Actress and author Diane Farr talks about raising a biracial family
In her newly released book, Kissing Outside the Lines, actress and writer Diane Farr (Californication, Rescue Me, Numb3rs) offers a witty and heartfelt look at the impact others — even family and friends — can have on an interracial relationship.
Diane Farr is a Caucasian woman who fell in love with and married a Korean-American man. Like many others in biracial and multiracial families, Farr sometimes encounters discrimination, hurtful comments and prying questions. We had the opportunity to talk to Farr about some of the challenges her family has faced.
Dealing with discrimination
Discrimination comes in many forms and from people young and old. In Farr's case, it's primary the older generation that has taken issue with her relationship.
"The only discrimination I have found as a Caucasian woman married to a Korean man, is from Korean people," explains Farr. "I am mixing race and culture here because it's not all Asian people who look twice at our union, it is strictly the Korean immigrants and, generally older, Korean-Americans. This was particularly sad to me — and worrisome — as I planned to have my children. After years of witnessing this, I have come to the conclusion this is more about people who have left their homeland and fear its culture will die — if the next generation does not marry within it. This is still sad, but much easier to handle than straight-up racism — perhaps because it is very easy for me to see that it really has nothing to do with me. This is true of all people who feel victimized by a racist or narrow-minded act but still crappy, nonetheless."
Raising biracial kids
Most kids struggle to fit in with their peers at some point in their lives. However, mixed kids are often presented with even more challenges.
"I think up to age 20, all kids want to fit in, and if Mom and Dad made choices that make them different — that brings up unique emotional challenges for the entire family," Farr says. "Having evolved, progressive and open hearts is one thing in the privacy of your living room, but when it is written across your face and that of every member of your family, there is no getting away from it. Mixed couples and mixed children are often asked to be a spokesperson for beliefs that are emotional and private for everyone. And even more sadly, they are asked to choose how to identify — which is an enormous exercise in progress and patience for all involved."
Ignorance vs. hate
Sometimes the comments and questions from others stem from ignorance more than anything else. Farr tries not to be insulted or angry, and instead addresses each situation very carefully.
"I react very slowly, and measured, because I think people more often say hurtful things out of ignorance than hate," Farr explains. "A true white supremacist, for example, would never address me or my children because they believe they already know everything about me. But when someone asks me where my kids are from or what my kids 'are,' I carefully try to answer their question so they are less confused by the world we live in and might even grow to admire it. With this mindset, I have yet to be insulted by even the most ridiculous question. But my children are young, so time will tell if this theory works for the long haul."
Teaching children about their ancestry is important. While some families choose to put the emphasis on the things that define and separate the different cultures in their family history, Farr is taking a different approach.
"I am trying a completely different tactic with my kids, which we will have to check in about in ten to 20 years and see how it all worked," she says. "I tell my kids that they are American. My husband and I spend a significant amount of time defining this and giving a view of the world from it. We call the Korean aspects of our house (food, mostly, but also some language and habits) part of our family culture and also part of the American culture. Same goes for the Irish and Italian traditions we follow from my family of origin as well as all the religious holidays we celebrate. We call all of this our American culture because I feel that, in general, many Americans spend so much time defining themselves by where their ancestors came from, or what they believe spiritually, that we miss the rich American culture that is right in front of us. I'm trying to cultivate that one."
Farr hopes, like many of us do, that we can continue to learn from each other and move past any preconceived ideas about mixed marriages and multiracial families.
"I found that, for me, talking about and then writing my book about the prejudices I faced from the people my husband and I love most, allowed me to see where their thoughts ended and mine began. I stand by all of my thoughts even more so from it, because I was more sure of them by the process of examining them. Today I'm happy to share the story of my family with any confused or doubting person because my confidence in my choices informs my children's confidence. It's easier said than done, but I strive to define race in America by looking forward to what we are becoming, not solely by studying the antiquated and hurtful history that is behind us."