A few days ago H&M stirred controversy with an ad where a black child model was pictured with a hoodie with the words coolest monkey in the jungle written across the front.
Quite rightly H&M faced a lot of criticism about the ad, I don’t know the industry but I would have thought that this would had to be signed off before it was featured.
This child was young, so assume that he would have had some parental supervision, they might have said something, we will never know.
This whole situation got me thinking about my childhood growing up and whether this would affect any decision to have a child.
I’ve previously written a post about the reasons why I wasn’t ready to be a dad, though believe there is another reason not discussed in that post……my own experiences growing up as a mixed race child.
It’s sad to say but there are things that will no doubt stay with me forever:
1) being in primary school and having two younger boys shout racial abuse
2) lads in a car honking their horn to get my attention just so that they could hurl racial abuse and make monkey noises.
3) moving out of my Nan’s house with my mum into a council property and having racist graffiti plastered all across the communal hall, the racists obviously weren’t that bright, not that they ever are, as they couldn’t even get what race I was correct
4) being called the token black guy by a friend of a friend
5) people to this day, telling me that I’m quite dark for someone that is mixed race, this might surprise but being compared to others like a wall paint colour chart isn’t the greatest feeling.
So what has this got to do with anything
Maybe nothing, maybe something.
Growing up and to this day I’ve always lived in areas where there are very few ethnic minorities and as someone that has faced racial abuse, I notice.
I work for an employer that has very few, if any, ethnic minorities in senior positions.
In primary and secondary school there were very few people from ethnic minority backgrounds. Living were my wife and I do any child that we had would find themselves in the same situation.
I know this shouldn’t taint any decision to have a child but in some way it has, how could it not?
I remember telling my mum one day when I was a lot younger that when I had a child I wanted it to be white so it didn’t have to go through the same experiences that I had, I didn’t quite understand how genetics worked at that age.
And I guess this brings me to my point, as much as people say we live in different times. Things haven’t really moved that far.
Footballers still face a barrage of monkey chants from some terraces and a royal getting engaged to someone who is mixed race appears to be seen as an event that celebrates that the royals are moving with the times and not just a celebration of two people getting married out of love for each other.
When they do have a child are we again going to see headlines about there being a mixed race royal and will they really be accepted in the high society circles which it will grow up in?
It’s all about my heritage
I grew up not knowing who my dad was and lived with my mum and Nan. I had a good life and can’t complain
I was bought everything I wanted, but rarely had friends come over to my house, computer games and videos were a one person event. That was unless my Asian friend was allowed to come over once in a while.
Channel 4 recently aired a programme where adoption parties were held to try and find children that were in need of adoption but were hard to find adoptive parents for.
As well as age, being of an ethnic minority was another barrier to finding a new home.
I think that it was a Social Worker that said in the programme that they would prefer to place children with people from the same backgrounds so that they could teach them about their heritage. What the hell is that supposed to mean?
I have no knowledge of my black heritage but still consider myself to be a fairly well rounded member of society.
When I was in my teens I decided to try and connect with my dads side of the family.
I never turned up uninvited, visits were always planned and not once did he make an attempt, as far as I know to see me.
He probably thought that I was after the child maintenance that he never paid while I was growing up, neither did my mum chase him for it!
The biggest question should surely be whether the child is going to be brought up in a loving family!
Me as the parent, why not?
There are going to be people, mainly those that I’m sure mean well, but have never faced these experiences, that say it’s a different time and this shouldn’t stop you having a child, unfortunately my experience will always play in the back of my mind.
I’ve no doubts that I’d make a good dad and hope that when/if my wife and I do have a child, whether that be naturally or through adoption, it will not suffer the same experiences that I did and he or she will be able to take all opportunities that are made available to them.
So over to you
Have your own childhood experiences affected your decision whether to have a child or not? Or do you think that my concerns are irrelevant, let me have your thoughts in the comments below.