Anxious New Parents of Black and Mixed-Race Babies Enter an Era of Unease

Bill Janu, a Baltimore police detective, greeted Shanna Janu, his wife, and their son, Wesley, as he arrived home from work one day this month.

He assembled the crib and mounted the bookshelves. She unpacked the bedding and filled the closet with onesies and rompers. Then husband and wife stood in the nursery and worried. Bill Janu, a police officer, is white. Shanna Janu, a lawyer, is black. As they eagerly awaited their baby’s birth this spring, they felt increasingly anxious.

They had chosen not to find out their baby’s gender ahead of time. But their nearly two years of marriage had been punctuated by the killings of African-American men and boys in Ferguson, Mo.; Brooklyn; Cleveland; North Charleston, S.C.; and Baltimore, all at the hands of the police. Mr. Janu, who longed for a son, tried to reassure his wife. Mrs. Janu emailed him one article after another, warning of the perils that face black boys.

As the due date approached, Mr. Janu found himself praying for a girl.

In the delivery room at St. Agnes Hospital, after more than 20 hours of labor, the infant finally arrived, red-faced and wailing. The newborn had Mr. Janu’s blue eyes and Mrs. Janu’s full lips and nose. The new father exulted. Then he felt the weight of his new reality.

“Now, I have a black son in Baltimore,” the white police detective remembered thinking as he cradled his baby boy.

Wesley William Janu, born on May 23, 2016, smiled for the first time during a summer bloodied by the worst confrontations between African-Americans and the police in decades: The back-to-back killings in July of black men in Baton Rouge, La., and Falcon Heights, Minn., followed by the killings of five officers in Dallas and three more in Baton Rouge. This month, protesters burned buildings and clashed with law enforcement officers in Milwaukee after an armed black man was shot to death there by the police.

The violence has been wrenching for families like the Janus, an interracial couple struggling to straddle the nation’s racial fault lines in a red brick rowhouse in a quiet corner of Baltimore. But the heated national discussions over policing and race feel particularly piercing for a black woman born in the South and her white husband who wears a badge.

They know their son is taking his place in the world at a time of promise and unease. Wesley will learn to sit up on his own during the final term of the nation’s first African-American president. He will celebrate his first birthday in 2017, the year that will mark the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that overturned state bans on interracial marriage.

By the time he is 28, more than half of the population in the United States will very likely be members of ethnic or racial minority groups or mixed race, according to the Census Bureau.

Yet this is also a time when black and white Americans find themselves deeply divided. In Wesley’s face, there are glimpses of the country’s racial future, yet that future often feels uncertain and unsettled.

Born in Louisiana, Mrs. Janu grew up in a predominantly white suburb in upstate New York, joined a white sorority in college and married a white detective. Yet these days, she fears that racism and bias might be “hard-wired” into society and wonders how that might affect her family.

She worries as her husband holsters his Glock 22, kisses her goodbye and heads out the door to pursue gun runners and violent criminals in this predominantly black city. Will he be a target now on the street?

She worries as she has adjusted to the rhythms of round-the-clock feedings and diaper changes. What dangers might Wesley face as a teenager at the hands of the police?

And then there is the racial divide that runs right through her living room, the issues that occasionally create a rift between husband and wife. Mrs. Janu, 31, is a strong supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, for instance, while Mr. Janu, 42, argues that some of its activists “do more harm than good” and spew “a lot of hate” toward the police.

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Source: The New York Times | RACHEL L. SWARNS