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>>> But who are you? When you look in the mirror, who stares back at you with eyes full of wonder, mystery, and knowledge?

I am a U.S. citizen, middle-aged, white, female, married, able-bodied, well-educated, mother of two young children. I grew up with mixed socio-economic experiences, but these days I'm pretty secure financially and live with that privilege among the others. When I look in the mirror, blue eyes stare back at me.

People always complimented me on those blue eyes when I was growing up. I thought they made me special. But now, several decades down the road, those blue eyes catch me off guard, seem vaguely anachronistic. I spend most of my time with my youngest daughter, who is multiracial. Her skin is brown, her eyes are hazel. I look at her eyes a lot more than my own.

In the last few years I have had to totally rethink my racial/cultural identity. Because of that (and because of a certain self-awareness/honesty that comes with age), I see myself differently these days. I see asymmetries in that mirror I never noticed before. I see that my hair is wavy, not straight. Those old blue eyes still look back at me, but now they blink in mild surprise. They seem strangely ghost-like, both familiar and newly unfamiliar.

>>> If you had to describe yourself, what community, race, or cultural terms would you use?

I think "white" is a fair term for my race identity here in the U.S. I am trying to own that term in the sense that I am trying to be honest about my white privilege and the systems that created and sustain it.

I do not use the term "Caucasian" because I think that its historical origins and meaning/s are at best questionable and outdated, at worst an artifact of European racism. If you're curious, check out the entry in Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caucasian_race.

In terms of my ethnicity, I have ancestors from northern Europe and Scandinavia. Most of my grandparents or great grandparents came to this country late 19th or early 20th century and worked hard to assimilate into Anglo-American culture. They learned the language, and in some cases even switched to more Anglo-sounding names. They were able to assimilate in one generation largely because they were white.

The cultures that they brought with them are mostly lost to my generation, although I suspect fragments survive, even if members of my generation are unaware of these cultural fragments being Swedish or Irish or what-have-you in origin.

In addition to being white, I am also a member of a multiracial family. My daughter is of Caribbean descent, with ancestry that goes back to the British Isles, West Africa, the Iberian penninsula, and (?).

So . . . my short description of my racial identity would be white member of a multiracial family. We are dead serious about embracing our daughter's birth cultures and other cultures/ethnic groups she's likely to identify with (e.g. African American and African diaspora history/culture). We also want to make some headway recovering our European ancestors' lost heritage. Of course actually accomplishing that is much easier said than done, and we are definitely struggling in this area.

>>> When other people or institutions in the community describe you, what racial terms do they give for the complexity of your lived experience? Do you use the same descriptions as others? If not, why do you think there are differences?

I think people perceive me as white, which I am -- I have always lived with white privilege, and always will. That said, I am also a member of a multiracial family, and that adds up to a complex identity.

If people meet me w/o meeting my family, they have no idea that I am highly invested in all kinds of issues from anti-racism to multiculturalism to immigration reform. That I need to think twice about where we vacation, what communities we put our energy into, what schools we choose, and the list goes on.

If people meet me while I'm with my multiracial daughter, they do treat me differently. I suspect if we traveled in certain places we'd meet overt or covert discrimination or worse. Here in our liberal city, people usually don't bat an eyelash at us, but sometimes are overly curious to the point of disrespecting our boundaries.

People can react differently depending on whether I'm alone with my daughter (who, in that context, may appear to be my biological child if one assumes her father is African American), alone with my daughter and son (folks can't figure out if we're one family, if the kids have different dads, or what). If people see all four of us together they usually figure out we're an adoptive family, but not always. Some folks just can't cope until they have an "explanation" for the "mismatch."

People make all kinds of assumptions about me, my husband, and our decision to adopt transracially -- they may, out of ignorance, romanticize adoption on one extreme or vilify it on another. Some assume we are trying to martyr ourselves (ridiculous) or "look cool" (not true) or that we are modern-day colonialists who have misappropriated a child of color (while it's true that the adoption "system" and our racist culture intersect in some ugly and exploitive ways and is in need of reform, having others judge our family is not fair to the complexity of our situation/decisions and those of our daughter's birthparents).
 
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