Raising Biracial Kids…ain’t nothing new

For some reason I keep coming across the issue of how to raise biracial kids, now I have been the mother of biracial kids going on 17 years now and honestly when I had my first kid, I never thought much about it. That said, over the years given the increase in interracial pairings particularly Black-White unions it seems I encounter more and more folks particularly women who grapple with this issue.

To be truthful, this is not an issue I think much about. Since there have always been biracial folks in America, shit we used to have mulatto’s, quadroons, and octaroons, all terms I despise but the fact is being biracial in America is nothing new. What is new is the fact that folks can lay claim to all their heritage, and whereas once upon a time, you got lumped in as Black, now you can pull a Tiger Woods and call yourself a Cabalasian or anything else you want to call yourself. As a sista friend told me who is also mothering biracial sons, she wants her sons to grow up strong and feel they can lay equal claim to being Black and White. Well I think its an admirable goal, but truth is that is not how I raise my kids, in fact I know some would say “Black-girl, why are you so stuck in the past” Well maybe its because when it comes to race in America, the more things change, the more things stay the same. Yeah, we have a biracial man with a decent shot at becoming president yet to the average Joe Six-Pack White Guy, they look at Obama and they don’t see half a white man, they see a whole Black man and if I got my facts correct Obama was raised by his white side. See, shit don’t change.

No, the issues for me in raising a biracial child come down to how does the white parent, see things racially? In my first marriage, my ex-unit didn’t like racial talks, which made for some thorny discussions and I suspect he  flinches when elder child refers to himself as a Half-frican. No, elder child is connected to his white side but the past year he has started to truly grasp that despite the lighter than Mama skin and the wavy not kinky hair, that when folks look at him, they see young Black man. Shit, the local po-po made sure of that not too long ago.

No, my kids are raised to know who they are but understand that race is complicated in America and frankly folks will make decisions based off your looks. Also mine is a household where Black history is discussed and dissected on the regular, baby girl has many dolls and only one is white. Instead she has dolls of color in a multitude of hues that reflect what she sees here in our house ranging from mini-me’s  caramel complexion to Mama’s cocoa complexion to Grandma’s dark chocolate complexion. That’s what beauty looks like in this house.

As far as the day to day of raising of biracial kids, in some ways I suspect its harder for white women, after all Black women have always had babies in varying hues, shit my own family ranges from what the ole folks used to call high yalla with blue eyes to almost jet Black. Never have I grappled with how to comb my kids hair, or tend to their skin to keep the ash off.

That said, when I was younger with my son, I did encounter a few idiots who mistook me for the nanny, to my son learning about race at 3 when a kid told him he was adopted since I was darker than him. Right now mini-me has started to tell her Dad that he is light and we are not, then again she also tells him he has no hair and we do..poor bald Papa.

In the end raising biracial kids is no different than raising any other kids, though now raising a girl, I do worry about the societal fetishivation of biracial women, now that scares me. Lord, knows I don’t want to end up with a remake of the Imitation of Life in our family. Seriously though raising biracial kids they need to know who they are and ideally have access to all their family, but I also think a healthy dose of understanding of race in America will also take them far.

Blackness..who defines it?

In my daily cruising of blogs, I was struck by a blog I read about Soledad O’Brien and the issue of Blackness. Soledad is hosting a two part program on CNN that I have not yet seen on being Black in America and guess some folks questioned whether Soledad was really Black enough to be a part of such a discussion. For starters I will admit that I didn’t even know she was Black, over the years I thought she looked like she might be Black but with that name honestly, I never gave it a second thought.

However in the larger picture, reading about her Blackness or lack thereof brought me back to my own childhood and how often I endured cutting remarks from family members on my supposed lack of Blackness. As I have talked about before, I attended predominantly white schools even when we lived in Black areas, I was the kid in high school who had to get up at 5:30 am to trek across Chicago to get to school by 8 am. In my early years, we did though live in a predominantly white area.

For starters, as a kid, I was the kid who couldn’t jump rope, not just any rope, double-dutch, that definitely earned me lots of laughs as a kid.. later on I was put down because I talked white, I read books, and the worse offense in the eyes of relatives, I listened to white music. Back in fourth grade, I bought my first albums, Duran Duran and The Police and yes these were indeed albums. LOL

Later on growing up I grew to embrace all kinds of music, yet despite my love of music, I have been told I cannot dance. How many family gatherings did I attempt to let loose only to hear the family “Look at S, she dance like a white girl”.. laughs all around.

It wasn’t until in the past 10 years I realized I wasn’t the only Black kid who grew up being cracked on because of my supposed lack of Blackness as a kid, yet even when we become adults if you were a member of the non-black enough crew growing up, you still get it from adults. Its never ending, but the reality is what the hell is Blackness?

Honestly I beleive much of what we in America call Blackness makes no sense, to say that a group that  has millions and millions of members must all do the same thing is group-think on a crazy level. What I consider the Black experience in America is a rich diverse array of experience. It shapes us individually and creates Black folks as diverse as John McWhorter, Jesse Jackson, and many others. Even factoring for socio-economics, we are as diverse as white folks. No one ever expects white folks to be all the same.

Yet for many of us Black folks if we see someone engaging in behavior that we associate with White America we are quick to slap a label on that individual and heaven forbid we might even call said not real Black person an Oreo. Yep, been there, done that too. Thankfully I have reached the age where it no longer irritates me that family members think I am an Oreo, I suspect my move to Maine solidified in their minds that I am a true Oreo.. oddly enough these same folks like many who are quick to judge who is really Black, no nothing about Black history.

Blackness as I define it is a state of mind, its the ability for me to take pride in my roots, its when I reached that place where I can proudly share about my humble family roots, the grandfather who was a sharecropper. Its that place where as a Black woman I can look upon my own natural attributes and be at peace with how I was created, I see joy in my nappy hair, my full lips and hips and cocoa complexion. Its the place where I want to embrace all members of the diaspora, where I understand that the Dominican brothas and sistas are the same as me.. we all hail from the same place, we just ended up at different places.

No, Blackness can not simply be reduced to a few points, Blackness is not necessarily growing up in the hood, Blackness allows for the richness that gives us the Soledad’s who choose to embrace her heritage because she understands that Blackness is more than skin color. I like to say its in our blood, we feel its strength, its the strength that allowed a people who had been taken away from their homes to create in this new and strange land that was forced upon us. I sometimes think that if the ancestors could see this silliness that many of us engage in that they would cry out in shame at what we have become.

Instead of deciding who is Black, let us make sure we understand who we are first and foremost.