The Game Done Changed

So one of my oldest and dearest friends (we met in 1949 as wee assistants at Elle – me, beauty; her, fashion) has a bright, hilarious, precocious like you wouldn’t believe  7-year old daughter.   Let’s call her…hmm…Topaz.  I could rhapsodize about Topaz’s slightly wild, pre-Raphaelite waves and early-Blair Waldorf style choices, but I hate to focus on looks when describing a little girl (as my mom always says when folks tell Bobina she’s gorgeous: “…yes, and she has a gorgeous MIND as well, don’t you, beautiful?”).  Topaz is also white.  Half Italian-American, half Sephardic Jew.  Not waspy-white, but no one would mistake her for ethnic.  And yet…

She is obsessed with blackness and always has been.  Since before she even understood what she was talking about (she barely does now!).  She thinks there’s nothing, nothing, more aspirational and glamorous than blackness.

[Key background info:  We live in Park Slope, Brooklyn, a ripe-for-SNL-sketch little utopia of privileged, mixed-race families in every combination.  Exhibit A: at Lina’s birthday party last year, Topaz was the only one that wasn’t light brown with curls as a result of Black/Ecuadorian or Indian/Japanese or Jamaican/Irish parentage.  Everyone’s an artist or a writer or something cool.  In my hood, if you’re a non-organic Republican, I fear for your safety.  Long story short, we live in an ultra liberal, post-racial, super-gay environment that doesn’t at all represent the rest of the country.]

Cecile, Topaz’s beloved American Girl doll

Topaz is exclusively interested in black dolls.  When the New Orleans Creole American Girl doll came out last fall, Topaz’s mom already knew she was expected to be first in line at the Fifth Avenue storefront, day of.  Her best friend at school is white/Middle Eastern, but Topaz insists she’s black.  She was recently asked to draw a self-portrait at school, and sketched a girl resembling Rudy Huxtable.  One time, Topaz’s mom was brushing one of her black dolls’ hair, and Topaz freaked.  “You’re doing it wrong!  Ask Tia Tia, you can’t brush black hair the same as white hair!  Black hair is special.”

Wait…whaaat?  I mean, when we were growing up, anyone of color in America was secretly (or not so secretly) coveting whiteness.  It’s just our country’s history.  I mean, we all remember Whoopi’s ’80s stand-up sketch of the little black girl rocking the sheet on her head, aching to be white with long, blonde hair.  We’ve all read The Bluest Eye.  Pretty is white.  Smart is white.  Power is white.  Black is ghetto, ugly, animalistic, base and unsexy.  The fact that this privileged little girl — who, bee tee dub, goes to an ultra-white prep school — feels the opposite is kinda dope.  It baffled me, until I really thought about it.

Eleganza in like fifteen languages.

Topaz’s president is black.  Topaz’s first lady is a fucking fashion monster.  Oprah owns us all.  Topaz’s mom’s two best friends are glamorous black women (*hair toss*).  I repeat, TOPAZ’S PRESIDENT IS BLACK.   The most important family in this country is black, mothafuckas.  Growing up knowing that, seeing first-hand what we’re capable of – of course she thinks we’re the shit.  This is all she knows.  I’m loving experiencing the beginnings of this cultural turnaround.  Again, I realize that we live in a rarefied place – but it’s a start.  This little white girl thinks black is all things classy and powerful!  Here’s hoping we start believing this, too.

And here’s hoping Topaz never stumbles upon Worldstar Hip Hop or Basketball Wives.

16 Comments

  1. Jlynn719
    October 10, 2012 1:44 pm  Reply

    LOVE this! My 9 year old nephew is bi-racial (white/black) and insists he is white even though he is surrounded by black people. Environment really does make a difference.

  2. Heather
    October 10, 2012 1:45 pm  Reply

    So freaking ab-so-luelty awesome!!! And now e bow our heads that she doesn’t see Mama Jones (ala Chrissy & Jim Jones) talking about pumkashe…

    • Kenya
      October 16, 2012 12:10 pm  Reply

      This article is EVERYTHING!
      But I did spit my coffee all over the counter when I read “pumkash!” Not the scent of a woman?? Funny

  3. gg
    October 10, 2012 2:02 pm  Reply

    this almost had me in tears. great post.

  4. October 10, 2012 2:16 pm  Reply

    This post is everything. Isn’t it great when everyone catches on to what we already know? Btw I know NY is different from the rest of America but we all know all things start with the gays, then the girls… Then middle America catches on. Lol

  5. October 10, 2012 2:25 pm  Reply

    HILARIOUS and empowering at the same time – NICELY DONE!!!

  6. Nicole
    October 10, 2012 2:32 pm  Reply

    LOVE THIS!! This is my kind of post =) And Bravo to Topaz’s mom for allowing her to feel what she feels and not trying to persuade her otherwise.

  7. Lauren
    October 10, 2012 3:35 pm  Reply

    Out of the mouths – and unbiased, unprejudiced, unaffected minds – of babes. I love that our children (those I know) see no race, no sexual orientation, no religion, no color. They see love and want to surround themselves with happiness. Kudos to all the parents for reinforcing this very important ideal.

  8. Milan
    October 10, 2012 4:33 pm  Reply

    Love this post! And your blog in general. And big hugs to Topaz. How far we’ve come in a few short decades. But I agree, ix-nay on basketball wives, BET et al. Lets keep this train going forward!

  9. October 11, 2012 1:11 am  Reply

    That REALLY is great!!

    I do hope that as she grows up (and there are years to go, I hope before we get here), she learns – or already knows – that who she is just as awesome too.

  10. October 11, 2012 9:15 am  Reply

    And a child shall lead the way. Love, love this post! Made my morning :)

  11. Angelica Golden
    October 11, 2012 5:27 pm  Reply

    Love this post! Might be my favorite one yet. We could all learn from little Topaz. And kudos to her mom for not trying to convince her to get “the dolls that look like you once in awhile”, as us brown mommies have to so often do.

  12. October 11, 2012 9:48 pm  Reply

    Awesome post! Love it! So happy there are little girls like Topaz who have a fabulous Mom (with fabulous besties) :-) Who gave her the insight that beautiful and successful doesn’t always have blond hair and white skin.

  13. October 13, 2012 3:41 am  Reply

    Big ups to Topaz & her mother for being so open to letting her kid just be without feeling the need to “fix it”. Topaz is the friend I wished I had circa 86 when I was the only brown face in a sea white besties who thought it perfectly fine to ask a million questions about my hair, lips, slang and upbringing like I was some sort of class project. And the parents who said with a straight face – “we love V, she’s wonderful, but no, you can’t date a black guy”. Ignorance at its best. Oh and for the love of all that is holy, we should all stay away from WSHH and BBW.

  14. B
    November 3, 2012 7:58 pm  Reply

    So interesting and I really love it. I hope this is a feeling she keeps throughout life. And yeah, let’s hope she never sees any of the ratchetness that is WSHH or BBW.

  15. RK
    November 10, 2012 11:45 pm  Reply

    Children should be raised as open-minded about differences we see in our society as possible. It’s sad to see kids who feel that their race/nationality/gender/etc is somehow inferior to others’.

    That being said, it’s important to note that our president is half-black if we are bringing race into the question. Knowing some of the people who voted, I don’t think Obama would be in the office if he was a shade darker. We still have a long way to go as a country before people stop looking at the color of the skin and start judging people by their actions.

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