Giving the right support and guidance to a biracial child is a imperative. There will be many things they face that you could never have predicted. They will be facing troubles that you have never experienced and therefore don’t quite understand. You find yourself looking back at your own choices and the way you have treated people in the past. You will find yourself analysing the language you’ve used and the expectations you’ve had of other people. As much as you simply have to take each day as it comes, there are some things that you should never do.
- Never use inappropriate Language. I once came across a mother that referred to her beautiful mixed daughter as half-caste and it broke my heart, because that word blighted my childhood. The word is horrible and racist, the implication is that the person it is directed to is not whole, they are only half of something and half of something else but never whole. One of my teachers referred to me as half-caste once and I argued with her so much I ended up getting in trouble. My mum was furious and disgusted that my school didn’t understand the racial slur they had made. Never use language like this in front of your child, about any race or religion.
- Don’t question how your child identifies themselves. Your child may be a straight mix of half and half, or maybe things are a little more complicated. Maybe you or your partner are mixed and so the gene division is a little more difficult to calculate. This does not matter!! If your child identifies as biracial or mixed raced, then you need to support this wholeheartedly. If they decide that they want to embrace their 1/16 of Spanish heritage, then it is not your place to tell them otherwise.
- Don’t try to shield them from life. As much as you want your child to live a life free of pain and adversity they will face many struggles growing up and the best thing you can do is to prepare them for this. It may be difficult to explain the nuances of race relations and prejudice to children but this is when you need to use a few other weapons in your arsenal. I can pinpoint the exact moment that I began to understand my place in the world and it was when I read the ‘Noughts and Crosses’ series of books by ‘Malorie Blackman’. Set in a dystopian world where Black people (crosses) are the ones with all the power. Sephy a cross falls in love with her childhood best friend Callum a nought. Their relationship is accepted by no-one and their mixed raced child becomes an outcast. In further books the daughter of this union is forced to choose between her mother’s and her father’s family, to choose between black and white. Although there are many other plot points that make the story a great fiction read, the general premise is sound and the best way I have ever seen biracial struggles explained. Not only was this important for me, but my white friends also read the series and suddenly they saw me in a whole different light and understood the things I was going through. Knowledge is always important!
- Don’t force stereotypes on your child. The term ‘normal’ is actually a scientific term. It is a way to describe the highest point on a bell curve, the point where the majority of the general population fit in. This term has now turned into a societal construct, a way to shoe horn people in stereotypes and boxes that don’t quite fit. The biracial community has their own normal, their own stereotypes. It is the caramel skin, the perfect curls, full lips and Kim Kardashian like figure. This is the representation of biracial that we see in the media and it is wrong! I’ve heard so many people say they want a mixed raced baby because ‘they are just so cute’ and this makes my blood boil. You can never guarantee what your child is going to look like. They may be dark skinned, they may be light skinned, and their skin tone may change as they grow. They could be dark skinned with straight dark hair and light skinned with curly blonde hair. The variations are numerous and if a scientist tried to calculate it they would likely die of an aneurism. Never force stereotypes on your child, let them know that different is good, different is normal and they beautiful the way they are.
- Never neglect their hair! Many white mothers of biracial children will probably say that one of the hardest things to deal with is the hair, and there are even more that neglect their child’s hair needs altogether. My mum still gets upset when she sees a mixed raced child with dry and knotty hair, if she had sent me to school like that she would have been reported to ChildLine by the legion of African mums at my central London primary school. Learn how to handle your child’s individual hair needs. Take a course, talk to friends and family and do it properly. They may hate sitting for hours on end while you lovingly grease and braid their hair but I promise you they will thank you for it in the future! ~Lauren