Shonda Rimes and My Mother

The Angry Women of Color in My Life

Rivka Wolf
Fourth Wave


My mother is the darkest-skinned member of my extended family.

She refuses to leave the house without curling her hair into waves more palatable for the white-washed suburbs in which I was raised. She piles on layers of makeup as though it will defend her from my father’s casual emotional abuse and psychological manipulation.

My mother holds a Ph.D in Psychology, but it has not protected her from a society whose racism she never understood. She has never been able to name the forces ranked against her, because in our Jewish society, racism is difficult to properly name and deal with. Many of our Eastern European and Western European forebears must have intermarried with people from Africa, because we have so many members who look like my mother, obviously multiracial. Yet we as a community choose to label people like her “white,” which means the racism she encounters every day of her life goes unacknowledged.

My mother has dark skin. My mother leaves the house, and people stare. My mother and I walk down the street together, and people do not view us as mother and daughter. We do not have features visibly in common.

I carry internalized racism inside my bones even though my skin is white. For many years, I tried to join antiracist…