It’s hard to know who you will fall in love and have children with. As a child, I’m not sure most of us would recognize the differences in the boys we are attracted to. What I mean by differences, is the color of their skin, are they short or tall, thin or heavy. As I think back on the boys I liked, they were the ones that wanted the same things I did, didn’t make me feel stupid, and included me in their activities. I suppose that’s what attracted me to them more than their physical appearance. Don’t get me wrong, how they looked played a role, but it was more about how they made me feel. My first boyfriend in elementary school and the first one I ever kissed was Latino. I also had a hopeless crush on a skinny white kid that lived in the neighborhood. I don’t remember seeing color when I was younger; we all played together and did our thing.
As I got older and moved around, I became more aware of the racial divide. When I moved from a diverse city to a predominantly white town, I was shocked. It felt odd to me to have such an imbalance of races at my school and in my community. As it turned out, I met, started dating, and married one of the few Latinos in school. I remember a friend of his that had a white mother. He was very mean to her. He seemed to hate the fact that his mom was white. He identified more with his Hispanic roots. I told my then-fiance I was nervous that when we had kids, I didn’t want them growing up hating that I was white. I wanted my children to be proud of their heritage, from both their parents.
When my daughters were born, I saw them as perfect babies that looked like a combination of their dad and myself. My oldest daughter looks a lot like me, and my younger daughter has more of her father’s features. We called them cinnamon babies because they were a perfect blend of my incredibly pale skin and their dad’s perfectly tanned skin tone. These girls were going to grow up learning about the wild family history they inherited. They would get to celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Passover, and Easter. They would learn Spanish from their baby sitter and gardening from their mom.
We raised the girls in the same town that their dad and I met…Poway, CA. I would say the racial divide was closing, but it wasn’t perfect. The girls’ friends were a nice mix of all backgrounds. My older daughter tended to hang out more with the Latino kids and my younger daughter, more white kids. I vaguely remember my older daughter being teased by a few girls in Girl Scouts, and from then on, she tended to hang out with a different crowd.
When you raise biracial children, what you experience will be different depending on your race. I can tell you the experience I had with my girls was different than what their dad experienced. When the girls were with him, they looked like they belonged to him. The three of them all have dark hair, brown eyes, and their skin is closer in color. When I was with the girls, people would ask the girls if I was the baby sitter or caregiver. When the pale-skinned red-headed lady comes to pick the kids up at school, heads do turn. I have had people tell me, “your kids look so Hispanic”. Truthfully I was offended and not because I didn’t believe my girls had the features of their ethnicity, but instead, I saw my children as two little girls that were the perfect blend of their parents. I didn’t feel they or anyone should be categorized by their features, skin tone, or hair color.
I suppose I was a little naive that I could raise my children without race becoming an issue. Inherently, there are things that you don’t realize you will have to deal with until they happen. As a white parent, I take full responsibility for not fully understanding what my babies might be going through or will go through. Something as simple as the angel on top of our Christmas tree brought them sadness. They asked me if we could have an angel that looked like them. The one we had was a blond angle in a white dress. It is the typical angle you will find on any store shelf. I was bound and determined to find a Hispanic looking angel for our tree. I did not find one. What I brought home instead was an African American angel in a red dress. I felt that was the best I could do for them.
I know things are better now, but twenty plus years ago every baby doll was white, all the characters in the books were white. The girls were thrilled when Disney came out with Pocahontas because she resembled them.
As a parent, you want your children to be proud of who they are. The problem with society is that many people are still very ignorant and can’t see past the color of someone’s skin color. You can be college-educated, have an important career, money in the bank, own a beautiful home, expensive car, volunteer, be a great friend, neighbor, and community member. You can grow up the daughter of a policeman, knowing precisely what the rules are and how to behave. Yet, if you happen to be biracial, or any race other than white, your chances of being singled out, picked on, profiled by the police is exceptionally high.
Anyone that believes the color of your skin determines a person’s worth, capabilities, or mental capacity is ignorant. If you cut any human being, we all bleed red. So, if you or anyone else thinks you are somehow better because the tissue that covers your organs is pale, think again. Imagine how upset and shocked I was to learn even though my daughter is every one of these things, she has experienced racism throughout her entire life. Unfortunately, you can’t speak about raising biracial kids without talking about racism.
I failed to understand that because my daughter did not share these situations with me, it didn’t mean they existed. When the riots happened a few weeks ago, I called both of my girls to check in on them. My oldest daughter and I were discussing the issues, and she told me about a few incidents that have happened to her recently. At first, I was upset that she didn’t tell me. Mommy wants to fix things, make her feel better. Reality check is mom can’t do a damn thing, and the reality check is for mom. This crap happens all too often. The most I can do for her is support her, make sure I share the message, educate myself and others, open my eyes even wider to what it is like for biracial and people of color.
In case you were wondering, I would not change a thing about being the mom of biracial daughters. What I would change is the attitude and resistance of others to listen with their heart and their mind. In the words of country singer, Kane Brown, “If we could have one love, one god and one family, the world would be a much better place.”
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