Mothers Day is coming, and I’ve been thinking about my momma a lot lately. She’s in Florida, and I’m in Cali. We don’t talk enough, but our love is strong, yet complicated. When we get the chance to connect, our phone calls are far from ‘calm,’ in spite of each of our potential to be zen spirits. Voices raise, jokes are made, and we exchange shrill reactions to each others’ news.
“Noooo, she didn’t!”
“Nooooo you didn’t!”
And the role we take as mother/ daughter alternate , depending on who’s in crisis.
“Go to the doctor.”
“Remember to ask if there’s peanuts in the food.”
“Do something fun.”
“Go to the dentist.”
My mother raised me with the help of my grandmother, but she was essentially a single parent who went from being poor to working class within the span of my upbringing. In other words, things went from being fiscally really challenging, to just challenging. Yet, I rarely felt poor- thanks to a mama who had an imagination for adventures (I was raised at every free reggae/jazz festival/street fair in LA county), and a Nana who helped us when times got tough. There are many blessings my mother bestowed upon me— empathy for others, a love for culture, independence, a fierce walk—but one of the things I’m continuously grateful for is that my mother taught me to be proud. Black and proud. Mixed-race and proud. Proud of who I am.
But, dear reader, don’t get it twisted; my mother is white (she hates it when I say that). And when the cops pull me over, when I walk into a U.S. store, and when I fill out most forms, I’m “Black (not Hispanic).” I’m also part Scottish,Finnish, and Indian (as in, from India), but I’m Black to most North American eyes, and thanks to my white mother, I’m oh-so-very proud of my Blackness. As I’ve gotten older, however, I’ve realized not every mixed-race person has/or will have this experience of having pride in and understanding of their mixed identity. I’ve met too many mixed-race people who have said they felt confused, or tragic (oh, Mariah Carey), and have even referred to themselves as a mutt (let us refrain from referring to ourselves as animals—the legacy behind this “nicknaming” is painfully present). I’ve met mixed-race people who— with their varied skin tones, and shouts and whispers of Africa in their hair—tell me they were raised to be white… wha wha whaaaaat? Yes, white.
Equally troublesome, I’ve met people who say they want to have mixed race children with the same nonchalance as requesting a Cosmopolitan. “They’re so cute!” nowadays. “Black guys are hot; I want to have kids with one,” a college peer told me. The multiracial experience is shifting from what I remember; it’s trendy! Being mixed isn’t as alien as it was in the late 80s, or taboo as it was before then. Mixed race children are more accepted, expected and celebrated. They’re exotic, titillating, and according to reports, “they’re the future!” We’re told, eventually, everyone’s going to be mixed— mestizo—so race won’t matter. So lets all have mixed race babies, and raise them to be colorblind!!!!
Aside from being problematic, such statements are untrue. With a country founded on distinguishing rights based on skin color, colorblindness is not happening any time soon, and quite frankly, I don’t want anyone to be blind of my colors. Also, deciding to have mixed children shouldn’t be made without contemplation. Actually rearing mixed children is not like decorating a room. It requires responsibility, consciousness, and care.
While I have no children of my own, I’m a product of a child-rearing that featured a woman who understood the responsibilities necessary to raising a a mixed race child. A child who would experience the world very differently because of her skin color, her hair texture, and her complicated identity.
In honor of responsible mothering, I’m counting down to Mother’s Day by highlighting the top 5 things I think parents should remember as they bring up the new generation of mixed race children. I want to honor that my advice may resonate with those who have adopted children who aren’t of their own race/ethnicity, as well as with people who are mixed with backgrounds other than Black.
My mother’s decisions in how she raised me give me the words to write this piece; the people squealing that they want children who are half Black, with little to no context to the Black experience inspire me. Please feel free to engage in the dialogue.