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#1 of 16 Old 06-29-2009, 03:01 PM - Thread Starter
 
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people ask about your children's cultural background?

I'm reading a book called "Does Anyone Else Look Like Me?" (anyone else read it???) about raising multicultural children. The author advocates not answering that question if your children are with you, in order to model boundaries and not make them feel exposed. She suggests an answer like, "that's personal and I would prefer not to discuss it".

However, I don't like this response because I think it would send the message to my daughter (who is white american/kenyan) that there is something shameful or secretive about her culture that we can't tell people about, and I really want her to be proud of her cultures.

I'm especially concerned about this response coming across to my daughter as shameful because so many white americans either look down on Africans or are completely ignorant about Africa. I never want to even imply to her that there is anything wrong with being Kenyan.

What do you think? How do you respond to this question?

Loving wife to DH and buddamomimg1.pngmama to DD (11/08) and DS (2/12)

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#2 of 16 Old 06-29-2009, 08:54 PM
 
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Wow. It never occured to me that it would be a boundaries issue.

*I* ask people sometimes. If they don't want to tell me, that's OK. But I'm not asking to make them feel bad. I'm interested, I'm usually looking for common ground. Maybe I'm terrible and offensive.

Anyway, I can't see why I should or would hide my children's cultural backgrounds. I'm proud of their background and of them. If someone is interested, I wouldn't assign bad motives to them or think they were pushy or overly-curious. Why shouldn't we want to discuss it? :
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#3 of 16 Old 06-30-2009, 01:23 PM - Thread Starter
 
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That's how I feel too Cappucinosmom....I hope it's ok to quote the book on this forum, but the author says:

Meanwhile mom or dad (unaware of what their child is experiencing) might unwittingly collude with strangers during such intrusions by keeping the conversataion going. Garrett talks about counseling parents who often get into "these types of conversations explaining intimate details of their adoption or their interracial family with a complete stranger, and that's another violation of the child's world. If the parent is colluding with strangers by discussing these issues right in front of their kids, then the child becomes accostomed to not having their boundaires respected.....setting up a child for a pattern of allowing themselves to be mistreated by others who also dont respect their boundaries.


So in rereading that section, maybe she is talking about more intrusive questions from strangers??

I don't see any harm in letting people know she is kenyan/american...but maybe my daughter will get tired of people always asking about "what she is", implying that she is different from everyone else that they need to ask?

Still, I think the best answer would be simple and direct, stating that she is kenyan and american.

i don't know, what do you all think?

Loving wife to DH and buddamomimg1.pngmama to DD (11/08) and DS (2/12)

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#4 of 16 Old 06-30-2009, 02:13 PM
 
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Someone just asked me that directly and I just answered them directly. As in he said, "Your children sure are beautiful. What are they mixed with?" So I said, "Black, their father is black." There is no secretiveness or exposure. I actually prefer it that way, as in if they wonder just ask. I think people just ask out of curiosity and because our children are beautiful, not because they are trying to point out that our kids look different and trying to make them feel different.
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#5 of 16 Old 06-30-2009, 06:47 PM
 
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I am biracial, and I was born in this very ethnically homogenous country (Italy). I get people all the time asking "where are you from?". Depending on how chatty or sociable I feel, I will either explain the full detail , or just mention my African half, or if I'm feeling particularly meanspirited, I'll respond my hometown which throws them because it doesn't explain my looks. It depends a lot on the questioner, and the tone of the question, which dictates how much effort and empathy I want to put into the response. I don't see why a mixed heritage should be more "personal" or sensitive than saying that one is Texan, or Australian, or Indian, or Martian. I don't know how old your child is, but maybe you could get her to answer directly, so that she can grab hold of her composite identity from the start and then flesh it out as she learns what it means.

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#6 of 16 Old 06-30-2009, 07:48 PM
 
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I agree with seriosa about teaching her to "get her to answer directly, so that she can grab hold of her composite identity from the start and then flesh it out as she learns what it means." I always think the best way to deal with issues is to be totally open and supply kids with the facts so they can feel empowered when they face the issue independently.
It brings up a topic that stirs my own pot and i've thought of addressing here. My dh is black African so our son is mixed with my white American and most people dont even ask about his ethnicity. That is I feel a lot of white people don't even ask, they look at him with either utter awe and marvel at his cuteness, or else seem to dismiss him in a way that has led me to a deeper understanding of the way racism manifests. And the hurt that it creates in our world every day!
My other two kids are white, and i never felt this sort of subtle rejection, but more often as a young white mother, felt embraced by (white) strangers. It hurts me to the core, and I am feeling the strain of being a not white, not African American family nor African family, but an unusual combo that doesn't seem to fit in any regular strata of society. That's another post...
I definitely want my kids to be proud and clear about their heritage and not allow their social experience to shape the way they reflect on themselves. I am proud of who they are and the rainbow that our family has become, I hope that we can change the world in our own little way by showing what a happy family looks like.
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#7 of 16 Old 07-01-2009, 12:29 AM
 
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Well, as a multicultural child of a white mom, I can say I'm glad she answered that way, and I still do. To strangers, of course, who ask only about my looks.

To people I know, I give them the long story and they're usually sorry they asked, because they were just trying to make conversation about how I look and don't realize they're asking an extremely personal question about ancestry, genetics, racial identity, and so on. I'm sorry about that, but I'm not going to give them the short answer just because it sounds nice, you know?

I do agree that as young as she can, depending on her own personality (with a shy child this could be a long time), she should answer for herself. That's great.

It's not that the stay-at-home-parent gets to stay home with the kids. The kids get to stay home with a parent. Lucky Mom to DD1 (4 y) and DD2 (18 mo), Wife to Mercenary Dad
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#8 of 16 Old 07-01-2009, 01:24 AM
 
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I still get asked. I don't fit into boxes at all so people find me interesting and always end up asking something.
Usually I say I'm from nowhere because I'm an Army brat. Some people start speaking to me in Spanish or don't understand why I can't speak it.
I also follow a branch of Hinduism, so some people might think I'm South Asian Indian. Some think I'm Hawaiian because the last place our family moved from was there. When they still haven't figured me out and I can tell they are still curious, I ask them "Do you mean my ethnic background?"
Then I tell them I'm Tennessee hillbilly and Filipino.
Anyway, it's sometimes fun to be an enigma but other times you just wish
people could just automatically know and you don't have to go into a whole life story thing.
My daughter's father is Irish/Italian so she looks like a girl with brown hair and brown eyes, like me but with her father's forehead.

Happy mom/wife to dd (July 2004) and dh, veggie personal chef : , waldorfy & thrifty crafter
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#9 of 16 Old 07-01-2009, 09:34 AM
 
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While I look about as white as you can get I have a funny accent because I've lived abroad a number of years. I tend to prefer that people ask me where I'm from rather than assuming I'm not American (I am, in fact, American). Granted, this also has to do with the tone of voice of the questioner and how the question was worded too.

For my daughter, I've always planned on just saying where my husband is from if I get a similar question. I think I'd rather have someone ask me than assume who knows what.
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#10 of 16 Old 07-01-2009, 10:03 AM
 
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The "long answer" meaning the child is Kenyan/American or Tennessee hillbilly/Filipino, or whatever sounds like a totally appropriate response. If someone were to ask anything pertaining to the relationship I have with my sons father, how long we've been married, etc.. it would be a different story. Often the "where is he from question" can just be an intro to get into more private aspects of the family's life! Sometimes you can tell the intentions of the one inquiring before you say anything!
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#11 of 16 Old 07-02-2009, 03:09 AM
 
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I tell people their dad's from Sudan cause that's usually the question I get. ("Where is their dad from?") It's funny, I have gotten that question from a few African (various countries) women, but most white people have not asked anything until after they've met DH...maybe they just all **assume** my kids are the usual white American/black American mix that is most common here. (Is that an offensive term? Black American, or American black? I don't really know how to differentiate between black people who have been born and raised in the US, several hundred years now....and people like my DH who lived the first 20-odd years of his life in Africa, speaks another language, his entire family is in his home country...like someone else on this post said, it makes for a whole 'nother difference for our kids, to have a parent who is from Africa versus being born/raised here and black.)

I mean, most of the time I'm referring to DH or talking about it in that context anyway so I'll just say where he's from or African...but you know where I'm coming from here?

lovin DH since 1/04, SAHM to 3 boys 10/04, 11/08, 11/10 one girlie (1/07), and one 13 wk (10/13) just your average :ha ng multigenerational living family!!
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#12 of 16 Old 07-02-2009, 03:25 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bluedaisy View Post
That's how I feel too Cappucinosmom....I hope it's ok to quote the book on this forum, but the author says:

Meanwhile mom or dad (unaware of what their child is experiencing) might unwittingly collude with strangers during such intrusions by keeping the conversataion going. Garrett talks about counseling parents who often get into "these types of conversations explaining intimate details of their adoption or their interracial family with a complete stranger, and that's another violation of the child's world. If the parent is colluding with strangers by discussing these issues right in front of their kids, then the child becomes accostomed to not having their boundaires respected.....setting up a child for a pattern of allowing themselves to be mistreated by others who also dont respect their boundaries.


So in rereading that section, maybe she is talking about more intrusive questions from strangers??

I don't see any harm in letting people know she is kenyan/american...but maybe my daughter will get tired of people always asking about "what she is", implying that she is different from everyone else that they need to ask?

Still, I think the best answer would be simple and direct, stating that she is kenyan and american.

i don't know, what do you all think?
I agree with you. For right now, I've decided that the best behaviour to model for DD is non-defensive. When asked "what is she?" (usually by another child) I respond, in a lighthearted tone, "a human girl, silly!" and change the subject.

For similar questions from adults, I like the short, sweet and factual approach too -- "her father's family is French." There's still some ambiguity there, b/c of course there are French citizens of various races and ethnicities, but the answer seems to satisfy those who have asked.
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#13 of 16 Old 07-08-2009, 06:09 AM
 
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I'm kind of in an opposite situation.

I'm American and my dh is French but we're both Jewish. In fact, my family's origins are from near here and there is a remote chance that we're distantly related (the closest would be that my kids are their own 5th cousins...)

I'm blond so people assume I'm not Jewish and that we're a mixed couple. The kids look like my dh, dark and I actually look unrelated to them. We gave them Israeli, rather than French or "American" names. Also, confusing is that my kids don't have an accent in either language. Yes, a problem in both countries as in French, I have an accent while they don't. In the U.S., they pass normally but then start fighting in French. Sigh.

So I'm asked all the time where we're from, what the story is, etc. I prefer that they ask and get the story straight rather than assume something else and then say something nonsensical. My favorite was when someone told me that I could only take my daughter home once they called the mother... I like when they say "Oh, so you're husband is Jewish". Then I have to awkwardly add "...and so am I".

I don't think that parents should be cagey or dicey with their child's story. Okay, maybe not spill out every detail but sometimes people ask for a reason. Sometimes they have relative in the States (lots of immigration to the U.S. from this part of France, esp. in the Jewish community). Sometimes they've been to the States or whatever. Some are Jewish, or part, too and just feel the need to tell me.

I used to live in Hong Kong and have travelled thorughout Asia. There are a lot of Asian adopted kids here and sometimes I do ask. Often because I can see that they're curious about us too! I'll tell the child that I've been to their country, how they have beautiful this or that, etc. I then try to ask something "French" like what grade they are in school. I kind of like showing an adopted child that they're not the only ones who have a story.

My kids go to an ethnically mixed school. Sometimes I've been out in public with one of their friends and I'm surprised how often I get asked about a child who isn't mine. It's like the barrier is down. "Yes, he dad is French and her mom is Moroccan" "Her dad is Laotian and her mom is English" etc. Then it's usually followed by a positive comment, like how beautiful she is, etc.

What I hate is when people say "half". My children especially aren't "half" anything. They have both, full nationalities. In our case, they're not even half "French" being of no "Gallic" background at all (the ethnic origin of the majority of French but not in our area). Sometimes I'll say they're half "Alsatian" but they're really Jewish-Alsatian so that's not really the same.

I would say for example, "half-Japanese". What I really hate is when people use "American" instead of "white" as in "half-American, half-Japanese". I have a Japanese girlfriend who married a Japanese American. Their children are both nationalities and full Japanese background.

Also, "Caucasian" which is technically a part of Eastern Europe. It also isn't strictly "white" including the ME and parts of South Asia. I'm not really comfortable with using a term referring to facial features specifically.
http://www.answers.com/topic/caucasian-race-1

Some nationalities can't be passed to children, usually do to various rules, which is a shame but not necessarily a problem. I'm careful to make the distinction between nationality and ethnic origin.

Yes, it's a little confusing for the kids. Their identities are intact but to add to the confusion, my husband has American relatives. Some family immigrated decades ago and then a cousin also married an American. So they've met American cousins on their dad's side.

We get out maps, which the children love. You were born here, I was born there, this is where your grandparents live, etc. They liked the fact that they can live and work in so many places.
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#14 of 16 Old 07-09-2009, 12:49 PM
 
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I don't like the question "where are you from?" because we are from Minnesota, no where else!!!!

But I don't have a problem when people ask about my children, this is usually the way they ask it, "wow, they have such beautiful names." and then something like "what kind of names are those?" and my usual answer is "my dh is from India."

I don't have any problem when people ask about my childrens' ethnicity, maybe because I often wonder that about other people too , just because I am really interested in other countries, and I think it's a positive thing when people have backgrounds in other places. Many times they are very interesting, open-minded people. But I really don't like the question "where are you from." because many times you judge a person wrong with that question. For example, asking someone with dark skin "where are you from" implying that if they're not white, they must not be from the U.S. Know what I mean? That REALLY BUGS me!

Mama to dd born 7/2005, dd born 12/2007 and dd born 11/2009.
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#15 of 16 Old 07-09-2009, 01:13 PM
 
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I am not asked very often, I just say, his Dad is African Caribbean. Usually it's people wanting to know how come he is so 'tan'

wanted to add that I use 'African Caribbean' because that is the phrase my husband uses. Someone posted a Multiracial person's bill of rights and on of them was using any terms the person chooses, so I'm going with DH's terms until j wants to use his own.
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#16 of 16 Old 07-09-2009, 09:06 PM
 
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Here are a couple of links to older threads that focused on some of the things you're discussing:

http://www.mothering.com/discussions...d.php?t=978345

http://www.mothering.com/discussions...2705&highlight=

(The latter is about whether or not the question, "Are those your children?" is offensive. The former discusses excerpts from the book referred to in the OP.)

That said, no one has really ever asked me about my dc's cultural background, but if they did, I would probably say that they are Jamaican American, Swedish, English, German, and Irish. Quite a mouthful, huh?

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