Deciding what location is best for your multicultural kids - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 10 Old 07-02-2009, 02:49 PM - Thread Starter
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I'm reading a book on multicultural children and it's making me think about how my kids will be confronted with race issues differently depending on where we live. My dh is kenyan and i'm white american - our dd is only 7 months so we havent really dealt with any of these issues yet. In reading the book, it seems to me like it might be healthier for her to grow up in kenya as opposed to the US (we hope to return to kenya in the next few years but are not sure). these are some of the things i'm thinking:

In the US, she will always get the question "what are you?" most people will probably classify her as african american, which might confuse her even more since she's not african american at all (like Obama gets classified as just african american even though he's kenyan/white american). She will most likely face discrimination and will not be fully accepted by the white community or the black community. she will have to deal with the "blond hair blue eyes" standards of beauty and will probably hate her hair. However, there are an increasing number of multiracial children so she could develop some great friendships and support systems.

In Kenya, most people will probably classify her as white, which i've seen happen to other biracial kids. she probably won't get the question what are you too much because there is not as much racial diversity, and most biracial kids are white/kenyan so people don't even ask. She will always feel different - as a white person in kenya it was challenging at times for me to deal with all the stares and comments. it would be challenging for her if her kenyan peers do not accept her as one of them and treat her differently. we will be able to braid her hair like most of the other little kenyan girls, so she might feel more attractive and positive about her appearance than if we were in the US. Unfortunately, white people are priveledged even in kenya so although she might feel different, she probably wouldnt face discrimination or hostility like she might in the US. there are a growing number of biracial kids and it would be easier for her to find kids who have the same cultural make up (kenyan/american) than if we were in the US.

I'm curious to hear your thoughts and experiences, especially if you've lived in different countries with your kids.

I feel like her whole sense of identity will be radically different depending on where we live, and that's a little daunting!

Loving wife to DH and mama to DD (11/08) and DS (2/12) and expecting another little boy (4/15)
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#2 of 10 Old 07-03-2009, 11:41 AM
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there is another way of looking at it. which is what i have adopted. everywhere is home for me.

even for a native kenyan the moment he leaves his country and goes back later he will feel the discrimination. without even any change in blood. as an expatriot you become a 'never fit in anywhere' because you are a foreigner everywhere.

you will be surprised how much more discrimination she might face in kenya. race here esp for children can be v. subtle here in the US. they can be .v v. strong in Kenya (i dont have personal knowledge but i have found in my country they can be ruthless about race). i am in california. the diversity is great here. people are more 'open' to races. i mean hello almost everywhere is mixed. whereas in my country my dd will always be seen as a 'half breed'.

however seeing my dd's personality - extremely social - the first few years would have been much better raising her in my country with extended family and friends instead of here kinda isolated with not too many friends.

my dd is almost 7. if you asked her she would much rather live in my country than here. we go home for months at a time and she always comes back a different child. even at 8 months she came back much different than had we stayed here. for one thing her stranger anxiety which she got at 2 months went away never to return. she started speaking there using words my mom spoke to her in my language. in my country in asia she would have been raised by many moms by many watchful eyes. being who she is she would have totally loved that. when i go home - even at 8 months after she got used to teh people she would be gone for hours at a time hanging out with the other people not even looking for me. the same child who lived on my hip here in the US.

i find in my country racism (there hardly is any different races) is much more agressive due to the british rule and what people have accepted as normal. they dotn even realise how racist they are. when my dd was born the first question my mom asked when she was told over the phone was 'is she fair (skin colour)?' she was not intending to being 'racist', but she was being nevertheless.

so for me rather than race, i would prefer to raise my dd which is more child friendly. and i find society much more child friendly back in asia than in the US. and because of that my dd may not face racism early on.

however when you look at the whole experience i find every place has its negative and positive sides. your personality and the personality of your child defines what is important.

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#3 of 10 Old 07-03-2009, 12:17 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for sharing your perspective meemee, you brought up some good points.

My DH and I have both lived in other countries and I agree with what you say, once you live somewhere else even home is not really "home" anymore.

I agree that race issues are very subtle in the US - I think there is so much history of oppression and the subject is so touchy that most people avoid it.

In Kenya, race is discussed much more freely - but I can see how that might cause issues because my dd will likely get more outright comments and questions in Kenya. I used to work in an area where there weren't many white people and I used to get stares when walking around and people yelling comments at me. I visited a school once where there was a mixed child and several of the kids started yelling at her, "look, a white person just like you!"

So that made me think about how my dd would be viewed there - we think she will be seen as black in the US, and as white in Kenya, which could be very confusing for her.

We are hoping to visit Kenya next summer - she'll be 18 months, it will be interesting to see how the visit goes, how she is treated, adn how she responds.

Anyone else with experiences of how their kids were treated in different countries?

Loving wife to DH and mama to DD (11/08) and DS (2/12) and expecting another little boy (4/15)
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#4 of 10 Old 07-06-2009, 01:43 PM
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I also wonder where is best to raise my son. In my husband's country in the caribbean I have been met with a lot of negativity for being white. My son is very fair skinned compared to what I think we were expecting

I've heard people say that he is not my husband's son because of how light he was which was sad. Not sure how I will feel if my son has other kids making fun of him saying, that is not your dad, etc.

In the US I feel that because of his lighter skin he may not be accepted by aa peers and that he may even have to hear what white people hear from racist people who ASSume that because we are white we wish to hear their racist remarks...

In my husband's country we can be away from all the consumerism messages, pollution, lots of things I don't mind being away from but it is harder for me to make friends.

In America I would be able to make friends more easily. And I wouldn't have to think about dealing with husband's family who has made racist remarks to me in the past. I feel sick to my stomach thinking how they said these things to me while my son was in my arms (baby then), makes me think they will continue to say these things and as he gets older he will understand what they are saying.

I am thinking about homeschooling but otherwise I would consider where he will ge tthe best education.

I think it is important for Mom to have good support so she can be happy and take good care of her family. That is what keeps me from wanting to settle in my husband's country.

Best of luck with your decision. I agree that so much comes down to personality. Just make a GOOD decision and don't worry about making the BEST decision. Children will surprise us at every turn. Also if the situation is turning not good (instead of just speculating that it might) we can always plan with our husbands to change the living arrangements.

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#5 of 10 Old 07-06-2009, 03:05 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for your thoughts, RasJi7....i agree it's also important to think about where dh and i will be comfortable too, because a depressed/frustrated parent can also have a negative impact on kids.

I'm reading "Does Anyone Else Look Like Me?" it's a parent's guide to raising multicultural children. I've also read "What are you?" which is a collection of responses from multicultural teenagers and young adults.

This is just all new territory for me, and it's one place where i feel totally inept as a parent, since i've never dealt with it makes me sad to read about some of the racism that multicultural kids face.

and i know her experience will be completely different in the US than in Kenya - hopefully we will spend some time living in each place - I guess it's an individual thing too - we plan to have more kids, and some of my kids might thrive in kenya, while others in the US.

Loving wife to DH and mama to DD (11/08) and DS (2/12) and expecting another little boy (4/15)
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#6 of 10 Old 07-06-2009, 10:38 PM
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"The US" is not a single homogenus entity with a single veiw of race. I have traveled to many parts of this country and lived in various parts. Attituteds about race vary considerably. Even within a city attitude towards race will vary from neighborhood to neighborhood sometimes.

In the town I live in multi-ethnic families are very common and generally well accepted.

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#7 of 10 Old 07-07-2009, 02:37 PM
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I'ld like to look at it from another p.o.v. - Don't make your daughter's racial identity the focus of your or her preoccupations on how to or where to raise her. I am always reminded of an article I read (after the London Underground bombings) of a guy who when interviewed said (rough quote) "Yes I am Pakistani and I am British, and I am a muslim. But don't lock me into this definition. I am a good father, a loving husband, a mathematician, a golfer, a mean cook, allergic to cats, there a a hundred facets that make me who I am".

If you have the possibility to choose where to live, base it on the overall good of your family. Where will you have the best quality of life (whatever that means to you)? The best supporting network? The best immediate and long-term job prospects? The best educational opportunites? Wherever you raise your child, she will learn what you teach her, she will have opportunities and challenges and she will prosper because you will love her and make her strong.

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#8 of 10 Old 07-09-2009, 09:35 AM
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I agree with the above poster. As sensitive, aware parents we can help our kids with their identity issues wherever they grow up. They will have these issues no matter what.

We're living in Slovenia as expats, and even though the country is very homogeneous (almost all white) and we're also white, our kids still have issues of "who am I?" and "how do I fit in?" That's just life -- there will always be something that sets them apart. If we moved back to the States now their European outlook and tastes would again set them apart from "average" American kids. (We already see the cultural differences when we visit their cousins in the States.)

I think you and your partner should follow your best opportunities for your own career and personal advancement, whether those take you back to Kenya or elsewhere. If you are both happy and fulfilled with your choices you'll be best equipped to assist your dd in her growing up, wherever that may be.

DD1 (Oct 99), DD2 (Sep 02), DD3 (Oct 09)
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#9 of 10 Old 07-17-2009, 02:56 AM
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I agree with the above posters that racial considerations should not be your primary focus when deciding where to live.

In our case (me caucasian and dh Vietnamese) our daughter looks much more Asian than white but fits in much better in the US than in Vietnam. She got a lot of stares and comments living in Vietnam simply because it is so homogenous so she was an anomaly (they knew she was mixed because they saw her with me, if not they would just think she is 100% Vietnamese with dyed brown hair). We are living in a small town in the US now, and even though it is very white bread no one stares at her. I mean, even in the most white of white towns there are still minorities and people are used to it. (At least that is the case in Washington state where we live.) Whereas in even the big cities in Vietnam some people have never seen a white person in real life.

I do think that Asian mixed-race kids generally experience less racism than African mixed-race kids, however, so I'm not sure that our experience will apply to your children or not. But I just wanted to say that looking like all the other kids doesn't necessarily mean your children will feel more at home.
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#10 of 10 Old 07-19-2009, 07:12 AM
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Did you read "Dreams from My Father"? It explores just this dilemma. Even if you're not a Obama supporter, I think you'd benefit from reading about an adult with your child's background.

He kind of gets a taste of what it would have been like if he had grown up in Kenya. He even meets his half brother, who also has a white mother. He didn't meet the other brother because he had died of a drug overdose years earlier. So his dad had mixed-race sons who grew up in both countries.

What I did want to say though is that you should pick your neighborhood carefully. It may not be wise long-term to have your child be the only non-white child in his school, even if the child gets along and isn't teased. It could be difficult on her self-identity.

One girl in my school had a rough time. She was adopted, half white (sorry, I just can't say 'caucasian' since that's not necessarily white and refers to facial features) and half South Asian. If her parents had lived 20 minutes away, she would have been one of many mixed children in her class. I grew up as one of the few Jewish children but at least it wasn't obvious. It still kind of came up and I did get some dumb comments... Where my children are growing up, there are lots of children of different backgrounds and quite a few who are other nationalities and Jewish too.

Nothing wrong with mono-communities and there's no reason your child will face problems. The current Miss France has a AA mother and a French white father. She says she and her brother were the only non-white children in the town and she had a very happy childhood. She probably doesn't relate too well to other AA children but oh well...
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