I Love My Diverse Community—I Still Want My Kids to Cherish Their Blackness

I wanted my children to be exposed to the richness of different cultures, but I worried they were losing touch with themselves.

A diverse group of children playing together

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In 2015, my husband and I traded our busy lives in a major metropolitan city for an equally active but quieter lifestyle in the ‘burbs that supported our changing family needs. Our household was quickly growing from just the two of us to a family of four plus pets. we wanted more space, parks, and a good school district nearby. The suburbs offered these things at a price we could afford. 

One nonnegotiable in our search for a new home was access to a diverse community. Our children were born into a multi-ethnic family, with an African American mother, an adopted Korean father, and grandparents who are African American, white, and represent cultures internationally. They have aunts, uncles, and cousins who are Dominican, Trinidadian and Mexican, who collectively present like the United Nations.

With such a unique family dynamic, my husband and I work hard to ensure our children are well-versed in their Black and Korean American cultures. We also expose them to as many other cultures as possible in their daily encounters. 

To our delight, we relocated to a beautiful neighborhood filled with families from different social, economic, and cultural backgrounds. 

We're often invited to block parties that welcome foods, traditions, and languages from around the globe. We learn from each other as a community and celebrate our cultures together, gaining insight into our shared and exclusive experiences as a community. On any given day, I can watch our children play with other neighborhood kids, sometimes bringing home questions about differences they encounter on the playground, which we openly welcome and respectfully discuss. 

We enrolled our children in a school that proudly embraced and celebrated multiculturalism, expanding our global view of diversity as a family. It was a dream come true in many ways, and we spent years feeling proud of our decision as it aligned with our family values of diversity and inclusion. 

That is until it was time to plan our son’s 5th birthday party. As I began building the list of families to invite, it quickly became apparent that our local playgroup lacked one crucial element: Black presence. I began to panic as I scrolled through recent text messages with parents I regularly meet up with for playdates, quickly realizing the minimal number of Black parents or parents of Black children.

I re-read messages from Indian, Asian, biracial, Latine, Middle Eastern, and white friends. My calendar was filled with playdates with families that looked and functioned differently than mine. but out of more than 30 conversations, I only had one playdate with a Black family outside my extended family. I was deeply disappointed. 

How could we let this happen? I was too ashamed to talk to anyone about what I initially perceived as a parenting failure. Instead, I jumped onto my local “Black mom” social media group and casually started extending invites to meet at the park. I successfully arranged a handful of playdates with new Black families. However, as the first playdate neared, I realized how flawed and problematic my overly anxious efforts to bridge the racial gap were. Unintentionally and regretfully, I was tokenizing my own people. 

It was time to put my pride aside—so I reached out to my trusted mom friends, some of who just happened to be African American, but were indeed my friends for reasons beyond our racial connection. 

To my surprise, I wasn’t the only parent who had noticed and was slightly ashamed of the lack of Black presence in their social circles. Still, this was the first time that any of us had talked about it. Some of the gaps were ethnically related, but the commonality was that we all valued diversity while seeking opportunities to ensure our children stayed connected to specific Black cultures. 

Through honest conversations, it became apparent that while playdates are one way of accomplishing our family’s goal of inclusivity, there are multiple exchanges in our daily lives that highlight Black presence and excellence. Prioritizing Black culture is also about actively teaching my children about it. That’s important. I have a desire and love for diversity but now a clearer understanding that increasing diversity doesn’t decrease pride in our identity. 

Camryn J. Wells

My family proudly represents our Blackness, a gift my children and I wear proudly, and my husband supports unconditionally. Even if we don’t organize weekly playdates, my village is filled with the beautiful essence of Black culture through our meals, conversations, and love for art. 

— Camryn J. Wells

I kept a few of the playdates from the Black mom group on the calendar because our social interests aligned and truthfully, it was nice to connect with more Black moms who understood the nuances of Black parenting. I canceled a few other playdates when I accepted my flawed reasoning for setting them up.

I offered grace to myself, my friends, and other parents who may unintentionally limit our children’s opportunities for growth through social interactions. My son’s birthday party was a hit, and to be honest, I don’t recall the racial breakdown of the families that attended but I do remember the feeling of the immense love that joined us that day.

More importantly, I reminded myself that I am a perfectly imperfect mother. Even if my efforts fall short, my children are still wildly supported by and intertwined with Black culture. My family proudly represents our Blackness, a gift my children and I wear proudly, and my husband supports unconditionally. Even if we don’t organize weekly playdates, my village is filled with the beautiful essence of Black culture through our meals, conversations, and love for art. 

Most importantly, I know clearly now that the addition of diversity does not equate to the subtraction of Blackness. My family is surrounded by literature, history, and innovations that showcase the range of diversity within Black communities. Over time, I have redefined what diversity means to me and how it aligns with my parenting style. I connect with Black families authentically throughout my community, and all of my relationships are held up by shared values. 

Thankfully, the lines between Blackness and diversity seamlessly intersect, and that is where you will find me—raising my children and expanding our understanding of diversity as a family.

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