Back in 1992, I did something that not many black females were doing. I married a white man. He was a boy that I met years prior while we were in high school. Being one of the few inter-racial couples living in a Maryland suburb had it challenges, but we made our way through the obstacles. When we chose to get married, my fiance’s Great-Aunt voiced her objections. Actually she voiced them the first time she met me 5 years prior. But this time her concern was “what if they have babies?”. Well we kind of laughed and brushed her off, but I thought about her this weekend as I was driving home after a visit with my oldest child in college. I’m not sure of what she had in mind but here are my experiences with raising two bi-racial children:
- People will think that you are the nanny. It never dawned on me that this misunderstanding could occur until I had my first born. We were at a wedding where the bride and groom were gracious enough to accommodate children. They had a special playroom set aside for kids and hired babysitters to watch and do activities with them. Unfortunately, my son was only 8 months old and we were dealing with a little stranger anxiety. Dinner had been served, the band was playing and the reception was in full swing, so I went and retrieved my son from the playroom. He was tired and cranky so I started swaying him back and forth to the beat of the music to try to lull him to sleep. I spotted a fellow wedding guest watching me as I sang and bounced and swayed with my little boy. My efforts were a bit futile because my son was too busy trying to see what was going on around us. So finally this woman came over to me and said “Ma’am, maybe he’s looking for his mother? Maybe you should give him to her so she can try to put him to sleep?” Needless to say I was furious. But I collected myself and camly said “I AM his mother”, with that the woman sheepishly walked away. Unfortunately it was the last time it happened. As far as people knew, I was the babysitter?!
- Your child will feel the need to identify with a certain race…and it may not be yours. Even though my son was often called “the brown kid” he often identified himself as white. At first I was shocked, then a little hurt. But then my daughter told me that she was black? I guess it made sense to them. My son assumed that since his dad is white, he must be white. And my daughter felt that she was black like me.
- People feel the need to classify them as black or no race at all. I’m still trying to figure out the logic on this one. In most cases people will say that my children are black. But there are MANY and I mean many people who will say that my children are neither black or white. When I ask them what they are then and they will say both. But no one has ever said that my children are white? Some have even said that they are neither black or white, but can’t find the words to say what they are. So my children are black, both or neither. But never white. Have you ever noticed that President Obama has always been identified as black? What about Tiger Woods? Yes, he is also identified as black.
- Your children will eventually give up on trying to classify themselves as a certain race and become individuals. When they become old enough to discover there likes and dislikes, the color of their skin takes a backseat. When this happens, just sit back and enjoy watching them become whatever they want. My bi-racial son became and All-County lacrosse player in high school who has downloaded every musician from Motley Crue, to The Beastie Boys to Jay-Z on his phone. My daughter felt no need to listen to Hannah Montana and Justin Beiber. Instead she liked goth music and the other day she texted her step father and asked if he would take her to the Alice Cooper concert. But she also knows all the latest dance moves. My kids can live beyond stereotypes because there are none for bi-racial people.
- You know that they will never truly fit in anywhere and you and your child have to learn to live with that. At the end of the day, my children are two races and neither race at the same time. They are not black enough nor are they white enough. They are ridiculed in the black community and told that they really don’t know what it is like to be black. People in the white community will not fully embrace them as white because their mother is black. At times, I have even felt guilty from bringing them into a world where they are not fully excepted. But I remind myself that these two are a product of a loving (former) marriage and their arrival into this world was greeting with joy and excitement. It does console me to see that my children are well loved and well liked by so many friends and family. I learned that I couldn’t control how others saw them, but I could at least take control and raise them to be good people, who were respectful, hardworking and smart individuals.
For those of you who are embark on the adventure of raising a biracial child or have just started your journey, I say enjoy every minute of it. Yes you may have a few extra issues that you have to deal with but it makes the more memorable. People will stare, people will say stupid things. It’s either their own ignorance or curiosity that they can’t contain. Just focus on raising respectful, intelligent, self-confident individuals. Isn’t that how everyone should be raising their children anyway?