Less than four, maybe five, hours after the emergency c-section, I was still trying to wrap my mag-addled mind around the fact that at 29 weeks, my daughter had entered this world with a heartrending shriek. A nurse in the step-down unit tried to reassure me. “Don’t worry,” she smiled, “your daughter, she’s a fighting girl, and she has your husband’s good black genes!”
I must have looked as confused as I felt. I glanced over at my husband—yes, he had heard it too, and he was trying desperately to keep a smile in check. Good black genes? Of course she had his good black genes. He was her father, after all.
The nurse went on to explain that little girls of color fared much better in the NICU, more so even than “those wimpy white boys.” She even illustrated her point by stair-stepping her hands: “Best is black girls, then white girls, then black boys, then those wimpy white boys, not so good.”
When she left the room, my husband and I burst into incredulous laughter, chalking it up to a cultural misunderstanding, and “good black genes” became something of an inside joke between us.
I mentioned it to one of the NICU nurses a week or so later. “No, it really is a thing. Black females breathe better, grow faster, and leave here much sooner than white males, even those who were born closer to their due-dates.” She had stories. Other nurses had stories. Most claimed there were statistics to prove it. One even mentioned she had heard it referred to it as Wimpy White Boy Syndrome at a conference. Continue reading