Black History Month: When Perspective Changes

The arrival of Layla June


The arrival of Layla June in January of 2015 was amazing. Our second grandchild in 32 days, and having never been grandparents before, we were living on Cloud 9. I was in the waiting room when our first grandson was born, but I was on the front line when Princess Layla arrived. Watching the birth of a child does not scare me, but that was my daughter and I wasn’t quite sure if it was something I was comfortable with. After peeking through a curtain, trying to see what was happening 4 times, I had gotten over myself and watched the miracle of childbirth for the first time. We both thought we were looking at the back of her head but when her face came into view, shit was real. You feel every wave of emotion and pride and fear and protective instincts. And after all that, and the hugs and the kisses and the verification that everything was good and your head gets a little closer to normal, well then my wife and I had a moment. “I thought she’d be darker”, my wife said. I replied, “yea, so did I”.

Princess Layla’s father is black. The tone of her skin was then, and is now, completely insignificant but it presented a whole different dimension in the delivery room because you aren’t just wondering about hair and eye color. And her arrival has lent new perspective to how we view Black America. The Black people that know me best, know I’m not the least bit interested in showing my “Mr Black Guy” resume. Almost 20 years ago now. me and Court and Tank would sit three across the nose of the truck and laugh about our differences, argue about our differences, and celebrate our differences, so whatever differences I would share with my own granddaughter were going to be few. And the true upside was that because of those dudes, I already knew all the words to Gangsta Girl and Batter Up. 

I was expecting to be completely at ease with whatever Priceness Layla brought to the table…and she brings plenty. What I was not prepared for was my massively heightened interest in how day to day life is for Black America. It wasn’t a conversation anymore, it was reality. Embracing the sweetest girl in the world is easy, but thinking about what this world holds for her is sometimes not so easy. The old saying of “you can’t know what you don’t know until you know it” is pretty accurate. I try to live my life somewhere near the reality equator, and at our current pace, the racial cavern that exists is not closing any time soon. I don’t think anyone in power wants it to. But that is a whole different discussion for another day. What matters…all that matters…is the well being of Princess Layla.

So you move forward. I won’t be joining any marches any time soon…I don’t belong there. And I won’t bury my head in the sand and pretend like this shit is all equal…I don’t belong there either. And I most certainly will not virtue signal my undying support, from my ivory tower, pledging to save a world I’d never visit. That pisses me off the most. Because I have visited countless times, and my loved ones live there, therefore part of me lives there. This is all about choice. Some good choices, some horrible choices. Sometimes, it’s the realization of the fact that several options are the same choice but with different window dressing.

Most important in all of this, is that my granddaughter knows who she is and she has her mother to thank for that. My daughter has shot straight with my granddaughter since before she was able to comprehend anything. The conversations I can have with a 6-year-old are mind-boggling. As long as we can talk straight, there is nothing to fear. And a word to the wise. You don’t know the other person as well as you think you do. When you think you know their “angle”, you don’t. You know your version of their angle. Is there inequality…absolutely. Is the system completely fucked-up…you’d have to try to make it any worse. I don’t know what we can do to close this gap from this inhumane part of history, except to actually start the conversation where most conversations end. And I do know that 350 years from now, people on both sides of the racial divide are going to viewed as Barbarians because they ate a burger or visited a zoo. No offense to Barbarians. Going out and loving your neighbor can only happen when you make an effort to try and understand your neighbor. and listen to your neighbor, and feel confident you will be extended the same courtesy. As Princess Layla proves daily, somewhere in the middle is the best place to be.