I am racially Italian-American & African-American. I am a biracial, self-identifying, culturally & ethnically black American woman living in the segregated Midwest. I grew up in Detroit, one of the most segregated cities in America.
I am often mistaken for being Latina-American & one time, white. Outside of the U.S. in countries as varied as Kenya to Switzerland people seem to think I’m Egyptian. My hair style also makes a big difference in racial perception.
My husband is a white American with German Heritage.
—->He is often mistaken, never. When he is with our children, he does not field questions or snide remarks about his or their identity, not ever.
My children are also biracial.
—-> The oldest child has big curly hair like mine but with a texture more similar to whites curly hair (but very thick). He is often mistaken as Jewish or Latino-American almost never correctly identified as having Italian, German or African-American heritage.
—-> The youngest child has straight hair with big waves. He is often mistaken as not-my-child.
We don’t look all THAT different to me. They are 8, 4. In the 8 years I’ve parented them, I’ve learned (mourned) one sad fact: people see them as white. People see me as not-white. When we are together sans my white husband, people don’t see us belonging to one another, which is fine. What is not fine? When comments and remarks are simply over the top, disrespectful and aggressive without concern.
In an effort to understand a racially ambiguous ethnic minority carting around two white children, I become the help, the caretaker, the nanny, even the kidnapper.
In an effort to understand a racially ambiguous ethnic minority carting around two white children, people allow their curiosity about our family to target us in racially charged, albeit un-inentional micro aggressions that hurts both my boys & myself.
My son, 2nd grade. Myself, 2nd grade.
9 Things I Want to Say (But Don’t) To Your Curious yet Racially Charged Microaggressions against Me & My Children
10. Random Stranger: Hola!
Me: We don’t actually speak Spanish. Thank you for attempting to connect to us any old way.
9. Random Stranger: Oh look at his curly hair, can I touch it?
Me: No. Neither of us are here to entertain you.
8. Random stranger: He looks just like his Dad!
Me: Are you saying this because his Dad is white? Actually he looks a lot like me.
7. Random Stranger: They don’t look like you at all! They have NO melanin!
Me: Thanks but no thanks that good-for-nothing racially charged micro-aggression!
6. Random Stranger: Where did you get them from?
Me: My vagina. Crazy thing happened: I pushed them right out of it!
5. Random Stranger: Are they yours?
Me: Nope. I just let these random white kids call me, Mama.
4. Random Stranger: Are they your husbands from a 1st marriage?
Me: I can’t see how that’s any of your business, but yes, I stole them from her while she wasn’t looking.
3. Random Stranger: They look so white!
Me: Thanks but no thanks for that good-for-nothing racially charged micro-aggression!
2. Random Stranger: Are you sad they don’t look very black? I wish they looked more black.
Me: Thanks but no thanks for that good-for-nothing- racially charged micro-aggression!
The #1 MOST offensive and painful microagression is (and I DID say these things)
1. Random Stranger: (Takes Rhys’ hand while he’s 1 ft. in front of me)…let’s go find your Mommy!
Me: “excuse me! That is my son!”
Random stranger: (kneels down) “honey, is THIS your, Mommy?”
Rhys (3 yrs. old): “No, that’s my MAMA.”
Random Stranger: well then, what is her name?
Me: Excuse me! Let go of my son.
Random Stranger: (Turns to Ransom) Honey, is this your Mommy? If so, what is her name?
I. nearly. flipped. my. freaking. lid. Why should I have to deal with a white woman feeling justified to walk off with MY children because she doesn’t believe they are with me? I understand the desire to protect children yet, I found this woman’s behavior to be appalling, confusing and hurtful for my children.
Honorable Mention: When airport security asked me to “surrender my child” over to the authorities until proof of his identity could be established because I had forgotten his birth certificate for the return flight.
What I wanted to say: Surrender these nuts!
What I said: Lock me up. Whatever dude. I am not leaving my 8 mo. old nursing child in an airport “with the authorities” UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, are you people out of your minds?!?! You cannot be serious. You cannot take my child. No. No. No. No. NO. (Clearly, I needed a minute).
How it got resolved: I have a white husband.
For the sake of my precious boys, please don’t let your curiousity get the best of you. Truly, it is none of your business. Not even a smidge. Unless a child is in clear and probable danger we need not police each multi-racial family.
When you come across a family that’s different, remember this: your knowing the exact circumstances of a multi-racial (ethnic or cultural) family story is not worth the potential pain, shame & confusion it will bring on both the parents & children by being a nosy-noserson. You don’t need to know. The end.
These are MY babies. And we are beautiful.
Inspired by these two posts: 21 Racial Microaggressions You Hear on a Daily Basis and 13 Things You Should Never Say To a Woman of Only Sons Who Have Curly Hair