August 22, 2014

on having and raising children in a beautiful multiracial family

With all of the current events bringing race to the forefront of our consciousness as a country lately, I've been inundated with so many emotions I've never really known how to deal with or how to express. My husband and I have had our fair share of issues to overcome being in an interracial relationship and marriage. However, I feel like we've been sheltered in a way from how negative the world can really be. As events in Ferguson and around the country escalate and I find myself confused and afraid for what we haven't experienced yet as an interracial family and what lies ahead for our little tan skinned boys. 

Chikezie and I met in college at Iowa, not exactly where you'd expect to see buddings of many interracial families. Although we went through a few uncomfortable situations or garnered more stares than any other average couple, to me it never really felt like us being together was a big deal. To me, he's always been just Chikezie. Yes, he's a black man, but I just don't really think about it. We've been together for so long it just doesn't even register to me what other people think about us. He's my husband, I'm his wife, we're just different colors; like any other couple with different colored hair or eyes.  
When the boys were in my belly I'd often wonder how dark or light their skin would be. Maybe they'd both be different shades. Would their hair be light or dark? And their eyes? Probably brown like ours. We chose to give them both two middle names. One representing their Nigerian heritage and one passed down from an uncle on both sides of the family. We wanted them to always be proud of the mix of cultures they represented. One thing was for sure, how they would experience their lives from a racial standpoint, would be nothing like how we experienced our lives. They wouldn't be white or black, they'd experience their lives as biracial men. How do you prepare your children for something you've never experienced?

In their 4 short years of life I've had a few situations that really opened my eyes to what other people see when they look at my babies and me. I'm almost always asked by strangers if the boys are mine. Shortly after I'm asked in a round about way what color their dad is. I kid you not, this is almost every time someone stops me to talk because of the boys. You know, because it really matters to a stranger what race this child is that they're looking at. I try to take it in stride and not get ruffled by their somewhat offensive curiosity. Once in a check out line at Target a woman straight up told me my kids didn't look like mine, they looked Mexican. (I then told her the race of my children was none of her business and that she should be ashamed of herself. And I was applauded by the people in line behind me.) I don't get so angry now because I can protect the boys from this. They don't understand yet and I can shield them from others' insensitivity. 
As they get older and this issue of race starts to bubble to the surface again, I'm afraid. Since they've been born, especially now - we live in an extremely diverse area. Our friends are all different colors. The boys are constantly surrounded by a rainbow of different cultures, languages, colors. But I start to think about how or when do we teach them about who they are? As they grow up, I know we will always reinforce to them that they aren't just one thing. They are so much more than the sum of their colors. 

I'm most afraid of how society will choose to label our sweet boys. If their future is anything like what it is in this country now, I'm terrified that we won't prepare them for what they could face. Do we tell our kids all of the negative things that they could face based on the color of their skin or do we continue to teach them to be confident in who they are and not worry about what other people think? 

It will happen. At some point, someone is going to say something highly offensive to them, whether it's other kids on the playground, or a school bully, or some dick-of-a-person when they're older. It breaks my heart to think about this but at the same time it feels like such a huge responsibility to create and help mold these little beings of change. When the going gets tough, will they truly understand that people who judge others are only doing so as a reflection of their own fear and insecurities? How they react in the future to being judged by the color of their skin will be a telling staple of the kind of men they'll become.

How the rest of the world teaches their children to act toward people of all colors will be the base of how all of our children's futures will be. Don't say you don't see color. Diminishing our differences will never help us to accept and embrace them. Teach your children to see color, to see a whole rainbow of colors. And teach them that all of those colors are beautiful in their own way but all just the exact same thing; they're all just colors. If we don't start changing how we think about and speak to each other, my children are going to grow up in a world where things like this happen, and I don't think there's a thing we can do to prepare our beautiful boys for that. 

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