My Kids Are Multi-Racial. Theyâ€™re Not A Social Experiment
When I met my husband several years ago at a renowned Toronto design firm, neither of us was looking to fall in love with a person of a different race. My background is Jamaican/Nigerian, courtesy of a mother and father, respectively, who themselves are also multi-racial. My mother is mixed with Cherokee Indian â€“ a fact I discovered one summer when I took note of the interesting shade of burnt red her skin seemed to turn under the hot Toronto sun â€“ and my father is a fair-skinned African man with visible freckles. My husband is Singaporean Chinese and affectionately refers to himself as â€œTropical Chinese.â€ His mother â€œlooksâ€ traditional Chinese and, interestingly, his father does not.
In the beginning, my then boyfriend and I never really discussed race (go figure!). You might call us naive, but neither did we discuss the â€œimplicationsâ€ of bringing multi-racial children into the world. He made some mention of us both belonging to â€œgreat civilizationsâ€ but that was the extent of our desire to place any historical significance on our relationship.
Previously, both of us had dated â€œoutside of our raceâ€ â€“Â the clinical term folks have ascribed to such provocative couplings â€“Â but we certainly did not seek one another out hoping to prove or disprove any preconceived notions or assumptions about each otherâ€™s race. For us, it just wasnâ€™t that significant. Curiously, though, for others not in a similar situation, we and our children seem to hold great fascination. To that end, Iâ€™ve compiled a very short list of â€œpolitically correct tipsâ€ to adhere to when and if you happen to clap eyes on the so-called freak show that is people like us. (Note: This list is not exhaustive, nor is it comprehensive, nor representative. I do not presume to speak for all, nor some interracial couples and/or children).
Tip #1: The Politics of Staring
When â€œconfrontedâ€ by a racially-mixed couple, donâ€™t stare, look away, whisper and then stare again. Not only is it rude but guess what? We are not a social experiment. We are people, too. Your hard stare implies that we are some freakish anomaly, when really weâ€™re not. Weâ€™re actually more common than you might think. And besides, this isnâ€™t the 60s, so get over yourself. This might also come as a complete surprise, but our being together is of no greater consequence than, say, your being with the person with whom you choose to sleep. I know, I know, itâ€™s likely that we are your first â€œChiNegroâ€ mixed-race sighting, but trust me, we did not get together for the sole purpose of freaking you out, or to make a â€œpost-racialâ€ political statement; nor is it our mission in life to take you kicking and screaming outside of your comfort one. Our love is just as genuine as yours, or maybe itâ€™s not, but that doesnâ€™t make our relationship a forum for your â€œquirkyâ€ questions and queries.
However, if you are genuinely curious about what brought us together, you might ask something along the lines of, â€œSo, how did you two meet?â€ Itâ€™s straightforward enough, simple and inoffensive.
Tip #2: Your Ideas About Conquering The Other Are Sometimes Completely Unfounded
Perhaps one of the biggest misconceptions about dating someone from another race is that somehow one or both of you has a deep-seated desire to conquer The Other. This may be true in some cases but, generally speaking, relationships built on a set of superficial (stereotypical) assumptions generally donâ€™t go anywhere productive. One might decide that getting oneâ€™s â€œfreak-onâ€ in hopes of overcoming/conquering a stereotype is a good way to overcome feelings of superiority or inferiority, but itâ€™s not. Truthfully, itâ€™s a bit of a burden to suggest that one individual should be required to represent an entire racial class, much less fall victim to the notion that â€œweâ€ are a heaving, breathing single formed entity representing an entire species. I mean, imagine the responsibility to have to act/speak for all the people in your racial class! Daunting, non? In other words, donâ€™t ever say, â€œIs it true what they say about [insert appropriate ethnicity here]?â€
Tip #3: My Baby Daddy Is None of Your Business
I believe that all children are incredible human beings and we have a lot to learn from them. That said, children of mixed-race heritage are no more or less â€œspecialâ€ than children who are the offspring of parents of the same race. Mixed-race children often appear unique looking, but only because theyâ€™re comprised of a blend of races, duh. The â€œbeauty,â€ if you will, of mixed-race couplings is that you literally never know what your children will look like until they arrive, bald-headed and glassy-eyed, into the world. Some may have features that represent one side of their mixed-race heritage, some may have features representing both sides, some children may even look like a hybrid unto themselves! As a result, siblings may look strikingly different from one another. (Mine do).
To that end, never, ever ask someone, â€œDo they have the same father?â€ This is one of those shockingly aggressive personal questions that had you paused a moment to consider the temerity of the question, you wouldnâ€™t ask it. Iâ€™ve been asked this question on several occasions, and yet rather than being offended, Iâ€™ve launched into a full-throttle explanation on the finer points of genetics and biology. Iâ€™m easy like that.
Tip #4: Not All Non-White Folks Are Employed To Take Care of Other Peopleâ€™s Children
Never, ever assume that a child who may or may not look like her mother doesnâ€™t belong to her. Non-white people arenâ€™t always The Nanny. When you ask, â€œIs she yours?â€ youâ€™re setting yourself and everyone involved up for an awkward moment. The world is now diverse enough, thank you very much, that no one will take offence if you assume that a fair-skinned child just might belong to the different-colored mother attached to her arm. Hell, you might even appear enlightened! Now, if youâ€™re still confused about whether or not itâ€™s appropriate to speculate on my childâ€™s lineage, please see Tip #3 for further clarification.
Tip #5: Multi-Racial Couples Do Not Think They Are Better Or Worse (Off) Than You
No, I donâ€™t hate myself, and I donâ€™t hate you. In the African American community (and perhaps other communities, too?), there is a rampant assumption that if/when Black people choose to date someone outside their race it is because of deep-seated self-loathing and other negative-based pathologies. There is also the familiar refrain that one is â€œselling out.â€ Having been born, raised and living in Canada as I do, these sentiments are not altogether lost on me, but I will say that perhaps Canadians are a bit more accepting of other cultures. In fact, Toronto is one of the most racially-diverse and multi-cultural cities in the world.
Thereâ€™s no denying that institutionalized racism and colorism are powerful isms that work on many levels. Still, it will never be cool to launch into a hateful missive about what kind of person you may think interracial couples are based on whom we choose to love.
So, thatâ€™s it for now. I really donâ€™t spend too much time ruminating on why you might need to accept my personal choices, but if you do have any questions, comments, or PC Tips of your own, Iâ€™m happy to listen and share. Let the mud-slinging begin! Just kidding.