On Being–and Raising–a Biracial Kid
Last week, Offbeat Mama posted a fascinating essay titled, “I was born multi-racial and didn’t realize it until I was 6”. Author Monica, based in Caracas, came from a beautiful, mixed-up family: a black grandfather, a half Italian, half black mother, and a father who’s part Spanish and part Native American. She happens to have very fair skin, but says she never thought about it until she moved to the United States with her family.
It was then the kids at school sent her home in tears because they kept asking her what she was. She didn’t quite look Hispanic, but wasn’t really white either, and she certainly wasn’t black. Mom’s response? “Tell people you’re a member of the human race.” That response helped the author get through tons of uncomfortable and downright rude questions. She writes, “If it were not for my mother’s words I’d be incredibly frustrated by the situation.” The question “what are you” still raises its ugly head, making it hard for her to fill out forms where she has to check one box, or even check all that apply. What she finds saddest, though, is seeing biracial children who are uncomfortable with their identity and, after she convinces them she is biracial, ask her how she feels about it. She doesn’t feel anything in particular and hates that people assume she should.
She goes further to say that parents shouldn’t emphasize a child’s mixed heritage.
As an adult I find myself faced with the issue of race every day — I never know what to check when I’m filling out any kind of official form. I urge parents of mixed race children to not teach them they are a mixture of two cultures (or three, or four) but instead teach them that they are human beings. Skin color really is only skin deep, and it’s not truly an indicator of anything other than a gene lost in a million years — it often doesn’t even reflect what culture someone belongs to.
How do you talk to your children about being biracial?