We have a biracial president. The population has more mixed raced couples than ever before, and there has been a biracial baby boom over the last decade. Still, in the news we see black men getting gunned down, suppression in the deep south and discrimination all around us. Just a trip to the park can become something ugly when you have a blended family.
I distinctly recall my very first issue with outward racial ignorance. A little girl came up to me at the park and said Charliegh is not my daughter because white people can’t have brown daughters. Charliegh looked sad, and I was just horrified. We left before I gave in to the overwhelming urge to have a very awkward conversation with her parents about what they were or were not teaching their child at home. Later I thought it funny, because in these times prejudice people are actually the minority.
Still, just when we think we have made progress something occurs and comes to light that shows us how very far we have to go. Let’s face it, there are times when something hits the news that causes racial tensions to run high even in our own homes. We are all human, and we have all dealt with the hurt, anger or shame that things occurring in the world can bring forth. Children ask questions, and we have to find answers to questions we don’t even really know the answers to; even in the midst of our own storms. There is just no way to truly be prepared for the things you will face raising a biracial child.
Sometimes you have to wing it.
For instance, my daughter recently learned about Martin Luther King Jr. in school. She had so many questions. The most difficult one was, “why do white people hate black people?” I wanted to point out to her that there was a lot of good white people who stood up, marched for and even gave their lives to see the same change that Martin Luther King Jr. believed in and died for. All the while it infuriated me that I even had to clean up the remnants of such hate and ignorance. I don’t even understand why these unspeakable things took and takes place in our society. Here I am having to pull a rabbit out of a hat and make an answer to the unanswerable questions. At times like this you have to think quick.
I utilized all of the tools I could find that were age appropriate. I bought her a children’s book about Rosa Parks, and I planned a trip to the Birmingham Museum of Civil Rights. I pointed out that people of all colors wanted change then and now. I used the museums exhibits to reinforce what I was telling her. I was also fortunate enough to find her a book about her family’s history, “Isle of Canes; by Elizabeth Shown Mills”. I wanted her to understand not only the struggle and hardships her family endured but also the strength in her own bloodline to overcome. I wanted to show her that she should be proud and not ever ashamed of who she is or from where she comes.
She is going through a stage now that she wants to be “white”. This is a child who has always identified as a brown or tan girl. She would have tried to fight you for calling her a white girl. She asks me why she is tan, and I tell her because that is the way God made you. I tell her how beautiful she is and all the reasons why so many people wish they looked like her. Sometimes there are no answers. Sometimes you have to go with the moment and tell your child what they need to hear. This is because there are no valid reasons for our wonderful children to ever feel this way about who they are.
Biracial children’s struggles to find their identities are so very tough. Sometimes as a parent we can feel hopeless, and that is a heartbreaking feeling. I want to protect Charliegh from these hurts, but all I can do is be by her side through her journey and do my best to build her up while finding a way to keep her from hating an entire race of people for a select few’s horrendous ways, or worse, hating herself.
There are times that her father gets angry, rightfully so. There are times I am so heartbroken and almost ashamed for my own skin color, rightfully so. There are times I get defensive with family members for singling me out because I am white or making a comment in front of Charliegh that may be deemed raciest on either side. I mean, when something like that is said it is also insulting half of who she is. We have to be as selective about who we keep in our child’s circle as we are who we exclude from it. We will deal with racial tensions in our circles, but we can choose our battles wisely.
There are times that the occurrences in the news are so horrible that the tensions bubble over into our own lives, but we have to put things back into perspective. We are not responsible for other people’s actions. We are responsible for our own, and also for standing up when we see these infractions taking place. It is how we reunite and come through it. We have to answer the hard questions, together. After all, we are squeezing two cultures with conflicting histories into this beautiful little child. It is a big job, and it should be handled wisely from both sides.
We have to reinforce our children’s wonderful attributes and do it often. We have to remain united whether our families are residing under the same roof or we are in co-parenting situations from afar. Family relationships will add to their identity search whether negatively or positively. It is not easy, but we signed up for it. It is their time now, and I don’t know about you, but I want to raise a child who don’t have to overcome her childhood. We have to put personal differences aside (if they exist) and create a united front allowing both parents and both cultures to be equally involved, respected and uplifted in the lives of these children providing they are willing and able to do so. ~Spring