In the beginning of August 2004, I noticed I hadn’t got my period yet. I was on birth control so my periods were typically right on schedule. I told my mom that I had missed it but assured her that I could feel it coming any moment.
“You know Brittani, that’s a sign of pregnancy. When you miss your period but still feel like it’s coming. It’s actually your uterus expanding and it feels very similar to period cramps.”
So, I took a pregnancy test. The test was inconclusive. Being 20, I assumed it was negative and I’d get my period any day.
5 days later, I still hadn’t gotten my period. I was on the phone with my girlfriend AR while walking through the aisles of Walgreens looking at pregnancy tests. She said “There’s a place not far from my house that has free tests. I’ll meet you there.”
I pulled up to New Family Services. When I walked in and filled out paperwork, I realized that this was an “anti-abortion” Christian establishment. As I was filling out my information I was signing and initialing statements that I would not have an abortion if I found out I was pregnant. At this point, I still didn’t think I was pregnant, so I signed without hesitation. I knew these weren’t legally binding documents (Besides, I wasn’t pregnant).
The woman who met with me was very sweet. She asked me the first day of my last period, and estimated how far along I was IF I was pregnant, 5 weeks. I peed in a mini cup, brought it into a room where her and AR were sitting. She took a mini turkey baster looking thing and took a sample of my urine and dropped it on the pregnancy test. She then put a Kleenex on top of the test and set a timer for 3 minutes. Those 3 minutes felt like 30. She tried to make small talk but it wasn’t helping. I just kept looking anxiously at AR and back at the timer. In my mind, all I could think about was, how would I tell my mom, dad, RICO? Rico and I were no longer in a relationship. We broke up in May. It was 1 time, there’s no way I’m pregnant. The buzzer went off, the woman looked at me and said,
“Are you ready?”
She lifted up the Kleenex, “Its positive, you’re pregnant.”
I ran out of the room, out the door to the parking lot where I fell to my knees.
“Pregnant, omg, I’m pregnant”
AR and the woman followed me. They picked me off the ground of the parking lot and set me on the curb. I asked for my phone to call my mom. When I told her, she was shocked but at the same time knew it was a possibility. AR told the woman she could handle it from here on out. The woman brought out my purse and key’s. I had to get out of there. I told AR I would meet her at her house, but I wanted to stop and grab some popcorn first( coincidently Aria’s favorite snack).
As I was driving to AR’s I couldn’t help but touch my belly “OMG, there is a baby in there.”
I didn’t have to talk to the woman from New Family Services again, even though she called numerous times after I ran out. I knew I was keeping the baby. This baby was the only thing I knew I WANTED. Was it ideal, no, I was singing in bars and serving at the time. I wasn’t in school. I had no true direction on where I was headed, other than motherhood. I told Rico; he was excited. We decided we were going to try and work things out and do what’s best for the baby. I told my sister and best girlfriends. But it took me over 3 weeks to tell my father (I’ll tell that story another day).
I had an ultrasound at around 10 weeks, maybe 11. My sister Ashlee and my step mom Amy came with me for a checkup. When it was time to see the baby, we all looked to the monitor excitedly. The little fetus was literally dancing. Bouncing and dancing in my womb. The tech had a hard time measuring because of how much the baby was moving. At that time, I didn’t know the sex, so I just called it “baby.” When watching “baby” dance in my womb I thought to myself, “that is definitely my child.” I knew this child already had its own little personality; I was in love.
I went by myself to my ultrasound for the 20-week gender reveal. I was convinced the baby was a boy. I had 3 sisters. No way the first grandchild would be a girl. However, I didn’t care. I just wanted a healthy baby. When the ultrasound tech told me, it was a girl I was immediately ecstatic. I could finally start using feminine pronouns and start to imagine what she would look like. The first thing I did was go to Target to buy her a pair of little pink boots.
About a week later, it hit me. I am growing an African American Woman in my belly. Holy shit! I don’t know what its like to be black in this country. How can I prepare my precious angel to be cautious about things I’ll never have to worry about? How and what do I teach her to prepare for? I can be empathic; I can be knowledgeable that people of color are treated very differently in this country. However, I don’t know how to prepare her because I’ve never had to deal with it. It was the first time I felt scared throughout my whole pregnancy. I don’t care if your husband is black, I don’t care if you have brown babies, if you are white, you do NOT know what its like to be black in this country.
I remember reading Peggy McIntosh, White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.
I decided to try to work on myself at least by identifying some of the daily effects of white privilege in my life. I have chosen those conditions that I think in my case attach somewhat more to skin-color privilege than to class, religion, ethnic status, or geographic location, though of course all these other factors are intricately intertwined. As far as I can tell, my African American coworkers, friends, and acquaintances with whom I come into daily or frequent contact in this particular time, place and time of work cannot count on most of these conditions (Peggy McIntosh,1989)
1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.
2. I can avoid spending time with people whom I was trained to mistrust and who have learned to mistrust my kind or me.
3. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.
4. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.
5. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.
6. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.
7. When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.
8. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.
9. If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege.
10. I can be pretty sure of having my voice heard in a group in which I am the only member of my race.
11. I can be casual about whether or not to listen to another person’s voice in a group in which s/he is the only member of his/her race.
12. I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods which fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who can cut my hair.
13. Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.
14. I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.
15. I do not have to educate my children to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection.
16. I can be pretty sure that my children’s teachers and employers will tolerate them if they fit school and workplace norms; my chief worries about them do not concern others’ attitudes toward their race.
17. I can talk with my mouth full and not have people put this down to my color.
18. I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty or the illiteracy of my race.
19. I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my race on trial.
20. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.
21. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.
22. I can remain oblivious of the language and customs of persons of color who constitute the world’s majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.
23. I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider.
24. I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to the “person in charge”, I will be facing a person of my race.
25. If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my race.
26. I can easily buy posters, post-cards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys and children’s magazines featuring people of my race.
27. I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance or feared.
28. I can be pretty sure that an argument with a colleague of another race is more likely to jeopardize her/his chances for advancement than to jeopardize mine.
29. I can be pretty sure that if I argue for the promotion of a person of another race, or a program centering on race, this is not likely to cost me heavily within my present setting, even if my colleagues disagree with me.
30. If I declare there is a racial issue at hand, or there isn’t a racial issue at hand, my race will lend me more credibility for either position than a person of color will have.
31. I can choose to ignore developments in minority writing and minority activist programs, or disparage them, or learn from them, but in any case, I can find ways to be more or less protected from negative consequences of any of these choices.
32. My culture gives me little fear about ignoring the perspectives and powers of people of other races.
33. I am not made acutely aware that my shape, bearing or body odor will be taken as a reflection on my race.
34. I can worry about racism without being seen as self-interested or self-seeking.
35. I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having my co-workers on the job suspect that I got it because of my race.
36. If my day, week or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it had racial overtones.
37. I can be pretty sure of finding people who would be willing to talk with me and advise me about my next steps, professionally.
38. I can think over many options, social, political, imaginative or professional, without asking whether a person of my race would be accepted or allowed to do what I want to do.
39. I can be late to a meeting without having the lateness reflect on my race.
40. I can choose public accommodation without fearing that people of my race cannot get in or will be mistreated in the places I have chosen.
41. I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my race will not work against me.
42. I can arrange my activities so that I will never have to experience feelings of rejection owing to my race.
43. If I have low credibility as a leader, I can be sure that my race is not the problem.
44. I can easily find academic courses and institutions which give attention only to people of my race.
45. I can expect figurative language and imagery in all of the arts to testify to experiences of my race.
46. I can choose blemish cover or bandages in “flesh” color and have them more or less match my skin.
47. I can travel alone or with my spouse without expecting embarrassment or hostility in those who deal with us.
This article was written in 1989, some things have changed. But, most of it, is still prevalent today. These are just things White American’s don’t have to worry about or face on a day to day basis.
After the murders of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin and Oscar Grant. I said a little prayer, thanking God that Aria was a girl, until the death of Sandra Bland. I realized that this is deeper than what Peggy was talking about. This is no longer just stereotypes; this is life or death. I have to prepare my child for life or death. Black American’s being killed by police isn’t new. We are now more aware of it because of TV and Social media. You could be driving your car without signaling, selling cigarettes, running from the cops, cooperating with the cops, getting on the ground, putting your hands up, not putting your hands up, reaching for your license and registration, not reaching for your license and registration. The narrative always changes on why deadly force was used. Yet, there is little or no justice.
In Minnesota, there are huge racial gaps between white students/adults to students/adults of color in education and employment, health, access to health insurance, housing, and the economy. In 2016, according to the Pioneer Press, Black Families now earn a median annual income of $33,900 compared to $81,500 for white families (Minnesota’s worsening racial disparity: Why it matters to everyone, Magan,2019). These numbers should enrage people. This is part of the reason I became a social worker. To be an advocate and help create resources for people in need.
Is this the world I’m subjecting my beautiful brown baby girl to? At no fault of her own?
A new rapidly growing statistic, African American teen suicide is at an all-time high and is now considered “crisis mode.” According to a study done in Toledo in 2019(James Price, Suicide rates are rising significantly among African American Teens) the suicide death rate among young black males from 2001-2017 ages 13-19 is up 60%. The suicide death rate for black females 13-19 is up 182%.
That’s my girl………… she fits that demographic.
What are we doing? Why don’t people care?
There is not a life I value more, there is not a human I will ever love more than my beautiful brown Aria Joy Burch Senser. ”
“Brown Skin Girl, skin just like pearls, best thing in the world. Never trade you for anybody else”