Originally Posted by prosemommy
I just stumbled upon this thread and am so glad! I have a 10 month old bi/tri-racial little girl and when I was pregnant I heard many of the same comments others did about bi-racial cuteness. Generally I wasnt too bothered by it because I truly felt that these comments werent coming from a bad place. But...
I also got some not so thinly veiled racist comments - though the people who said them would be horrified if I said that to them. Quite a few times I heard - oh her dad is light (African American/multi-racial) and you are so fair that she wont be that dark...ookkkaayyy so what does that dark mean? Now that her hair is getting a little longer people have commented how staight it seems to be - many times I feel like they are congratulating her on winning the genetic lottery because her hair doesnt seem "kinky". I also squirm at the term exotic - mostly because while "exotic" women are seen as beautiful, often their beauty is fetishized.
This is probably worth another whole thread but...Her dad is not in our lives and I often think about how I am going to answer her inevitable questions about him. One aspect is his race and how being bi-racial will be incorporated into her identity - if at all. I honestly just want her to be her as I am who I am but is that denying her something? With her gorgeous dark brown eyes and olive skin it is obvious that her dad is darker than I am but (to use a completely vulgar term) she can "pass". So she probably will not encounter the racism that many people of color experience - so how does that factor into her self-identity as bi-racial? I have seen interviews and read much on the subject of being bi-racial and one common thread I have noticed is that very light skinned people who choose to identify as Black but do not encounter racism because of their lightness get resistance from some in the Black community to identifying as Black.
I will probably get "Does Anybody Else Look Like Me?" to read but since she isnt obviously bi-racial and her dad isnt involved, I wonder if it will still be helpful...
Hi I would recommend the book or others like it (I haven't actually read it) even if it does not specifically apply to her. As a multiracial person who has "passed" for large portions, but not all of her life, I can tell you that, first of all, features change overtime.. Though she passes at 10 months she may not pass at all at 13-- genetics is funny that way.
The other thing about passing is that you hear disparaging remarks about your ethnicity and race in contexts that a person who looks more fully one race will never hear. So you still need to be prepared for those kinds of encounters.
It won't be the same for her as it would for a darker, more obviously black girl, and in someways its harder to prepare children for what to expect when you don't look stereotypically one race or another. For example those children's books featuring a girl learning to feel pride in her African features and dark skin won't read the same way to a girl with say some typically African features but light colored skin or dark colored girl with a more stereotypically white phenotype, or a girl considered black by US standards because one parent is black but whose features are predominantly those of a white girl. But those books still help gain understanding that there are many ways to look and that there is no wrong way to look and that the white norm so often projected is just one of many ways to be.
As for identifying as any race when you are mixed-- you get resistance from everywhere; that is just the way it goes. Now, I certainly don't mean to say that everyone will object to every self identification; but I notice that if I identify as "mixed" people can often feel like I'm white-washing my "of color" sides or trying to play it both ways. If I identify as white, whites think it's suspect and people of color will point out that in the US the one drop rule still exists and that I am kidding myself. If I identify as fully "of color" people will say it's so easy for me to say that since I can pass and change my mind at any time-- And you know what? to some extent they are all correct-- the thing is they are all wrong too. There can be a tendency to choose one aspect of a race or ethnicity and decide it is the key feature to be used to define if people can belong. For a few people in the black american community it is "have you encountered oppression?" ie "do you look black enough to directly experience racism?" But this just defines black culture solely as overcoming racism or "sticking it to the man." That is important, but black culture would be poor indeed if this was its only characteristic--and I don't think that anyone thinks that it is--unless they are using it to be exclusionary. Similarly some latinos use Spanish as the litmus test for whether people are really latino-- again if language is all being latino is about, it's a pretty limited identity. That said, a latino who doesn't speak Spanish, or a black person who passes and therefore doesn't encounter the same kinds of impediments to success, will have a different experiences from Latinos that speak Spanish or someone obviously black.
As multiracial, my experiences within all of my ethnic/racial communities have been different than they would be if I had grown up more specifically one race. There is no way around that, and to some people different equals not authentic or not as real. But times are changing people are growing more used to multiracial people; I have noticed that my little cousin's experiences have been somewhat different than mine even though we have similar background (I am 15 years older than she is).
What any multiracial child needs is a strong sense of self and a strong connection with all of her communities. The challenge in your particular case might be to keep her connected with the black american community if the father isn't involved. Because it's that connection along with her connection to your community that will keep her strong and teach her to navigate the world at large. She will be who she is, as you are who you are. but, if you are white american the reality is that you have probably gotten away without thinking about how your race affects your life. White as she may look, she will never have that option unless you lie about her background all together--and obviously no one would recommend that. There is a price paid to being a minority in that you are aware of race and privileges accorded or negated because of it, in a way few white people are, but you can turn that awareness into a benefit too (not everyone does of course-- nor is it necessary to be of color to be aware). Being aware can be annoying but you can also use it as a tool to teach you to be sensitive and aware of all kinds of issues of power and equality.