I was in middle school before I realized something was different about my family. My peers began asking me why my mom was a different color than I was, something that I’d just assumed was normal because it was my normal. I wasn’t prepared to talk about my race. After all, weren’t we all the same?
Race wasn’t something we talked about in my house when I was growing up. This is true in many households, especially those of white parents. Because of the widely held assumption that white people are raceless, or neutral, many white people assume that racism is over because they aren’t experiencing it, and therefore, why talk about race at all?
It wasn’t until I was older that I brought up race to my mother. It took many uncomfortable dinner table conversations and phone calls for us to experience that moment where everything clicked. It wasn’t that she’d actively thought that I was making things up, but passively, she’d had the reaction to my reality that many white people have. She didn’t want to believe it was true, so she didn’t.
Now, my mom and I talk about race. And it seems like a whole lot more white parents of mixed kids need to be having these conversations.
But what do white parents need to know going in?
Every parent thinks their kid is the most special little being on the planet, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But when it comes to mixed children, the word “exotic” tends to come up. Your child is beautiful, but not because they’re mixed, and when you say that your child’s racial identity makes them better than all other children, your child learns that their entire value rests on their race. It doesn’t make us proud. It makes us feel like rare birds or furniture instead of people.
People love to say that one day everyone will be mixed, and then racism will end. But this is totally wrong. One, not all mixed kids look the same. Some are blond, some are brunette, some have really dark skin, some are practically translucent… the list goes on. Two, the issue isn’t that people are different. The issue is that we raise one identity up, and smash all others down. That’s our fault, not our skins'.
Older generations were largely raised on the idea that talking about race causes racism, so if we just act like everyone is the same, it goes away. But, unfortunately, it isn’t that easy. White moms: Your kids are going to have different experiences than you because of their race. It hurts to hear it, but it’s true. And it isn’t always a bad thing! But when you seek to silence conversations around race in your household, you’re erasing difference between you and your kids, and you’re suffocating their identities.
Let’s keep this one short. Yes, you absolutely can be racist. Dating, sleeping with, marrying or giving birth to a person of a different race than you doesn’t absolve you of racism. Plus, you definitely shouldn’t have mixed kids if you’re using them as a get-out-of-racism-free card.
The time may come when you’re sitting at the dinner table with your children and they’re talking about experiences that have never even occurred to you, like Driving While Black or Brown or the sometimes fragile sense of identity that can come with being mixed. You may want to help, but have no idea how to contribute. It’s hard. You want to guide your kids, but this is a space that you might not have a lot of knowledge about. But it’s OK. Sometimes, the best thing to do is listen. You may be surprised by what you learn from the sweet little beings you brought into the world.
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