6 Reasons to Raise Your BIPOC Kids in Black Majority Countries
Why this mother of one felt the pros outweighed the cons
Here’s a brand new article I hope you’ll find interesting. I won’t be publishing a reading list this week, as there are plenty of links to follow in this piece.
Thanks for reading,
Sharon Hurley Hall
6 Reasons to Raise Your BIPOC Kids in Black Majority Countries
I have a British-born biracial daughter. And when my English husband and I had to decide where to raise her, we decided to go to Barbados, in the Caribbean. I'm lucky enough to hold dual citizenship, which made the decision easier.
Having talked to Black friends who went to school in England, there was a common theme: it wasn't easy. In fact, sometimes they had awful experiences of racism. I heard the same story from my Black American friends.
We had to weigh up the value of great educational and career opportunities in the UK (which I benefited from as an adult) against endemic institutional racism (in education, in policing, and elsewhere).
And we also had to balance the post-enslavement legacy in Barbados against the value of being in the majority.
In the end, it wasn't a hard decision. Like many of my British-born friends, we felt there was more to gain than to lose if my daughter grew up in the Caribbean. Here are 6 of the main advantages I see.
1. People Who Look Like Us
Black people are people of the global majority, but in many places in the UK and the US, you can go weeks and months without seeing another Black face. In some schools and workplaces, yours is the lone Black countenance, and you immediately stand out as different and strange.
When I lived in the UK, one thing I loved about returning to the Caribbean was the anonymity. It's how white people move through the world in places where they're in the majority. When you're in a country where Black people are in the majority, the color of your skin lets you blend in rather than stand out. It's a welcome relief for those used to moving in spaces where we're minoritized.
2. There are Good Role Models
Not only are there people who look like you, but they do all sorts of jobs. There are more educators, doctors, lawyers, accountants, politicians and prominent citizens than you can count. There are even Black business owners, though there's still some work to do there.
Under the surface, the descendants of plantation owners still carry a lot of financial weight. However, the "optics" are telling. When you grow up in Barbados, you don't think that prominent roles are barred to you, or that you'll have to face huge obstacles to achieve them.
3. A Non-Discriminatory Education System
That consciousness starts in school. In the UK, BIPOC children are more likely to be excluded from education than white kids. In the US, you have the school to prison pipeline. In many parts of the Caribbean, you have the realization that education is your ticket to a better life.
Sure, you still have to deal with colorism and classism and "hairism" (you can't take all the isms out of humans, unfortunately). But you won't get shut out of education because of the color of your skin. Unlike the US or UK, Black excellence isn't newsworthy. In many schools it's expected.
4. A More Balanced View of History
Delving into education a bit more, I've noticed that many white Americans and some Black Americans don't have all the details on the period of enslavement. It's not a surprise, because the people in charge of the education system don't seem interested in telling the truth that America was built on enslaved labor and genocide. In the Caribbean, some of the descendants of the colonizers don't like that truth either, and want Black people to get over it, which isn't going to happen any time soon.
But the big thing the Caribbean has going for it is that Caribbean historians are exploring our history and writing the history books. This has changed. In my mother's time, all the history books about the Caribbean were written by white Brits. In my time, there was a mix. We learned more about Caribbean history and some regional historians were beginning to publish their own books. My daughter has learned more about Caribbean history than she ever wanted to, including the parts where it intersected with British, European and American history. And she's learned it from Caribbean historians. That wouldn't have happened if we'd stayed in the UK.
5. You Can Delay "The Talk"
Every Black and BIPOC parent knows about "the talk". The specifics may vary depending on where you live, but it's all about making sure you come out of any interaction with the police free (in the UK) and alive (in the US).
I'd be the last to say our policing is perfect, but in the Caribbean the color of your skin doesn't predispose you to getting shot. And the fact that many police don't even carry guns helps, too.
That means when you raise your kids in the Caribbean, you don't have to deliver the talk the minute they leave the womb. Instead, you can take a more measured approach. I remember talking to my daughter about avoiding looking like she was shoplifting when she was around 10. But it wasn't till she was heading to the US for school that I gave her the full spiel on how to stay alive, ably captured in this article by Sanya Whittaker Gragg: To My Beautiful Black Sons: Come Home ALIVE.
6. A Better Sense of Self-Worth
Often when you exist in spaces where you're minoritized, there's a feeling that you're somehow wrong. That can chip away at your self-esteem day in, day out. The microaggressions and outright racism are tiring.
You have less of that to deal with in the Caribbean. Sometimes you don't know how much it matters to live among Black and brown people till you no longer have it. But what it means - and I'm only just putting this into words - is that your sense of self doesn't depend on the white gaze. And that is hugely important to how you carry yourself in the world.
Nowhere's perfect, of course. My experience as a dark-skinned Black woman isn't the same as that of my biracial daughter. For some, she's not Black enough; for others, too "white". But in spite of how others see her, she's secure in her own identity. And that means that even while doing what she needs to stay safe in the US, she doesn't accept that sense of wrongness. For me, that's priceless, and it means we made the right decision.
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© Sharon Hurley Hall, September 2020. Cover photo courtesy of Canva.
I am an anti-racism writer, a professional B2B writer and blogger, and co-host of The Introvert Sisters podcast. Learn more about why I started this newsletter and how you can support it.