Wednesday, May 27, 2015
3 Things White Parents of Mixed Race Children Should Know
The reason for this post is that I have received many emails and direct messages from mostly white mothers and fathers asking an array of great questions. I will do my best to address those concerns in a limited blog. For those who are wondering, I am a mixed race woman, who also has mixed race children.
What's in a name?
Many white women have asked me, what is the big deal with the name of a child of mixed race? There seems to be an uproar no matter what the child is named. Here is a starting point. Don't go uber-ethnic. A part black child does not have to have a name that ends in -esha. A part Mexican child need not be named Raquel or Maria or Lourdes. Also, do your best to refrain from names that call attention to their race. Children named Mariah and Aaliyah are branded, sight unseen, as a mixed race child with a white parent. You don't want your child to be defined by their race so don't choose their names based on it. And, for the love of all things holy, refrain from names like Cinnamon, Honey, or any other names that use food to refer to your child's skin color. Follow the majority of the population and name your child something that has meaning to you, after a family member, song, something from a baby name book etc.
Must every Asian child be given the "China doll" haircut? Must every black child have braids? I have always preferred to wait until the child is at least in first grade before cutting the hair into a style. By this point the child has developed a preference and may have demonstrated a preference for bangs, braids, buns etc. There are some cultural factors that must be considered. Haircuts go against the cultural norm of black, Hispanic, Indian, and Native American households. There are exceptions, typically pertaining to boys. If your child is any one of the aforementioned races, do all you can to refrain from cutting their hair until they are old enough to tell you what they prefer. Always remember that hair is an important part of cultural identity. A long-haired Native American boy is presumed to be living a traditional lifestyle. A black female child who's curly hair is dry and has been cut off sends the signal that they are raised by a non-black parent who is out of touch with black culture, or was too lazy to learn how to do their child's hair. A study once proved that cutting the hair of an Indian, black, or Native American child can cause emotional trauma. No matter the race, the care of your child's hair should be less about your convenience and more about their identity. Don't be afraid to hunt down a black salon or to converse with the parents of another child that is the same race as your own. One of the most notable lessons I have learned from my followers is that men are more open to learning how to care for their child's hair than women. A man will take classes and do whatever is necessary to learn whereas a woman will simply cut the hair off. Part of the reason is men are expected not to know how to do hair in the first place thus making the learning experience positive and pressure-free. Women are expected to know how to do hair already, adding tremendous pressure and fear of failure to the learning experience.
It is a part of human nature to assimilate. In an effort to ensure our survival we attempt to become one with or associate with a group so that we are not isolated. If your child is mixed race but does not appear to be a different race than you, you are less likely to experience identity issues related to race. People will accept that this is your child and race will rarely become a topic around them. This does however, uncover racist undertones in your friends and family. If people think that everyone in their group is the same race, they feel comfortable enough to say stereotypical or bigoted things about some other race. If your child is a part of that race, you will have an issue. If your mixed race child is visibly a different race than you, you almost certainly will have racial identity issues to resolve. People are rude. They will say things to and about your child's hair, skin and race. As with any child being criticized and evaluated can lead to complexes. Even though you are racially indifferent or tolerant, and do all that you can to pass on your child's culture and history as thoroughly as possible, they will still develop a racial identity complex. In that quest to fit in, the child may try to change their hair, skin, accent, behavior to fit in with another race. If most of your circle is white, your half Mexican child may go above and beyond to behave like a stereotypical Mexican. On the other hand your child might also go above and beyond to deny their Mexican heritage.
Take Mariah Carey as an example. For decades she denied her father because she felt she would be more accepted in mainstream music by becoming racially ambiguous. Vin Diesel also chooses to be racially ambiguous to increase the number of acting roles for which he can be considered. Halle Berry goes out of her way to remind us all that she is African American. She rarely refers to herself as a woman. She always stresses that she is an African American woman. Her mother, who raised her, is white. She had a daughter with a white man. The moment he dyed and cut his daughter's hair she shouted racism. She took him to custody court accusing him of trying to cover up the fact that her daughter is African American. In doing so, she completely negated his rights to pass on his own heritage to his own daughter who is only 1/4 African American. Even without the change in her appearance, the child appears to be white rather than black or mixed race. She is very young, but may already be choosing to identify more with her father's race rather than her mother's. Consider that her maternal grandmother, stepfather, father, and paternal grandparents are all white. She now lives in France with her mother and stepfather. She is surrounded by white culture. It is highly probable that she is choosing to identify with the race with which she is most familiar. Having a mother with a racial complex could be counterproductive. She has gone out of her way to declare on behalf of her daughter, that she too is African American and that will be her identity. This overcompensation is another sign that Halle Berry had racial identity issues growing up.
There is nothing you can do to prevent overcompensation or assimilation, as you cannot control the actions or comments of every person who comes in contact with her child. You can however, pay close attention to how your child is feeling. If your circle of friends makes your child uncomfortable, find out the reason. You may be oblivious to the insensitivities of others. Supplement your child's education. If your child is Native American and there is no mention of your child's tribe in their school books, teach them. Connect your child with those who can provide cultural support. Don't take offense if your child feels more at home with one race of people than another. This doesn't change their love for you. Just remember to provide your child with unbiased information and above all, provide unconditional love.
Posted by The Red Housewife