West Jordan family spotlight: The Britt FamilySep 21, 2020 04:43PM ● By Deserae Dorton
Trying to get the baby to smile in their West Jordan home, the Britts are (oldest to youngest): Daniel, Jasmine, Mya, Jordan and Danierys. (Deserae Dorton/City Journals)
By Deserae Dorton | [email protected]
Shortly after graduating from high school in Cedar City, Jasmine met Daniel who was just entering his second year at Southern Utah University. Daniel had noticed Jasmine around town a few times and finally met her at a barbecue at a nearby park hosted by her family.
“I did everything from that point to have her notice me,” Daniel said. “I even threw pillows at her when I got invited over to the house for dinner another day.” They started texting each other before dinner even started. “I officially ask her out on a date some days later,” continued Daniel. They have been together ever since.
Soon after getting married, they had their first child Mya, who will be 13 in October and a few years later, Jordan, 10. The two attend Ascent Academy. Mya’s favorite part of school is math and playing sports, basketball and track. Jordan likes to follow his curiosity and enjoys science, and is ready to make a friend out of anyone. Their most recent addition, Danierys, is almost a year old.
Though the West Jordan family is firmly rooted in Utah now, both Daniel and Jasmine are from out of state. While they love living in Utah, they find they have to be on their guard. Jasmine, who is Mexican-American hadn’t experienced racism before moving to Utah from her home in Los Angeles. But soon after starting school in Cedar City, to her surprise, one of her teachers called her a racial slur.
“That was not something I thought I would ever have to experience,” Jasmine said. Now raising children who are Black and Latin-American, she and Daniel are sensitive to what having children of color can mean in America. Pointing to Jordan, Jasmine explained that despite his positive disposition, some people only see that he’s Black. “People automatically assume that he’s probably going to be trouble,” Jasmine said. “Every year since he’s been in school he’s been called to the office.”
Mya’s first experienced teasing about her hair and skin color in preschool. “I know back home [in L.A.] she would have fit right in,” Jasmine said. “[Jordan] would have been just another kid. But here, they stand out. They’re different.” Jasmine emphasized that most people they’ve encountered in Utah are nice, but when her kids are treated poorly because of their race, it sticks with you. It means she and Daniel have to have conversations with their kids that many Utahns may have never thought about.
Daniel was a part of magnet program in his Las Vegas high school. It was 20 miles away with mostly white kids. While he appreciated the access to a good education, he never felt like he could relax or make mistakes. “You had to mind your p’s and q’s,” said Daniel, “because, there’s always a target on your back when you’re a person of color.”
Daniel and Jasmine started having conversations with their children at a young age to prepare them for how the world might treat them. “We’re letting them know things that I don’t think you should tell children,” Daniel said, such as preparing for encounters with the police. “Don’t say anything, keep your hands up, don’t react, don’t raise your voice, say, yes, sir, or yes, ma’am.” Beyond that, Daniel instructs his kids how to interact with all authority figures they will encounter. “I don’t want my kids to not come home someday after an altercation. When they’re at school I don’t want them to not get an opportunity, because someone thinks they’re a dud because of their skin color.”
Jasmine added that activities that seem normal for children, like playing with a toy gun can cause her to panic. Instead of feeling safe to let him play as he wishes, she tells him, “Don’t play with the toy gun in the front yard, take it to the backyard. Better yet, just leave it in the house.”
Nodding, Daniel adds, “Those are things that shape your parenting style. I can give these guys the best opportunities in life and hopefully they don’t have to endure everything I had to endure growing up.”
Mya is described by her father as a realist. She agonizes over decisions like whether or not to straighten her hair. She wonders what the girls at school will say about her if she wears her hair naturally. Daniel sees Mya’s natural talents, and knows she would excel at many things if she were able to let go of the outside noise.
In response to this, Mya looked at her dad and asked, “Outside noise?”
“Yeah, I feel like you like to not be seen,” Daniel said. “You don’t want to stand out.”
Mya replied, “Why would I want to?”
“Because you’re better than everyone,” said Daniel with a chuckle. “If you’re great, then be great. At the end of the day, don’t worry about anyone else.”
Jasmine has observed that people seem to want to broach the subject of race, but do not know how. “They’re afraid they will say something offensive,” Jasmine said. “I want them to bring it up. I want someone to come to me and say, ‘Hey Jasmine, I want you to educate me on this. I want you tell me what this feels like.’ I’m going to try to come from a place of understanding. Being Black in America, being Mexican in America is not easy and it’s OK for us to talk about that.”
Jasmine often hears the phrase, “I don’t see color.” But she calls it unhelpful. “I want you to see my color,” Jasmine said. “I want you to see my heritage. I want you to see my culture. I want you to see the differences that we have. And I want you to experience those alongside me.”