Being able to gauge how open minded a person or group of people is easy, just go with your seemingly white family out in public. Having come from an interracial background (read more about that here, read what About.com thinks about it here), I have gotten used to the stares and occasional whispers (yes, it's 2012 and there are still occasional whispers), but it doesn't mean I like them, especially in relation to my family.
The dilemma I've been having in my mind is how to raise my kiddo in such a way that she understands and is proud of all (she is a quarter African-American you know. with some Native American, French, Scottish, German...) of her cultural heritages and is still true to herself, whatever and whoever that 'self' might be.
A couple of weeks ago we had a conversation that went something like this:
To set the scene I had just picked her up from daycare and had put her in the car. They'd been learning a color each week for that month; that week's color was brown. I was buckling up the car-seat.This conversation, of course, had me in a panic. On the one hand (living in and coming from a rural area in Missouri) I understand that looking white (I mean flip she has blue eyes--as does her father and my mother--and I've read enough literature and watched enough movies to know what that means) makes her life easier and I want her life to be easier, but I don't want to go all Halle Berry on her either (read here and here) and have her choose a race (every time Halle talks about being a black, I wonder how her white mother, the person who raised her feels, and I wonder how the white father of her daughter feels). To be honest, at times I've chosen race, especially for scholarship purposes and I told a teacher one time that if people felt they had to give a scholarship to someone just for being diverse and then tell that someone that all she had to do was keep a 2.5 GPA to keep said scholarship I'd take it and not complain--ugh, I still believe this, as colleges still give out Multicultural and Minority scholarships. However, I believe choosing a race neglects part of who you are (we can talk about why I think that later, I don't really want to go into it right now, it's been a 35 year process and I'm still processing) and, I love that questionnaires and tests and such now allow you to circle more than one or fill in whatever you think...whatever you think, isn't that refreshing? Annnnnnndddddd, I do want her life to be easier...
"Mommy, your arm is brown and your face is brown."
"Yes, I'm brown all over."
"What color am I?"
"What color do you think you are?"
"Um...(and, I could tell she was thinking really hard, she's 2 and almost a half)...uh, I don't know."
"What color is Daddy?"
"What color are you?" *more thinking* "Are you white and brown?"
"I'm white and brown."
"And, so am I."
"Oh, that's really cool." ('really cool' has been her phrase of late)
We drove home.
So, I found this list of books and bought a few, I watched a TV show on PBS--wish I could remember what it was--about teaching biracial children about their heritage and they talked about family trees and this interracial couple was talking about how and what they teach their children about their heritage using photo albums and family trees and then on the internet I found so many good family tree post! I can't wait to try out one or two with the tiny person. I don't want her to have to spend 35 years trying to figure it out and I don't want her to ever have to choose sides.
Build Your Family Tree from Family Tree magazine
Genealogy for Kids at Kids Central
Free "Family Tree" Template
Themes for Preschoolers about Family Trees
A Family Tree of Hands
Isn't it cool? I believe every kid (aren't we all of mixed heritage?) should know about their heritage and cultural background.