my child loves their beautiful brown skin, their community, and their ancestry. For people of color, this, in and of itself, is a radical act of self love.