I grew up pretty sheltered. It wasn’t that I did not know about prejudice, I think I just didn’t focus on it. In my mind I created a world where race wasn’t so important. As a young Black girl, I found it intriguing to date men of all races. When I fell in love with and decided to marry a White man, I was stunned by the reaction that some of my family and friends had to the news. The most hurtful comment of all was a family member that said, “I think it’s fine if you want to marry outside your race, but you shouldn’t have children because those kids have a terrible time going through school.” Needless to say, in the years since, my eyes have become wide open to the world of prejudice and it’s affects on children and adults of all races.
Well needless to say, I’m glad I didn’t follow her advice. My husband and I have been married now for 30 years. We have two beautiful sons together. They are now 23 and 28 and doing well if I should say so myself. But, part of what she said was true, they did have a tough time in school. They had issues with fitting in, feeling accepted, and coming to terms with their identity. You could say and it would be true, that all children must go through these challenges while growing up. However, many of their issues were very specific to growing up Biracial in America where people want to categorize you as Black or White and are not quite ready to accept a blend of the two.
When my first son was born, my husband’s parents had still not accepted our marriage and were definitely opposed to our having a baby. I was able to shield my son from this until they came around to the point that they accepted our family. There were also a few other family members that were less than loving in the beginning but eventually fell in love with our blended family. Again, I was in control and had the ability to limit their exposure to these relatives until their attitude towards us changed. By the time my second son was born we had plenty of love all around us. In other words, for a time I was able to control my children’s environment. We hung around people that were cool with us and avoided those who weren’t. My children experienced much love, positivity, and affirmation during their preschool years. They felt solid about themselves and their place in the world.
Things changed when I sent them off to school. The very first day my son went to school, he came home and asked me with a puzzled look on his face, “Mommy, what color am I?” I’m ashamed to say that I was not ready for the question. “Well, you are Biracial, and being Biracial means you are a beautiful blend of being Black like Mommy and White like Daddy.” That wasn’t the answer he was looking for as apparently Sally from school had told him he had to be Black OR White and she couldn’t figure out which one he was. And so our journey began.
I had wished so many times that I could better help my children navigate the waters of being Biracial in a Black and White world but many times, just like the first time, I was ill prepared. There was precious little information out there about parenting a Biracial child and they definitely went through things that neither I nor my husband could fully relate to. After all, I was fully accepted by the Black race and he was fully accepted by the White race. They were often considered “too Black to be White and too White to be Black. They had to find their way.
My favorite thing to tell them when they were growing up was that they were “a bridge across the races,” and that they had the “best of both worlds.” While I absolutely believe these things to be true, these sayings were of no help to my child who was struggling with his identity and facing rude or thoughtless questions every day. My oldest son recently told me that there wasn’t a day that passed that someone didn’t ask him, “So what are you?” How rude is that?
Well, somehow they navigated growing up Biracial but not without some emotional scars and some bumps along the way. As grown-ups both of them say that their biggest struggle was being accepted for who they were. They are bright, handsome, young men that fully embrace their blended ancestry as adults. They have good self-esteem and feel good about their identity. So in the end it worked out pretty well.
With 20/20 hindsight, I know that I should have been more prepared to help them along the way. But where should I have turned? There was precious little information or books on the subject of parenting Biracial kids. Interracial families were few and far between. I think we might have been the only interracial couple in my son’s school. Everyone was either Black or White. This had to be hard for him but I didn’t realize that at the time. I was looking for a school that was racially balanced, not realizing that as a Biracial student, they could still feel isolated.
Even after successfully raising my sons, I don’t claim to have all the answers. I’m convinced that we as Interracial families and people of Biracial decent must help each other. So this is why I’m writing this blog. My hope is that we will start a dialogue between parents that will address the specific issues that face our families and our children. Much of what I have learned has come from my children being truthful with me about their experience. I’m trying to convince them to contribute as bloggers as well because they have much to say. Thankfully, there are many more books, movies, and products specifically for Interracial families and Biracial children and adults. I will be reviewing and recommending the best of these products. My hope is that we can create a community of like minded people that will help each other with along the journey of raising healthy and happy Biracial children.