Being the White Mother of Bi-Racial Children

5 years ago

Being an inter-cultural, bi-racial or multi-anything parent is kind of like standing on platform 9 3/4.

Everyone else is going by, jumping on trains, engrossed in their coherent lives, shielded by their own communities, realities and conflicts. People who don't live on the border don't know it's there.

My children are half brown and half white. (Actually, they are half Bangladeshi, half American-Canadian, but that complex identity is a little more detail than most people can handle on first pass, I promise).

You see, there is a cohesive brown reality: otherness, relatively recent immigration, the participation in pocket communities, ethnic food, dance, dress and the knowledge that on a daily basis, you are probably going to be treated as foreign, here. This means that you are prepared for the fact that if you children are unruly in the grocery store, or if you make a driving mistake, people will most likely glare at you and say things about "those people" under their breath.

And there's a cohesive white reality [Warning: this link contains explicit/vulgar language]: being a member of the majority, privilege, the participation in culturally normative practices, and the inherent, almost always taken-for-granted knowledge that on a daily basis, you are probably not going to have to engage with oppression or prejudice. This means that if you do something extremely rude you aren't going to get glared at. For example, if you double park on a busy street to unload your groceries, people will generally be polite and kind in response, rather than ascribing your selfish behavior as a characteristic of 'your people.'

Sure, one of these groups has more privilege than the other. But both groups know what to expect on a daily basis.

Being an interracial parent is complicated. It often means being mistakenly put in one group or the other. For me, as the white parent, it means being automatically implicated in racist speech in the grocery store line, and knowing that if I don't speak up, it harms my children in a very real way. It means having to switch pediatric clinics because an old-school doctor makes a joke about the color of my childrens' skin. It means losing friends because even after a year, some can't seem to bring themselves to acknowledge or speak my babies' ethnic names. It means living life as a true anti-racism ally, all the time.

Being the brown parent is hard, too. For T, it means navigating his sons' often clashing identities. It means engaging with the post-colonial scars of his community and making his children feel that both the white part and the brown part of them is good, pure, perfect and important.

Being interracial parents means: cricket and fly-fishing, spaghetti dinners and biryani, the cabin and the celebration of Bangladeshi independence. It means being thoughtful and dynamic and ahead of the rhetoric, all the time. It means that I have to provide my children with a positive understanding of whiteness and brownness living together in harmony.

And believe me, that can be a very lonely place. And people can be very thoughtless on both platforms 9 and 10, if you know what I mean.

Are you an inter-multi-parent? Who is standing on this platform, too? I truly need to know. It would be nice to have some friends 'like me.'



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