Raising biracial children does not pose a significant higher challenge when compared to any other parenting issues that come along when you are raising children. As we were supposed to prepare ourselves for the infamous talk about the “Birds and the Bees”, we have wondered when the day would come when we would have to discuss the topic of “Being Black”. In celebration of Black History Month, we would like to share with you our family’s TOP 5 memorable experiences in discussing “Blackness” with our biracial children.
1- Mommy and Daddy: An Interracial Couple
We find it very intriguing to witness each milestone and developmental stages of our boy’s racial identity development as they start shaping their self-identity.
At age 3, our oldest son had his first insight about Mom and Dad being an interracial couple. As we walked down the streets of Santa Monica, we noticed that our son was pointing at a couple. In his words, he said: “That is like Mom and Dad!” He was pointing to an interracial couple who looked like Mom and Dad. The woman was Asian and the man was Black. I could just imagine that little light bulb that had just lit up inside his head. At age 3, he had realized that Mom and Dad were not like the other couples out there, but right in front of him, there was a couple who looked like his Mom and Dad!! That was his “Eureka” moment.
We have always exposed our children to the beauty of cultural and racial differences. It is important to allow your child to discover things on their own, as the process and journey of self discovery is the most important aspect of the lesson. Biracial children will discover their uniqueness and differences at an early age. As a parent you must be there to help and prepare them to further explore and understand these differences in a positive manner. I think it is never early enough to teach our children how to love themselves and appreciate others. Teach them the beauty of each culture and the value that it can bring into their lives.
2- Learning about the KKK
My husband enjoys watching the History Channel. At this particular night, he was watching a documentary about the KKK. Our oldest son had just turned 5 years old, and little did we know, he watched the program attentively. After the documentary was over, he looked at us and said: “I am scared! Do we have the KKK here by our house?”
I was mortified that we had allowed him to be in the room during the documentary, not really thinking that he was paying attention or understanding it. I became really concerned that he had learned about the KKK in such an innocent age, but it opened the door to further discuss the topic. I wanted to make sure that the boys would find a way to understand it without fear. It did not feel right as a parent to teach my child about the hate that exists in this world. I was not convinced that the conversation had to be so open, graphic, and honest at this young age. KKK and slavery are complex relational constructs for young children to fully understand, and I wanted to ensure that they would process the information with critical thinking skills at that age, without developing fear or worry about the issue.
My husband, on the other hand, said: “It is necessary for our boys to learn about the struggles and evils of our society. As parents, we must provide knowledge and education about Black History, and it should not be sugar coated. Otherwise, we would fail as parents by not preparing our children for the reality of the “real” world.”
We both wanted our children to be prepared to discuss the topic, not be caught by surprise out of ignorance, and also allow them to have the knowledge to lessen the negative impact if they ever encounter these issues face to face.
3- The infamous “Being a Black Man” Speech
After the President’s Obama inaugural speech, my husband found that it would be very appropriate to have the “Being a Black Man in America” speech. My husband went over the significance of having the First Black President and our oldest son said: “I already know that…” (You gotta love kids at that age, they tell you as it is!)
My husband continued: “You, as a Black Man…” until he was interrupted again by our youngest son, age 4 1/2 at the time.
He told his Dad: “I am not Black!”
I asked him: “What are you?”
He said: “Well, I am a little Mommy and a little bit of Daddy. That is why I am more like a Caramel color… I am just a little bit of Black.”
“Boy, you are Black!” said my husband in an attempt to get a message across.
That incident was interesting because the boys were not really understanding the depth of the message that my husband was trying to convey. I was thinking to myself… Is it still important in 2011 to tell our children that if you have one drop of Black blood in you, you are still considered Black?
Later that night, my husband elaborated that: “Our boys have not yet experienced being Black in this society, and they still have an innocent mind. The problem is that society will treat them as Black and they will have to be prepared for a different set of expectations. I will have a high set of expectation for them that will prepare them to succeed, because society will expect them to fail. The boys will have to shoot for 150%, not 100% because the bar is set much higher for Blacks. We need to make sure they know that!”
4- What is “Good Hair?”
My husband used to joke around that our youngest son did not look “Black” enough. His hair was too straight, and his skin had a light complexion. “Are you sure he is mine? Maybe we should have a paternity test!”, he would joke some more.
Around age 2, his hair started curling up with red-ish highlights on the tips. During summertime, we noticed the beautiful tan that he could easily get. Our oldest definitely inherited the Native American features of his Grandmother, with a well defined chin and nose.
When visiting my husband’s family in the South, they were often told that they had the “Good Hair”. What were they already indirectly teaching our boys? That there is such a thing as Good vs. Bad hair in the Black side of the family. Furthermore, if you have the “Good Hair”, does it mean you are not Black enough? Our oldest son asked us that question!
5- Not Being Black Enough
My husband has received the criticism of not being Black enough, not because of physical attributes, but based on his behavioral topography. We are sure our boys will someday have to face some levels of this personal dilemma too. This process will probably be a major part of the development of their racial identity as biracial individuals, and we are looking forward to seeing first hand how it will unfold.
As parents, we would not want anything that limits their growth as a person and as independent critical thinkers. We feel that their “Blackness” should be determined by their intellectual achievement, personal character, own unique struggles, as well as their personal success. We want their “Blackness” to be defined by their strong character, trustworthiness, loyalty and commitment to their family as loving brothers, sons, cousins, grandchildren, and in the future, fathers and husbands.
Their “Blackness” will not be determined by our society and the Media’s definition of “Blackness” with the lack of personal dignity and disrespect for their well-being and society at large. We want our boy’s “Blackness” to be a reflection of the essence of the true humanity that exists within each one of us. We will not teach our boys to be just “Black” if it is dictated by someone else. They will learn that “Blackness” is not only a physical state, but a mental state that will test their strength during their own process of self-actualization by embracing a higher level of tolerance and expectations.
Now, Let’s Celebrate!
We want to celebrate all the Biracial children in our family and those out there in our global community. It is a beautiful mix that only this generation can begin to see, accept and appreciate. We feel that we have surrounded ourselves with people who are willing to embark in this journey with us, the journey of raising the next generation of new thinkers in the pursuit of harmony that is beyond the color of their skin.
Celebrate Black History Month by looking at the past, present and the future that is now in our children’s hands! And for that, we should be hopeful because I know our children will make us proud…