Mixed Messages for Mixed Families

The Colors of My Family

Everybody and their mother sent me a link to this story in the New York Times about the continuing struggles with acceptance and racism experienced by multiracial families. The stares. The hostility. The questions. Yep, it all comes with the territory.

Coincidentally, the other day, babygirl and I were at the local dollar store, buying paper towel for a dollar, when the chatty cashier leaned over to peek at babygirl. Ms. Chatty Cathy was Black, by the way. So, she leans over, looks at babygirl and exclaims, “Oh, isn’t she as white as snow.” It felt more like an accusation than a random comment and I didn’t have a response for her. And I didn’t really have time to respond because the other cashier quickly ran over to exclaim how beautiful babygirl was. But first she asked, “Is she yours?” I simply smiled and said, ‘yes, the little Snow White baby is mine.’

I left that store and reflected on the incident for exactly one minute. And then I didn’t think about it again. I’m so used to the comments, the questions, and the stares after three babies that all came out pale-faced and straight-haired. But I did pause last night to wonder what it would feel like to have a baby that looked something like me. At least one that had enough melanin that our biological connection would not be questioned. I’ve never had that experience.

But unlike the family in the Times, I think because I was born Black and grew up in a very White environment where I stood out like a Cocoa Puff in a box of Kixx, I’m used to being stared at, questioned, and misunderstood. I’m not saying I like it, I’m just used to it. And my guess is, for White Americans who enter into interracial relationships, it must be shocking to have those multiculti moments thrust upon you after walking incognito through the world. Hmmm…

What about you, dear readers? Do you and/or you and your family get stared at, questioned or even attacked for being a family of many colors? Do you care? How do you respond?

I’m listening.


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7 Thoughts to “Mixed Messages for Mixed Families”

  1. Cyretha

    I read this entry when you posted it. Today I came across a video. Imagine being one in a billion. Have a look. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2XAWcs7HbM&feature=related

  2. My maternal grandmother is not white, but looks as such to many people; one time while shopping, a random woman assumed my twin sister was my grandmother’s “nurse.” No matter that my sister was fifteen at the time and at that age looked closer to twelve. Nevermind that my Grandmother was a loud woman who made it known constantly (and to everyone) that we were her ‘grandbabies.’

    It was quite an embarrassing situation for my sister, because it showed how peoples’ own assumptions about race and ethnicity within families can supersede simple common sense.

    In my own experience, I’ve had more comments made about my paternal side of the family; I had a couple of pictures up of my dad’s family (grandparents, uncles, etc.) and several people commented, “I thought FutureDiplo was black!” and “Are FutureDiplo and her siblings adopted?”

    When I was a teenager, comments like those really bothered me. Now, in my late twenties, I’ve come to understand that it just comes with the territory. I feel people don’t have to understand the intricacies of my family; they just have to educate themselves about human diversity or slowly find themselves out of my company. As a result, most of my friends themselves come from very diverse families and backgrounds. I feel I only have one life to live, and I cannot waste it on peoples’ ignorance. And besides, when I look around, I see most of my 20-something peers in intercultural/interracial relationships; it’s starting to become the norm in my daily life. It’s starting to become not that big of a deal anymore.

    But to be honest, even though I’m not really bothered anymore by all this “racial identity stuff” (maybe because my family is MGM and I basically identify as African American even if some of them do not), I really *do* wonder what it would be like if I had a child that looked very different from me. I think I might get pretty defensive.

    ..and yes, this response is very long! 🙂

    1. Ms. Meltingpot

      Future ,
      Yes your response was long, but I loved every word 🙂 Thank you for sharing. I love this line, ” I feel I only have one life to live, and I cannot waste it on peoples’ ignorance.”

      Rock that attitude and you will go far!

  3. Soy yo

    I have some kind of fascination with who looks like who. I am always trying to figure out just who my husband looks like of his parents, and who his brother looks like, since they look so different.

    My son looks nothing like me but I know at least a few traits he got from my side for sure. I guess there might be something to that primal instinct to look for yourself in a child but most of us aren’t obsessed, hopefully.

    I still like to contemplate who my daughter looks like but she is only 4 months old. I am pretty sure she has Dh’s eyes and my reddish tint to her hair, but I’m not sure about the rest. I don’t mind though, it’s just a fascination. I’m expecting another already and can’t wait to see what this one looks like!

    1. Ms. Meltingpot

      Soy Yo,
      First of all, congrats on all the babies! Second, el esposo and I used to joke that we’d love to keep having kids just to see all of the different combinations/variations of skin tone and hair textures we could make. It is fascinating. Even for those of us right in the mix. (Pun intended)

  4. Ms. Meltingpot

    Thanks for sharing your story. It always amazes me how many ways people can feel ‘different,’ or be made to feel different. In that way, we are more alike than we think. And as for wanting to look like our offspring, at the end of the day, I think we just want healthy happy children, but I do believe there is something almost primitive or instinctual that makes us search for ourselves in our kids. But a kid who doesn’t look like mom or dad isn’t loved any less. At least not in our house 🙂

  5. Wendy

    I am white, but I also stood out. I had braces on my legs a large share of my childhood. My daughter looks nothing like me. This doesn’t bother me either. Her resemblance to me has nothing to do with my role has her mother. There is way too much emphasis on this. I wonder why the importance?! Does it feed into our ego? Do we need to feel like we belong to our child? Does it grant the right to parent our child?

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