In an interview with Winfrey that aired Saturday, Union and Wade discussed the challenges that come with raising black children in a society plagued with intersections of racism, colorism, sexism and everyday racial microaggressions.
Union has opened up about her personal experiences dealing with racism and colorism in her book, We’re Going To Need More Wine. When asked by Winfrey how she’ll help Kaavia James fight colorism, Union said that they plan to constantly tell her she’s beautiful.
“So my parents raised us to give us compliments about our intelligence — which yes, amazing — they always told us: ‘You can do anything, you’re amazing,’” she said. “Every compliment you can imagine, except ‘you’re beautiful, we love you as you are, your skin is beautiful.’ They thought, ‘Beauty is fleeting, so why would we ever focus on that?’”
“We will tell her all the things that my parents told us, but we will also tell her, ‘You are beautiful ... your skin is rich and it holds so much history and beauty and love,’ and we will drive that into her every single day,” she continued.
The “Being Mary Jane” actress also talked about being a stepmom and the importance of being “consistent.”
“Understand that your role is to be an additional helpful, reasonable, responsible, caring, loving adult,” she said.
Wade has three sons, Zion Malachi Airamis, Zaire Blessing Dwyane and Xavier Zechariah. The couple also parents Wade’s nephew Dahveon Morris.
“We talk to them like young adults, and we tell them how it is,” Wade said “Just because we have celebrity, or we have the means, it doesn’t take you out of anything.”
Union, who shared moments from those difficult family conversations about race in her book, told Winfrey that she plans to have similar talks with Kaavia. The actress referenced Sandra Bland’s death as an example for why it’s important to continue conversations about the black women who die in police custody.
“I wish we had the luxury of raising her differently because she’s a woman, but no, no,” she said.
On the topic of colorism, Union addressed ways colorism permeates the entertainment industry and whose “voices are amplified.”
“For a lot of us, the people who seemed to get skipped over for that attention, who get passed over to be chosen, are the darker skin, browner women,” she said, adding that black women with tightly coiled hair are often underrepresented in mainstream media.
Union also shared with Winfrey what seeing images earlier in her career of Kim Porter, who died last month, meant for her as a black woman.
“What Kim represented, was this beautiful bright light who was brown and unapologetically,” she said. “She was so dope, and she was so loved, and universally upheld as this standard of beauty that we didn’t have.”