I’ve been guilty of procrastinating an awful lot, lately. I have a good excuse, mind you. The number of interesting blogs out there is simply mind blogging, euh, no, boggling. Anyway, I came across an interesting new one – for me – titled My Sky – Multiracial Family Life
Of course, the question raised was bound to hold my interest: how important is racial identity?
I could not help but add a comment, and as I wrote it, I realized, once more, the extraordinary magnitude and complexity of the issue: are white people as aware as they should be of the need to actively fight racism?
Actually, having now lived in India for a while, with a Black husband who’s had to deal with the blatant racism of people barely darker than he is, I wish I could widen the debate, because the white/non-white approach seems to reduce it. But of course, that would make things even more confusing… as if they weren’t already.
There was an interesting conversation on the same topic on Alvina Ling’s blog, last year.
My interest in the issue is two-fold. First, I can’t imagine not fighting racism for simple human reasons. Racism is NOT acceptable, period. The fact that I married someone from a different race had basically no incidence on that statement. I was always shocked by racism. Did marrying a black person make me more aware of racism in general ? Frankly, I’m not sure. We met in New York, ten years ago, and lived in Park Slope, Brooklyn, which was home to a wonderfully diverse population of artists, mixed-race couples, same-sex couples, etc, etc. Whenever we went to France, I never felt that people were bothered or shocked to see us together – now, I’m NOT saying that France has no problems of racism, far from it. But, again, I never felt directly concerned or threatened by any particular racist attitude towards us. My take on the issue was basically that racism must be fought at all costs, and that means racism coming from anyone. I read books about that because I’m curious. And that was it. But then, of course, I realized that if we were to have children, I would have to think long and hard about how being bi-racial might affect them. I’m the type who searches for answers in books. I always have. I have dozens of books on races, racism, color issues, and raising bi-racial children, on my shelves. And so, I started approaching the issue a bit differently: as the mother of children who may suffer from racism, some day.
This is where things become far more complicated. Because it’s very, very hard to get out of one’s white skin. Even when that white skin belongs to a person whose natural inclination is too denounce and cry in outrage against any form of injustice, and racism is one of the worst forms of injustice there is, it is extremely difficult to view the world through eyes that are not coloured by our whiteness. It takes an active decision. It is a conscious choice. And even then, we’ll need to fight a natural tendency to overlook things, to maybe shrug and overlook a situation that we’ll think is borderline, but that the person who is not white will judge hurtful or unacceptable.
But as a mother, I want to protect my children. Of course, I want to prepare them for the times they might have to fight prejudice. But I don’t want to traumatize them with heart-breaking stories of slavery and inhuman suffering. Not before they are a little older, a little stronger. I do realize that avoiding an issue in hopes that it will not present itself is not a good option. I have read to them all the books I could find about diversity, about the beauty of living in a world with children of different colors. I tell them frequently that their skin color is gorgeous. When I comb their hair, I tell them how I love all those lovely curls. And I suppose that the fact that we live outside of the US, in an expatriate and multicultural community, also makes it easier for us. And yet, when I read posts like the aforementioned one, I can’t help but wonder if I’m doing enough.
Time shall tell, I suppose. My second-grader asks more and more questions, and probably, questions about race will soon pop up, and I’ll know the time has come to tackle that issue. But, frankly, I’m in no hurry. And I don’t know if it’s because I’m a mother who’d rather avoid painful, difficult issues, or because I’m a white mother who’d rather avoid painful, difficult issues.