I have already commented on my feelings, as the mother of two biracial children, when facing the tendency to consider all children with some African or African American blood as black. It took me a while to warm up to Obama because of that only, because I felt that by declaring himself black, he somehow rejected his white mother AND white grandparents who raised him. I had to read his book, Dreams from My Father, to understand his search for identity and the way he came to terms with it, himself. And I’ve always liked and admired Tiger Wood’s refusal to be labelled a Black man, considering his diverse heritage, and how he came up with his own word (cablinasian).
This above is the title of a trailer I saw on Facebook, a few days ago (watch the beginning, and then click again on the video to see the interviews.)
Not that the subject comes up that often. We do not live in the US, and even though I often miss it and wish at times I could be back in Park Slope, Brooklyn, I’ve also always felt that it might be better for our daughters to grow up far from all the race issues that are so big over there. Not saying that there aren’t race issues in other countries. Do I wish. But they don’t seem to be as raw, painful and overly present as they are in the US.
Yes, racism is strong in India. The whiter the better. Still, Indians are brown people, which means that my children blend in perfectly, here. Recently, as we waited to hear about our next post, a couple of Latin American countries came up as possibilities, one of them being Argentina, and even though I did not veto it (I have a list of requirements that evolves with time, and our experiences; up till now, it included good internet access, a good school – although, as experienced here, what you see on the Internet or during a first visit of a school is in no way a guarantee that said school will live up to its promises – reasonable supply and security situation, not necessarily in that order) I had growing misgivings about it, and when it turned out that we’re not going there, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Why? Well, Argentina is known to be a country of white people, and as I said to my husband, “If we must live in a society that is more backward than forward when it comes to race issues, I’d rather be in a brown racist society than a white one.”
Anyway, the video and its title stirred some conversation. The documentary film maker, Carolyn Battle’s website, mentions “Private Conversations” as a title for the movie, so not sure how the other one came about – catchier, maybe. No matter, I found it very interesting.
I often wonder about how my children perceive themselves? Do they even think about it? I’m not sure. As mentioned before, here, I always tell them they’re cinnamon in the case of the older one, and toffee brown, for the younger. But they’re very aware of the fact that I’m white, and Dad is Black. The other day, we were at the beach in Goa, and two dogs, a white one, and a black one, were walking together, and my husband took a picture and they ran to show it to me, saying ” this is Mom and Dad.” But do they, or will they, one day, feel that they need to belong to one race or another, as did most of the people interviewed in this trailer? Will they feel rejected by one race or the other and feel they don’t belong anywhere?
One thing is sure, as a white mother of biracial children, I was glad to see this video. It may not be politically correct to say this, but I refuse to subscribe to the “one drop rule.” I’ve said it before and I repeat it here. It has nothing to do with rejecting the black race, and all to do with stating the facts. My children are no more black than they’re white, so why should anyone (including themselves) deny their whiteness? Reminds me of a time when teachers would ask children at the beginning of the school year, in France, whether they were from another country, and I would get up, along with the few other children of immigrant parents, and the teacher would invariable ask me to sit back because “You are French.” It made me so angry. I was and felt as much French as I was and felt Spanish. To me, there was a clear line running down the length of my body, right in the middle, and one part was French, the other Spanish, and telling me that I was French only just because I happened to have the “right” passport felt profoundly wrong. I was only 6 or 7 at the time, so unable to articulate this as clearly as I do it, now, but I vividly remember my feelings.
Children (and adults, too, for that matter) should be allowed to embrace their heritages and diversity in all their fullness, wholeness and richness. No one should feel that they have to cut or ignore parts of who they are just so they can fit into the boxes offered them. And if the need to fit into a box is stronger, then create new and accurate ones that “feel” right, like Tiger Wood.