Parenting a mixed (white + black) child in American, 2018 ///
Parenting a mixed child
Ok, she’s mixed but saying white and black is an over-simplification. She’s actually Irish, German, and Lebanese on her mom’s side. West African – not certain from which countries (a topic for another day), British, Scandinavian, and some other European variants on her dad’s side.
To simplify this we say white and black, apparently.
Thankfully as I write this our daughter is very young and injustice and racism will die before long before she’s of age.
Those of you with children know parenting is hard and only going to get harder for us. I find myself wondering how to talk to her about all of the difficulties that life can present. One of the main concerns is how or what to tell her about being black In America
Lies of adults and parents
I’ve never been happy with how little adults told me as a child. Often assuming I was unable to comprehend. I saw much and asked more. The replies were often lacking. More on this in a future blog. Yes, I realize I say this a lot. I’m attempting to stay on topic.
I know many white parents say nothing of skin color, race, or effects of society on their children. Most black parents especially those of young black men feel obligated to tell (more like warn) and prepare these young men for the tough road ahead. Which is right? Can they both be right?
My role as a parent
I think of my job as a parent as two-fold:
1) Keep her safe
2) Prepare her
Overly simplistic? Perhaps.
The question now is how to keep her safe and prepare her for the ways being black will affect her? I do make a point to say black. She’s mixed and will likely have fair skin. That said, having any percentage of black makes you black generally speaking. This matters because she’ll be seen one way but may identify another. In the end, it’s really her choice. Also because being perceived as black is rarely helpful. It’s very odd and hard to explain. It doesn’t always hurt and it rarely helps. Make sense?
Currently, I’m of two minds and not sure which way to go:
1) Preserve innocence and reactively address on a case-by-case basis as things happen or she asks questions
2) Actively prepare her
Her ability to comprehend would play into the discussion around either of these scenarios.
Upside / Downside <The Upside-down!?>
Both of these have upsides and downsides.
Preserves her ability to be a child and focus on imagination and creating without the stressors of what is and could be. On the other side of that coin… if I was her coach and I never showed her what would be coming at her… would I be giving her a chance? Or would I be a terrible coach?
Offensive parenting, the name I’ll give it for now. Letting her know what’s likely to come at her for being a woman and mixed. Then, game plan with her and give her the tools when necessary should things arise. Upside, she’ll know and when slurs or unreasonable scenarios are thrown her way she’ll be more prepared (possibly?). Can you prepare for such an occasion? Is it better to be prepared than to go in blind? Downside she could internalize the stress and have detrimental effects on her being.
This will obviously be a joint parenting call and I’m just dumping things from my brain to this keyboard in hopes that it’ll help me sort my thoughts. I share here because it’s pertinent to much of what More In Common is about and I know other parents are having the same thoughts and conversations.
Parenting, It’s confusing. Everyone has an opinion on how to do it and yet there is no one answer.
(can we say… future blog post topic?!)
This matter is both confusing and frustrating. Firstly, I shouldn’t have to even consider whether I need to warn my daughter about being a mixed woman in this world. She should be able to focus on all the important things like Moana, Frozen, Lego Movies, tea parties, Star Wars, Harry Potter, you know all the goodness that there is to behold being a child.
Make no mistake, she’ll absolutely enjoy those things.
Then if you look above at how I see my role as a parent, I have to think about her safety and prep her for a day when pops isn’t around. I’m already eyeing Brazilian-Jujitsu and Krav Maga classes so my little princess will be able to handle herself.
How’s any of this affected my life?
In case you missed it up top I’m mixed too. Most of us are but again we simplify to make things easier.
It was important for me to know that I’m seen differently and thus tread my path differently. I’m not sure if my parents decided on a plan or talked about this, I really should ask them. They both shared stories from their lives from time to time and commented as things came up. They didn’t have an overly pessimistic view. They were more like this is the way it is. They shared tips that helped them avoid as many issues as possible and that, was that.
I never saw it as something that would hold me back, because I’m special. Of course, I kid, kind-of, I’ve always felt confident that it didn’t matter if my skin was brown or that I was (and still am) short. Unfortunately, it’s not always been true. Mindset doesn’t prevent ridiculousness from occurring when others are concerned, sadly.
I’ve felt passionate about helping people that are marginalized based on looks or perception for a long time. Which is why this endeavor means so much to me. Add a child to my life and it’s not so much that it’s amplified my passion. Rather it’s attuned my focus to the things I deem most worthy.
I have no idea how we’ll raise her. Hell, it changes daily. I know that I will stay true to my purpose as a father.
I’d love to know what other options you come up with. I’m sure the two I came up with is far from everything.
Yes. This is me crowd-sourcing parenting ideas from a blog post. If I haven’t yet said it, I’ll say it now – I don’t have much shame. So, hit me up.
Comment here, email me, or call me and let me know what you think.