The other day, I had a mother come into my office to register her daughter for school. I began to talk to her about the school and what we offer, and to say the least the mother was excited for her daughter being at my school. I asked the mother if she wanted to put the father down on her emergency contact list, and the mother from some odd reason, stated her daughter being mixed with Black, White and Indian. Thrown back by the statement, I asked what does she identify with, and the daughter stated, “I don’t know, I’m just me.” The mother seemed thrown off by the question as well, as she did not really know how to answer the question.
When I began to talk about my research on biracial students to parents who have biracial kids, it seems the parents need just as much education on identity development as the students. I mentioned the book “Passing” by Nella Larsen, to the student, and as I began talking to the student about the book, it seemed, by the look on her face, that I was describing some internal emotions she may have had before.
The mother began to ask more questions about my research and it almost seemed as if she wanted me to say it was ok with how she was raising her child. The mother began to say how the child is comfortable with both Black and White sides of her family; with her husband being African American she gets a healthy dose of her Black side the mother said. I asked the mother if she would be ok with me identifying her as biracial, the mother did not seem to mind. I was waiting for the parent to ask me what I meant by identify her as biracial, but she never did.
As I currently have three biracial students in my school, I can’t help observe how they interact with fellow students, and what I notice is that they seem to spend more time with those whose skin tone reflect theirs. I can tell they feel more comfortable with their peers that reflect their skin tone, but academically they are some of my strongest students. I don’t believe they are “acting White” because they do well academically, but I have overheard them down playing their classroom success around their African American peers.
I sometime question, if my students learned about famous biracial people such as W.E.B Dubois, Booker T. Washington or Nella Larson who are all highly educated, famous biracial people, who the world identifies as being Black, would they think that their academic success makes them more White than Black? I believe biracial students need to know their history in order to feel more comfortable with the major impact they have had on history, especially American history.
Whenever I have the opportunity to let families know about my research, especially those who are Interracial, I find that parents don’t really understand the uniqueness about their child’s identity, it seems they focus on a unique name for the child, or the unique spelling of the name. Don’t get me wrong, I am not here to poke fun of the names of biracial children, but sometimes we as parents worry about what our kids are called, rather than focus on how they develop. Parents of biracial children should pay attention to how schools interact with their child, especially teachers. In a later post I will discuss school environments for biracial students, and what parents should ask for and what schools should try to provide.
In conclusion, Black and White Biracial people are one of fastest and biggest growing populations in America. Now, if we can get the companies that create our school textbooks to recognize this, then this could mean that our biracial students will start to receive more of the truth about their impact on US. History. I imagine one day that once biracial students start to read more about their history, then maybe today’s youth will want to add to that history.
I want to thank BiracialBoom.com for the opportunity to express and the share my experience as a parent and educator of biracial students.
~ Eric D Jackson II