I am sitting in the tiny airless back room of an old work-place, my arm draped self-consciously over a crumpled work-mate, Dee. Dee is crying and I am doing a paltry job of comforting her. I’m awful at this sort of stuff at the best of times but now it’s worse – I really have no empathy with her situation.
She delivered an ultimatum to her boyfriend of many years, Karl, and he did not do what she wanted him to do.
Dee is tall and blonde, a commercial’s dream with her smooth tan and invitingly bland beauty. Karl is muscular and gorgeous and black. They make a striking couple. Dee wants the dream – the white wedding and 2 kids, and she’s turning 30 soon. Karl is still a child, still wanting to sow his seeds. It’s so sadly stereotyped that I fail to comprehend it.
Dee has told Karl that she cannot wait any longer for him to ask her to marry her. He must ask, or leave. Karl chooses to leave.
“I’ve always wanted a chocolate baby” was Dee’s reasoning for why she was so heart-torn about breaking up with Karl. I am flummoxed. I leave to get Dee water and tissues, and cowardly hope someone else will take my place, making the meaningless soothing sounds but with more conviction.
Dee’s words shocked me. They were wrong from so many angles. But I didn’t discuss it with her – I have a little more heart than that.
Chocolate is food. And a description of colour. But did Dee start dating Karl with the hope that one day his genes would mix satisfyingly with hers to produce a ‘chocoate baby’? Has Dee imagined the colour of the child she wants – a smooth dark like the best Lindt, or more milk based? Dee has managed, in this one neat phrase, to conjure up a sickening commodification of children and of race.
A child is a person with all the fullness, complexities and richness that personhood brings. And so is a person of colour. I worry about people who want babies because they’re cute. What about who that baby will become? How that baby will become a (hopefully) flourishing human being? And Dee has taken this to a dizzying extreme – not just to hope for a cute child, but one of a certain colour.
I can’t imagine that Dee would have made a bad mother, or partner. She was a warm and generous person, but to want a child like a type of cake is repulsive.
To be reduced to the colour of your skin – as a future child because it is the colour your parent wanted his/her child to be or as a potential partner because you could contribute to a child of some wished for colour – is racism. Dee would never have thought so because she was sleeping with someone of another race, participating in an interracial relationship. But I perceive her desire for a chocolate baby as deeply racist – perceiving a person predominantly for the colour of his/her skin.
I haven’t kept in touch with Dee. I wonder what her life is like now and whether she has a child. And I can’t help it – I also wonder what colour that child might be.