Hi folks, today I’m guest posting over at an Austin area mom blogger, Missy at Wonder Friend‘s blog. She invites guests and comments to “wonder” about various topics. Head on over, check out my post and feel free to wonder about my topic and all her other wonderments!
Yep, this is my kid. She taught herself how to burp.
I’ve come to realize that I no longer see the world in black and white (and red and yellow…. or really, dark brown, light brown, dark beige and light beige).
I no longer see humans with simply one background, one skin color, one mindset, one reality.
Before Annika was born, I liked to think that I was a huge liberal with an open mind and a love for diversity. And I was.
But it took my mind blooming and morphing, becoming the mother of a biracial child to fully grasp the diversity that I once accepted externally, it is now fully internalized.
Earlier this week, I was talking to Toyin about my last couple of posts and I verbalized something that I had not yet even though I’ve known it for a long time. It was, “I see biracial children.”
I see them everywhere too, with or without their parents. When Annika was a baby, I often felt alone. In playgroups and out shopping, in school, in the library, it seemed that most moms and kids were the same. As proud as I was to be Annika’s mom, I often wished I was able to easily mix into the crowd, without a need for explanation or wondering what other people wondered.
But now, I realize that biracial kids are really everywhere. They are seeping out of the cracks of society. I love to see the older kids, especially girls, because it gives me a window into Annika’s future.
People tend to really notice biracial babies, but as they age, they begin to assume racial roles from one side or the other, based on what their skin color might be.
I think that is changing.
For the past few years, I really see biracial adolescents now. I’m sure I noticed them before, but they were just like any other people whom I shared no common bond with and didn’t understand or empathize with their similarities.
I fully admit that many times, I assumed children were adopted when they may have not been so.
Even after Annika was born, crazy as it sounds, there were a few times when I wondered it, and then chastised myself for assuming anything that was so clearly not obvious, having been through that assumption on the other end myself.
Now, I fully accept that parent/child bond without thinking of it much. It does not matter whether a child is adopted, biracial, or multi-mixed from generations of race mixing.
Last week I met a mom with a child who did not reflect her mother’s ethnicity. I easily recognized her as the mother, and as we spoke, I noticed that they really looked alike even though at first glance, one might not have immediately thought that they were related.
Now when I see biracial kids with their moms of another color, I smile. Because now, when I look at those kids, I see biracial kids. I know, without wondering that the parent with them is their mom or dad because I have finally internalized how to look past the skin color. I notice facial features, hair texture, even the way biracial children hold themselves, in many cases, is different than children who come from non-mixed unions. It is uncanny. They are an entirely different race of humans that we are forming. Outside the boundaries of stereotypes. Outside the boundaries of racial profiling. Outside the boundaries of categorization.
Pretty damn cool.
In my last post I wondered how much Black History Month, which happens every February, will affect Annika’s when she’s old enough to understand the racist history of our country.
It got me to thinking, as I have every February for the past few years, about the history of being biracial. Since becoming pregnant with Annika, the notion of being biracial was something I’ve thought long and hard about.
Toyin told me a few times early on that Annika is simply black, at least, in the eyes of society and the rest of the world. I’m not entirely sure that he really believes that deep down, it’s just one of those things that is ingrained into the mind and society of African Americans.The belief is held based on white history as well. The one drop rule is something whites forced onto blacks during the years of Jim Crow and slavery.
Ironically, the one drop rule has been perpetuated by the black community and accepted by many biracial people. In recent history, they would have been, most likely correct more often than not. I believe that is changing because of people who aren’t afraid to speak out about their inner beliefs.
I came across these videos from The Phil Donahue Show from the 1990s. Eight video clips show light-skinned blacks and biracial people talking about various topics like, “passing” for white, being the victim of unwitting blatant racism, and struggling with the creation of their own identities. Passing is huge part of the biracial person’s history, as is struggling with finding acceptance from both the white and black communities. These videos are very telling, very interesting, and the relative recency of them makes me wonder how much will have changed in another 20 years, when Annika is a young adult.
Speaking about the identity struggle based on race mixing is new, in the historic sense. And it started with people like you’ll see in these videos, not afraid to share their experiences, and demanding the right to choose which culture they felt most comfortable with, no matter what their skin color said about them to other people.
This stuff is a big part of the biracial person’s history. It is a struggle that separates them from both black and white, and at the same time, gives them access to both. Historically, the African American/Caucasian biracial person has struggled with identity in ways that blacks and whites cannot identify with fully.
Here are the first four. You can watch all eight clips here.
It’s Black History Month. Every year around this time (and other times) it brings up my own mental rambling about just how Annika will fit in to the world of African Americans, or more accurately, black Americans whose history includes oppression from their own culture.
For all outward intents and purposes she is a black citizen of the United States of America. She will be/is viewed as black, I suppose.
The irony is that Annika’s black roots do not extend back into the hideously oppressive American history that includes Jim Crow laws/segregation and slavery.
Her father is an immigrant. He has told me in the past that he doesn’t necessarily relate to the black culture of this country, not fully. He is Nigerian first and foremost. He is an American citizen, but he and his family do not hold on to a lot of the American racial injustices of the past. They can relate to it on some levels because of certain stereotypes they have encountered along the way, but they do not hold it in the hearts and bodies the way it is held for many black Americans. Their minds extend back into Nigeria when they view their past.
Since my past does extend into this country’s history, but on the white side, I do not know how much Annika will take to heart the Black History of our country.
Will she relate? Will she feel pressured to relate even when/if she does not?
When Annika was an infant and President Barack Obama was running for office, I read his book, “Dreams from My Father.” He writes about the pressure in college to conform to the world of black oppression, even when he had come from a mostly white world and had barely known his own father, who was Kenyan, and had not lived most of his life in this country.
As I read that, holding my tiny baby, I projected into the future, noting my daughter’s similarities with our would-be president, and wondering if she would feel the same pressures.
I know that our world is different even now, than it was then. And will be even more different when Annika is that age. But I also know that the culture still clings together. Many black friends have shared with me that they feel the need to continue to view the world from the perspective of how someone else views them. It is not something they choose, but is done for self-preservation.
This will not be something Annika learns from me. And Toyin will give her an entirely different viewpoint, from another culture and a skin color that looks the same, but does not relate.
I don’t worry or feel concerned. But I do wonder how I will handle this when/if she feels the pressure to collect and hold the anger and oppression of a culture that, in all reality, is not fully hers. I wonder how much she will relate. Or if she will accept that many will see her one way, but she can choose to show them who she truly is.
I just wonder.
As we go in to February every year, I start to ponder this and I wonder how much I should share with her and when it is appropriate.
I just wonder.