Parenting is never easy, but it’s not a level playing field, either.
For parents raising Black children in a time of rising racial tensions, systemic discrimination and repeated cases of deadly violence being used against unarmed Black men and women, it comes with all the usual challenges plus a whole lot more.
That’s why Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade are doing their best to raise their own children with the knowledge they need in this moment.
"We're raising Black kids and every day in the world, they show us what we're thought of," former NBA star Wade said during a sit down with People. "You realize you can't protect them from everything. The only thing you can do is make sure they go out into the world with all the tools they need."
Wade, 39, and Union, 48, wed in 2014 and now raise several children, including their 2-year-old daughter, Kaavia, as well as Wade’s children from previous relationships, daughter Zaya, 13, and sons Zaire, 19, and Xavier, 7. Wade’s nephew, Dahveon, 19, has also joined the family.
"It was a little infuriating to me that it took George Floyd's murder to inspire the bare minimum,” Union told the magazine. “Change and progress is like a frozen snail's pace. But we still have to persevere. The work is never going to end."
And their work, for now, is all about making sure their children are ready for whatever comes their way amid that reality — and not by adapting to anyone else’s expectations of them. Wade and Union want their kids to meet this moment as their true selves.
"My focus, when it comes to any of my kids, is to let them know who they are so that when other people's opinions about them are formed, it's not hitting them," Wade said. "If we allow our kids to be their true selves, we don't have to worry about them conforming with anything or anyone. Why wouldn't we push our kids to be their authentic selves?"
It’s unlike anything Union was exposed to as a child.
"I was raised to conform,” she said. “But we are raising our kids to know they are worthy because they exist. We don't want them to ever shape shift for anyone else's approval or acceptance. We want them to be free to be who they are."
The couple have backed up that position publicly as they’ve supported and encouraged daughter Zaya’s journey since coming out as transgender last year.
And now the pair are making a public gesture of support for their youngest child, too. Kaavia has served to inspire her parents to write a children's book called “Shady Baby.”
"People see themselves in Kaav," Wade said of the small toddler with a big personality. “Some days you don't feel like doing your hair. And some days you want to give people shade."
Union went on to say that shade is Kaavia’s “superpower,” and it’s an important part of who she is.
“When Kaavia gives you a look, it's either you're not respecting her boundaries or something is happening that she doesn't like,” mom explained. “The main takeaway is that she's free to be this amazing, dynamic, shady at times, loving at times Black little girl when the world has not been so kind to Black girls and women."
And they wouldn’t want her to be any other way.