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Anyone else with a multi-racial kid whose ethnicity isn't obvious?

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

I'm half white and half Native American. I've spent my whole life hearing comments like, "You're white, since your skin's so pale. But what ELSE are you?" People never seemed comfortable not being able to put me in one category, although my paler skin makes it a bit easier to pigeonhole me. 

 

My ex-husband is African-American. But our son looks exactly like me with a tan. I'm proud of all of his heritage, just as I'm proud of mine. Usually, when it's just my son and me, people assume we're white. If they bother taking a closer look, they do a double-take. Mostly, though, it's not a real issue. Our society has come a long way since I was a kid. We're definitely nowhere near all the way there, but I see some progress.

 

When it's only us, I hear constantly that he's gorgeous. People joke that we should set up an arranged marriage with their daughters. Honestly, the emphasis on his looks makes me a bit uncomfortable. I usually respond with something like "He's so nice/smart/creative, too!" Because that's what's most important, you know?

 

Here's the problem. My boyfriend has four biracial children (half black and half white) who all fit the stereotypical biracial mold. Light skin, curly/lighter hair, etc. When we all hang out together, people look at my son as though he doesn't fit, or they don't notice him at all. And it bugs the hell out of me because I've always been "different" and I don't want him to have those feelings.. 

 

There was one time I took my boyfriend's two youngest and mine to a mall. Everyone fell all over themselves complimenting my boyfriend's kids (who are gorgeous, mind you), but they didn't say a word about my son. I don't expect him to be adored wherever we go - I'd rather it not happen at all to ANY of the kids. They all have so many more important talents/traits! But I do worry that experiences like this will set him up to feel less attractive than the other kids because he's lighter. Or that they will set up the other kids to feel superior because they're more obviously biracial.

 

Did any of that make any sense?

post #2 of 11

Hello VivC-

I suppose I have a similar experience, though not much advice to offer.  My DD's ethnicity is probably not obvious to most people, though other multi-racial people seem to best at recognizing her as such.  Both my husband and I have fairly diverse roots.  I am multi-ethnic, mostly European, but I look most like the dark southern European/Mediterranean part of my family and like you got asked "what else are you" a lot when I was younger.  My husband is African American and Eastern European Jewish.  Our 6 year old daughter looks a bit like all parts of us, but has a fairly light complexion like me.  So far we have not had any issues with her feeling like she doesn't fit.  We live in the SF bay area and she has several friends with multi-national and multi-racial identities, so thus far variety just seems normal to her.  However, she is going through a phase of adoration of blond hair and blue eyes that worries me sometimes.  I remember thinking that Barbie looks equalled beauty and real have made an effort to keep this notion away from her, but she found it somewhere anyway.  I am going to have another baby in June and we will see if they have a similar experience with being multi-racial.  The only advice I can offer is that all we can do is reinforce our children's own beauty and value for their intelligence, creativity and kindness to them and help them shrug off all comments from the outside, whether ignorantly positive of negative.  

post #3 of 11

My siblings and daughter and I all have the same issues. We're all different races with a diverse background. My youngest sister is the lightest with my brother being the darkest. Most people will comment on specific features they notice about us or my daughter, but if I talk to my sisters in Russian, they look at us like we're crazy. I don't know, I think people sometimes don't think before they ask questions.

post #4 of 11

I am white American , hubby is dark asian Indonesian. We currently have one child and two on the way. Most people have no idea what my husband is as most American's can't even find his country of origin on a map  (or have even heard of it) so they know my daughter is, as I refer to her "ethnically mysterious". She is just beautiful, as with all children, and shares both of our features.

 

If people saw me with my grandmother, who is dark Azorean, they would never know we are related. Ah, it's all part of the wonderful world of geneitcs!

 

For me, I love educating people about the world and how beautiful we all are. Oh, and BTW I do not believe there are hardly ANY peoples who are not mixed with something else since we have need exploring the world for so long. Just because I'm white American ... well all that means what my skin is light though I have MANY different ethnicities in me: Native American, Azorean, Icelandic, British, Creole, etc. I guess I just don't see how any multi-generational American like myself, can think they are not a nice mixed stew of genetics anyway.

post #5 of 11

I wouldnt worry too much--racism/colorism generally takes a much more psychically heavy toll on dark skinned people. Even the "(obviously) mixed kids are beautiful/itneresting etc" stuff people do is racism. Be glad your son gets less of that and worry about your step kids. Good to demphasize and deflect the looks-centered  stuff when people say it.
 

post #6 of 11

You mentioned you were worried that your son will feel less attractive because he lighter skinned than your BFs kids...I agree with PP, and if you live anywhere within the continental US, he will be bombarded from all outlets of media that reinforce that lighter skin is more attractive than dark...Although the multi-racial look is considered more "exotic," dependent upon where you live or frequent, the same child who is constantly complimented for being beautiful may experience stares or inquires of a more negative tone...

 

I myself am multi-racial, (mom is White, dad is Black and Lenni Lenape Indian), and I did not become cognizant of our ethnic background until I was about 8 years old...I am the darkest of my siblings though, and began to realize that we all looked "mixed" the word that was used most often to describe us, although my grandfather just always said we were colored:).  As you pointed out, it is people of multi-ethnicities that are best at recognizing the ethnic background of myself or my siblings, it almost takes a trained eye...

 

My 6 year old however, has a father from Uganda, and yet she ended up looking like me, with a much darker complexion and still my hair, crazy (in a good way:) blonde curls that just grow up and out...As we are expecting her baby sister in the next few weeks however, she had made some comments about being worried that she will be the darkest in the family, as if it is not as favorable...My husband is from the Dominican Republic and so we are anxious to see what this new baby girl will actually look like as well!

 

And I'd say don't worry about the lack of attention that he's getting when out with the others...It is with every outing that we receive a comment on her looks, and for years it made her uncomfortable going into stores or walking around Brooklyn with us, which is an amazingly diverse place anyway...I begged her (probably she would say I forced her) to respond with a thank you to these comments to the point where she responded so curt to a woman one time in Target that the lady replied, "Oh wow, you must hear that a lot!"  

 

So the less attention the better I'd say from experience- I personally ended up making myself over in an attempt to stop looking so ambiguous and to stop all the inquires about my ethnicity, I didn't have a mom who spoke to me about it and it left me feeling like I never fit in...So the more you can talk to your son about it, the better off I'm sure he will be:)

 

 

post #7 of 11

My DD is blond and fair. My DS has brown hair and is fair, but the brown hair and eyes make him more obviously mine. I am medium black, I'm darkest of my sisters. My children have my whole face, but people could not see that my DD and I look alike. It bothered me for years, but after a while, I decided that it did not matter what other people thought. I know what we look like and she knows. We are very close, so we stick together on this issue. It does make her sad (she's 7) when people try to say we don't belong together, but she says, we are still mother and daughter. Children learn early that the problem is with the other people. Let your son know that you think he's special and beautiful and he will project that into the world. The right people will notice him. He won't notice the ones who are not.

post #8 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by kgdg View Post

I wouldnt worry too much--racism/colorism generally takes a much more psychically heavy toll on dark skinned people. Even the "(obviously) mixed kids are beautiful/itneresting etc" stuff people do is racism. Be glad your son gets less of that and worry about your step kids. Good to demphasize and deflect the looks-centered  stuff when people say it.
 


i totally agree with this.

 

i come from a mediterranean/european background but am pretty light skinned with blue eyes. DH is 100% Latino born in South America but lived here since he was a small child- he has dark skin and has dealt with overt and subtle racism his whole life. we live in a very liberal and diverse area. 7 month old DS has very light hair, blue eyes and tan skin. People constantly comment on his skin tone. mostly nice comments - and then marvel at how his eyes are light, questioning how they could be blue. Umm, from me, maybe? People aren't necessarily malicious and so much of it just comes from being inundated with society's idea of beautiful that has changed and been constructed over decades. what used to be looked at as different is now exotic.

 

and as far as deflecting looks centered stuff, we should be doing that all the time with kids, especially with little girls who are constantly told how cute and pretty their hair shoes dress is.

post #9 of 11

countries are a construct as is race . . . the notion of culture while real is not a issue to make a child's development or chances full of issues. that's something people will put on him or her like it or not but where possible the only culture that should be regarded is decency and tolerance.and that is what should be the focus and what should be being promoted.

post #10 of 11
I also 100% agree with kgdg. Things are getting better, but there's still a hierarchy in this country, and in many others, in which which the fairest of whiteness is considered the most attractive (and the best, nicest, smartest etc), through the gradations among and within ethnic categories to the the darkest blackness (which, sadly, many people still consciously or unconsciously associate with ugliness, badness and stupidity). We can still see this in illustrations in some contemporary kids' books (and don't get me started on their portrayal of gender!). I bet it's also visible in some kids' shows (we only allow Sesame Street clips at our house). Light or white appearance still carries a privilege, even if, from time to time, it might create discomfort or a sense (by the person or projected onto him or her by others) that the person "doesn't belong" with her darker friends and family. I've experienced both prejudice and privilege as a typically "mixed-looking" mixed African-European woman (and I totally agree that the idea that mixed kids are "beautiful" reeks of racism). Lately I've been experiencing it again as the mom of a blond, green-eyed toddler. (Some of my friends are surprised how seldom I'm mistaken for his nanny. I suspect it would be really different were I a dark-skinned black woman, Latina or Filipina with a white-looking son.) My husband has dark brown hair and eyes, so when either of us is alone with DS, people tend to assume that our spouse must be blond! They're even more confused when they learn that he gets his fair coloring from my (blond, blue-eyed) dad wink1.gif

It sounds like you're doing all you can do: exposing your kids to lots of friends and family of varying ethnicities, valuing the beauty of many different looks, and countering the cultural messages all kids pick up on that still, unfortunately, suggest that white is normal, or better.

I figure no one is going to think my handsome son is unattractive for having such fair looks. Yikes, "fair" means not only "light" and "beautiful", but "just"--it's built into our language and culture, so if we don't affirmatively teach kids to value everyone, they'll learn this hierarchy by default). If he has a sibling who's much darker and visibly nonwhite, s/he'll have quite a different experience, but I want to teach them both to love and respect the beauty and value in themselves and others, and to affirmatively reject unfair cultural assumptions about beauty and worth.
post #11 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by mowilli3 View Post

My DD is blond and fair. My DS has brown hair and is fair, but the brown hair and eyes make him more obviously mine. I am medium black, I'm darkest of my sisters. My children have my whole face, but people could not see that my DD and I look alike. It bothered me for years, but after a while, I decided that it did not matter what other people thought. I know what we look like and she knows. We are very close, so we stick together on this issue. It does make her sad (she's 7) when people try to say we don't belong together, but she says, we are still mother and daughter. Children learn early that the problem is with the other people. Let your son know that you think he's special and beautiful and he will project that into the world. The right people will notice him. He won't notice the ones who are not.


I really like this!  (It won't let me thumbs up).

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