Real American: A Memoir BOOK REVIEW

Book Review by Susan Graham

Real American: A Memoir

Real American

I read a review of Real American: A Memoir by Julie Lythcott-Haims in The New York Times yesterday. It said Julie Lythcott-Haims’ new memoir is about growing up biracial. It’s not. It’s about growing up black.

If you want to get really angry, read this book. In fact, it should be required reading for anyone even thinking about being in an interracial relationship and especially parents of multiracial children. In so many ways, it’s a primer on what not to do. To me, as the mother of multiracial children—now adults—it is reassuring that I raised them to embrace their entire heritage.

Lythcott-Haims claims early in the book that her parents had entered into some type of “interracial child experiment that was failing.” Experiment? Would people actually do that? Throughout the book, the author lashes out at her parents—mostly her mother—for any number of ways they let her down and made her identify as black, but in other places, she is proud of her black identity. It’s confusing.

What is very clear is that this biracial woman felt she had to make a choice. She is crazy angry at everyone and everything, yet she doesn’t get that she could have embraced all of her incredibly stunning heritage and, perhaps, celebrated that. No, being biracial is not just a way to acknowledge her white mother, as she says; it is a way of acknowledging herself. She just couldn’t get there.

It angers me that this author didn’t do her homework. She glosses over the entire multiracial movement with an offhand comment about the Census Bureau making “new terms” in the 1990s, as if it was their idea and not that of the many parents who led the action to get the government to even consider counting people as more than one race. We were everywhere and I find it amazing that an interracial family would have been hiding under a rock big enough to miss it entirely.

The author is completely preoccupied with the color of her children, who she refers to as “quadroon children,” “Black,” and “mulatto.” To her, they are more colors than people, which I just don’t understand. That she is angry at the plight of black people in America and all over the world, is obvious—I’m just as angry about it! She would say that wasn’t possible because I’m not black. Not true. Black lives matter to me, too. Multiracial lives matter to me, as well.

Much of what Lythcott-Haims is trying to say is that what matters is how other people see you. If they see you as black, you are black. As my son told congress, it is how he sees himself that matters. Does he know other people see him as black? Absolutely. Interracial families are not blind and stupid. We teach our children about all of their cultures and how people might look at them and classify them on their personal color scale. We get it; we live it, too.

The one thing the author and I agree on is that racism will never go away and that is why everyone needs to read about those of us who have been through it. You’ll have to read about both sides, search your heart, make your own decisions, and neither the author nor I can make it for you. I respect that you may choose for your children to identify as only one race. I just wish more people would respect that they may choose to be multiracial.



An Interracial Marriage

An Interracial Marriage: Seeing life through the eyes of the other

by Guest Contributor Michael Dobson

Dobson Christmas

It’s hard to write about your spouse or your marriage, but easy to write about love. When writing about both, it’s a story of humanity, of our world and the lens through which we see and experience our journeys.

Nearly 20 years ago I called my eldest daughter Mia and told her that her dad was about to do something radical, that I was about to marry a white women. She was happy for me. There were few interracial marriages then. When we married In Leon County those 20 years ago, to some, we were pioneers of some sort. We were radical   “cool”… the interracial couple, not just living together, but married and raising a family. With the Tallahassee community being more  “liberal” than some others,   we never thought of any backlash.

For us, the issue of race was never a  concern. That’s not how we were reared.  My wife and I are children of the 1960s , but by living in completely different worlds, we saw those years through starkly different lenses.  She was reared in the white suburbs of Chicago, while my early years were mostly in Jim Crow era Florida, with annual sabbaticals to Elizabeth New Jersey.. only to keep returning to Florida. We both saw the 1960’s riots on TV, when  Watts and Detroit burned. Being black and white then, meant living in completely different worlds. We saw America come of age with the assassinations of JFK and  Bobby Kennedy,  and of   Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.   We viewed, from different racial camps, America’s struggle to reform itself  after the passage of the civil rights act.

In the intervening years, we’ve all seen race relations harden and change for the worst. At the same time, paradoxically,  we’ve  seen the number of interracial families quadruple along with a spike in  interracial dating, paralleling the changing attitudes about sexual orientation. We have also witnessed an uptick in  interracial and multiracial couples  in film and on television.  In the early days of our marriage, whenever my wife and I left our safe enclave of Tallahassee to travel the back roads, we’d invariably find ourselves at a restaurant or store…. whereby someone may look at us sort of askance, or stare just a little too long. At store checkout counters in Tallahassee, we often had to correct the cashier to advise them that we were together.. apparently, not an assumption easily  made in those days. That’s changed. But, there are a few actions by others toward us, which still elicit some pain, once remembered.

Despite having to withstand occasional displays of bigotry, my wife and I are  ordinary people in an ordinary marriage.  When my wife is upset with me, which may be today, it is never about race. Our marriage is like any other. Ordinary.  It requires constant work, is dependent upon patience, commitment, love, understanding and forgiveness.

What I can say is this:  The experience of walking through life with the women I married and  love (through good and bad times), who just so happens to have a different pigmentation than I, has provided a view of our  humanity not shared by many. It’s  a unique gift. As a black man, I get to see the world through the eyes of my wife.. a white women. I get to understand her and those of similar backgrounds whose family’s journeyed to America from Ireland, and their struggles to get their footing in the Midwest; me know their family  tragedies, their loss, heartbreak, grief and celebration;  the loss of dear relatives over time ( cousins, aunts and uncles), and  knowing the tapestry of her life.. her white life in America. Through her eyes, I get to better  know the struggle for equality for white women, just as I also know of the   struggles faced by my mother and the other strong  black women in my life, of  their humiliations, the  physical brutality overcame from their oppressor and the accompanying bondage,  and their dreams for their sons and daughters.  I got to see my wife fiercely protect our children from the rare teacher who practiced their own version of bigotry and racism ..not quite feeling this whole interracial thing. Through my eyes, she knows that  Dr. Benjamin E Mays is correct when he said “He who starts behind in the  great race of life must forever remain behind, or run faster than the man in front” meaning a black man has to work twice as hard to make the same dollar.  Through my eyes she saw the way society sometimes reacted to my skin color, that  black men are indeed treated differently than their white counterpart.

Through each other’s eyes, we understand the world and people better.  What we have been privileged to see through each other’s eyes, while warring  communities  struggle on the issue of race,  is that God does not have a favorite, that trials and tribulations are visited on the comfortable as well as the afflicted,  that people are good, that they have great hearts , that everyone has a story and a worry… that we are the walking wounded..  a part of our shared humanity. Through each other’s eyes, we’ve learned that our hearts and what breaks them does not change based on race or religion. We’ve learned that we endure each day with bright sunny smiles, with exclamation points on Facebook … i.e.  “Congrats”, with a “Awesome”,  or  an simple “Great” when asked how are you, even while some  are dying inside. We’ve learned that tragedy strikes us all and with the same intensity of grief regardless of race. Through my wife’s eyes and the experiences shared with the blending of our extended families; we have learned that regardless of race ethnicity, culture or sexual preference, we all want the same things out of life and care about the same things. Together, we’ve seen that irrespective of race, we all love our children, wanting them to have opportunities that escaped us; we want them to be healthy,  all have personal freedom to pursue our dreams,  have health care, a job that pays a living rage; we all  want a place to live, respect, food to eat.. just the basics, and to have those we love out of harms way.

Through each other’s eyes, we see our sameness. Through each others eyes,  we see the unfathomable ridiculousness of bigotry and racism; we see it for what it is.. its fear.  We know that what passes as racial indifference or bigotry is not based on any thing rational, but instead fear .. fear of what is different. Seeing life through each others eyes, we are more humane, and forever have our hearts and our minds open to live in wonder, not fear. Through each others eyes, our love and respect for all things in us and things that are different, is strengthened.

Michael Dobson, is a long time Tallahassee based governmental relations professional and columnist; President/CEO of Dobson, Craig and Associates (aka Dobson and Associates), and renewable energy policy leader as founder of Florida Renewable Energy Producers Association. Can be reached at or

This article first appeared in the Tallahassee Democrat and USA Today. Michael Dobson has given Project RACE his permission to reprint the original essay.

Ten Reasons

Ten Reasons Why White Mothers Can Raise Multiracial Children:

by Susan Graham

Ryan and me

  1. We conceived or adopted our children and we knew exactly what we were doing.
  1. We are fully capable of raising our children as equals with their other monoracial or multiracial siblings.
  1. We do not have to be the same color as our child to give them the history and knowledge of their other ancestry or ancestries.
  1. We know how to say, “No thank you; my child does not need you to tell her what she is.”
  1. We know and respect how President Obama chose to self-identify (as black). He could have identified as multiracial, but that wasn’t his Do not “Barack Obama” my multiracial children.
  1. We can say without laughing, “Yes, I’m the mom. Want to set up a play date for our kids?”
  1. We can say, “I learned how to do my child’s hair” or “I found it was easier to have someone else do my daughter’s hair.”
  1. We will stand up for our children’s right to be included on forms that require racial and ethnic identity.
  1. We fully understand the question, “What are they?” We can choose to answer any way we like and can explain one more time that the thing called the one-drop rule is not a law.
  1. We can happily live without you if you’ve programmed your family to be uncomfortable around our family.


Famous Friday

tam adam

Tamera Mowry and Adam Housley celebrated their 6-year wedding anniversary this week, and they are also the perfect candidates for this week’s Famous Friday. The perfect pair tied the knot on May 15th, 2011. Since they have brought two beautiful multiracial children into the world. Their eldest child is a sweet boy named Aden, and their youngest is a bubbly baby girl named Ariah.

Tamera Mowry was born in Germany in 1978. She is a self-proclaimed ‘army brat’ due to her family’s militaristic background. She is also a very talented actress and talk show host. You may remember her and her twin sister Tia from their hit show Sister, Sister. She is currently working as a talk show hosts on one of my favorite shows, The Real. On the show, she often speaks of her family and the highs and lows of their interracial journey.

Adam Housley was born in 1972 in Napa, California. Since graduating from Pepperdine University he has won many awards for his journalism. He is also a former professional baseball player, and he currently works as a senior correspondent for FOX news.

The couple has a combined net worth of 11+ million dollars. More importantly, Tamera and Adam are phenomenal parents. I am so excited to see the leaps and bounds that their children make in the multiracial community in the future. Don’t forget that you too can make an impact in the multiracial community by celebrating the upcoming Multiracial Heritage Week in June! Visit for more information.



 photo courtesy of OK magazine


Image Source: Laura Harris



by Laura Harris

Eight years ago, I fell in love with a musician who had a great smile, strong convictions, and proved he was a kid at heart by climbing trees with me on our first date. We married in 2011, have two children, and are still best friends to this day. It just so happens that I’m Caucasian and my husband is Korean, African-American, and Cherokee. His skin is the color of dark caramel and his eyes do the coolest crinkly thing when he laughs. I, on the other hand, very closely resemble a peach Crayola crayon with brown, curly hair.

Needless to say, meeting our kids for the first time was AWESOME.

Of course, it would have been, no matter what we looked like. But one unique element about our family is that our son and daughter both represent four entirely different ethnicities from four different continents. History class will take on a whole new meaning for them.

Honestly, skin color doesn’t come up very often in our house, unless we’re having a specific discussion or teachable moment together. It simply isn’t a “thing.” But when I stop and see my life from the outside, I’m reminded that there really are differences in being a white mom with multiracial kids. Some of them are hilarious. Some of them are sobering. All of them are a privilege to experience if it means I get to spend one more day being my children’s mom.

You’re probably waiting for me to dish the dirt on all the terrible things strangers have hissed in my ear in the grocery aisle. We do live in a messed up world, but honestly, most people just stare.

Will my children face some of the persecutions their father faced as a child? Will they face things that their white classmates and cousins won’t understand, and, to a degree, I won’t fully understand? Yes. But every family faces challenges, no matter their skin color. Every family is made up of completely unique individuals. Every family has their “weird is the new normal” moments. Here are a few of ours.

1. Your kids may not look anything like you.

In my case, my kids look like their daddy. It’s just the nature of the dominant genes. That’s fine. I happen to think he’s adorable, so bring on the adorable descendants. We didn’t fall in love because of our skin color, or decide to have children because of that. The byproduct of our different races means that the kids simply don’t look like me very much.

Still, I see similarities flash by — like when my daughter speaks in a gentle voice to her stuffed animal when it’s “injured,” stroking its fur and giving it hugs. Or when I saw my 1-year-old son toddle out of his room recently. His eyes darted around as he tried so hard to hide the little quiver in his chin, and when his eyes locked on mine, his face wrinkled and his eyes welled with tears as he raced into my arms. It’s in those little moments that I see it. The gentle hand. The shape of the quivering chin. That’s when I see me.

2. People regularly ask, “Are your children adopted?”

My uterus gets a little angry every time someone asks me this question. I can’t fault them for their assumption, so I’m not offended, but the devil in me always wants to answer with something like, “No, after two pregnancies and 41 total hours of labor, I birthed both of these children straight from my Caucasian loins.”

3. People don’t know how to ask about your kids’ ethnicity.

I hear things like this a lot: “Aww ... these are your kids? Wow! So, what’s their … um … who … uh … ”

Meanwhile, their hands flail about, searching for the right words in mid-air.

It usually ends with a benign, “W-where is their dad from?”

So I answer honestly. “Virginia.”

“ … ”

“I’m just messing with you,” I say. “You’re really asking what his ethnicity is, right?”

A sigh of nervous relief tumbles out of the other person. “Yes, yes, that’s what I was asking.” ::vigorous head nodding::

The thing is, I totally get the curiosity. My husband has dealt with this his whole life — sometimes with far less polite inquiries and assumptions made of him. I’ve tried to reverse roles and picture someone doing that to me.

“So, you’re German and English right? Can you say any German phrases? Can you sound like My Fair Lady? Do you know any good sauerkraut recipes?”

(I don’t, by the way.)

According to my husband, this video accurately depicts the hilarity of what his whole life has been like:



4. Everyone in your family is tanner than you … dang it.

My daughter was born during a Midwestern winter when the light-skinned world is at its pastiest. My little newborn was like a sweet caramel candy in my arms.

Don’t even get me started on how long it takes them to tan each summer. When my husband and kids wear sunblock, they still come home three shades darker. It’s cool. I can be the pasty mom. It’s cool… ::sniff::

5. People might think your baby’s birthmark is a bruise.

I had no idea what a “Mongolian spot” was before I became a mom. When my daughter showed up on the scene with a birthmark that looked like an ink stain on her lower back, I immediately asked my husband about it. His reply was, “It’s an ‘Asian baby’ thing.” Turns out, more than 80% of babies from Asian descent are born with the bluish gray birthmark.

It’s not even just Asians, though. According to the US National Library of Medicine, “Mongolian blue spots are common among persons who are of Asian, Native American, Hispanic, East Indian, and African descent.” Less than 10% of Caucasian babies have it.

So basically, this is a completely normal birthmark for nearly everyone except white people.

When my son was born, his Mongolian blue spot looked like a splotchy map of North and South America stretched across his lower back, right hip, and buttocks. I totally bragged about it to my family ALL the time. “Look at my baby’s cool birthmark.” (Sorry, son. I stopped, I promise.)

That was until the day we were told that an incident report was filed while he was in a child care facility. One of the attendants changed his diaper and noticed the bluish marks, completely unaware of its origin. Out of concern and to make sure proper paperwork was filed to prove that he wasn’t injured while in their care, the attendant filed a report about the mark and gave it to the director … who showed it to me.

The whole matter was cleared up because we’d been friends with this director and many of the people on his team for years. They knew we would never abuse our children. Still, the danger of other caregivers mistaking our son’s large birthmark for injuries and calling CPS unnerved us. We decided to photograph the birthmark and file a signed statement from his pediatrician that it was, in fact, a birthmark (which led to the most embarrassing trip to the Walgreens photo lab I’ve ever taken).

6. Every day with your partner would have been illegal not that long ago.

My husband’s entire existence represents his parents’ interracial union and the progress this world has made. Our union is one step even further down that path. Things weren’t so rosy in the United States 50 years ago, however. Interracial marriage wasn’t even legalized until 1967.

This one will really scorch your latte, though: Upon further research, I learned that Alabama didn’t legalize interracial marriage until 2000. Two. Flippin’. Thousand.

I’m so grateful to live in a world that doesn’t hate my family or hunt us down or persecute us. Again, I’m not saying these things won’t ever happen, because people are people, but I’ll take every good day as a gift. Our ancestors made their choices. Now it’s up to us to make ours.

7. Your kids will ask you some day, “Mommy, why doesn’t your skin look like mine?”

I think about that one quite a lot. Everything I read and watch and listen to makes me think about my children and the world in which they’re growing up. I’m sure that’s the same for all parents. I cannot do anything about other people’s prejudices or misguided beliefs on race. What I can do is show acceptance in my own home.

My children will know that I love them. They’ll know that I love their father. They’ll know that we accept each other’s families.

My husband and I talk openly about racial issues with each other, gaining a better understanding each time. We’ll watch a movie and discuss why a person of a certain race was cast in a certain role. We’ll reflect on our childhood and compare the moments when we felt like outsiders, often for very different reasons.

I don’t think we meant to do this, but all these conversations are preparing us for the day when our children ask us that one question, “Why doesn’t my skin look like yours?” “It’s actually a beautiful story,” I’ll tell them. “Your own little history.”

Until that day, I will patiently wait, pray, and prepare for my babies to ask their questions and find their voices in this world.


Taye Diggs on Racial Identity

Taye Diggs’ brave defense of his half-white son

Actor and singer Taye Diggs might be black, but he wants folks to understand that his son, Walker, isn’t — at least not entirely. That’s the message he’s been shopping around as part of a tour to promote his new children’s book, “Mixed Me.”

The tome is both inspired by and intended for kids like 6-year-old Walker, whose mother — Diggs’ former wife, Idina Menzel — is Caucasian. As Diggs sees it, Walker isn’t black, he’s biracial. And both whites and blacks seem equally invested in denying it.

A similar situation befell President Obama — whose mother was white and who decided early in his career to opt in to blackness at the expense of his white half.

Diggs’ decision to embrace his son’s biracial identity is brave — particularly for an African-American. For while America’s “one-drop” rule may have been established by white segregationists, it’s often been embraced by blacks themselves.

Stung by racism and seeking political potency (and safety) in numbers, blacks want to keep as many folks in their fold as possible — all black, half-black or whatever. How else to explain why black leaders were some of the most vocal opponents of the introduction of a “multi-racial” category in the 2000 US Census?

Then there’s the common black contention that all African-Americans are of “mixed” ancestry as a result of miscegenation during slavery. That might be true, but Diggs is speaking of his son being “biracial” — not “multi-racial”; his book focuses on kids whose parents are of two entirely different races, not mixes of many.

For whites, meanwhile, “one drop” helps them do what they’ve always done best — protect their privilege by any means necessary. To them, it’s not so much about who is Caucasian, but rather making it clear who isn’t. This is where “one-drop” comes in — to shut their biracial brethren out of the cultural, historical and economic benefits of whiteness.

Diggs is challenging both of these sentiments and should be applauded for doing so — particularly with nearly 7 percent of Americans describing themselves as mixed-race, according to a June Pew Research study.

No one is suggesting children like Walker should be described as white. But Diggs rightly demands that it’s time folks stop denying that his son is, ultimately, as much white as he is black.

Or, perhaps, even more so — I know from personal experience.

For the first four decades of my life I assumed my genes were equally derived from my white Jewish mother and African-American dad. Sure, like most black families, we knew history had “whitened” my father’s blood line. A great-great-grandfather, for instance, was an Irishman who had almost certainly married his slave (my great-great-grandmother) in antebellum Texas. But it wasn’t until I took the simple genetic test from 23andme that I found out just how whitened our family had become.

The test’s results ranged from the obvious — a predisposition for myopia and overeating — to the startling. For it turns out that genetically, at least, I’m actually 50 percent “more” white than black — 39.1 percent “Sub-Saharan African,” to be precise, compared to 59.1 percent “European.” My mom’s line, as expected, is pretty pure — virtually 100 percent Ashkenazi Jewish. But along with bits of Native American, my father was nearly 20 percent white — far more than we’d ever imagined.

Of course all of this data was just that — numbers and graphs and charts. As cases like Tamir Rice and Trayvon Martin illustrate, my 23andme test isn’t going to protect me from racist vigilantes or shield me from bigoted cops. Nor might my newfound “whiteness” exempt me from the history of injustice and inequality that continues to define much of the contemporary African-American experience.

But the results did upend many of the racial preconceptions that had guided my life, causing me — like Diggs — to further question the very notion of racial categorization itself.

Critics of Diggs have dismissed the actor as attempting to “deny” his sons’ blackness, which is both simplistic and untrue. Diggs hasn’t “invented” a white identity for Walker — he hasn’t had to, the kid’s mom is white. Rather, he’s demanding his boy be allowed to claim what is merely a biological fact.

Progressives of all colors insist they respect the right to ethnic self-determination — but that respect seems to wane when it comes to being biracial. In Obama’s case, “choosing” blackness probably helped simplify what was already a complicated and combative political journey. Saying he was “black” — no matter the half-truth — made it easier for Americans of all colors to contend with his historic candidacy. And with (sadly) none of his white family at his side to muddle the message, Obama’s “all-black” narrative was easy to maintain.

Two generations later, Diggs seeks to spare his son from a similarly small-minded fate. America may not yet be truly “post-racial.” But perhaps, as Diggs discusses, the country can begin to accept that biracials are here to stay.

U of M Study? Really?

Multiracial children often identified as black

ANN ARBOR—For black-white multiracial children, how others perceive them may be inconsistent with how they perceive themselves.

This includes perceptions by children and adults, according to a new University of Michigan study.

The researchers examined how 387 Midwest children (4-13 years) and adults categorized multiracial children as black, white or as not wholly black or wholly white.

Multiracial children were shown either with their parents—one black parent and one white parent—or without them.

When it was clear that multiracial children had one black parent and one white parent, older children and adults categorized them as not wholly black or wholly white, said Steven Roberts, a U-M doctoral student in psychology and the study’s lead author.

However, white and black adults still considered multiracial children as black more often than as white, showing that white adults excluded multiracial children from their racial in-group. Meanwhile, black adults included multiracial children within their racial in-group.

Child participants showed a different pattern. When multiracial children were shown with their parents, children did not see them as more black or more white. However, when multiracial children were shown without their parents, white children perceived them as more black, whereas black children again did not see them as more black or more white.

“Importantly, white children from predominantly white contexts were especially likely to categorize multiracial children as black, whereas black children from predominantly white contexts were especially likely to categorize multiracial children as white,” Roberts said.

These findings suggest that by adulthood, people think of multiracial children as black because of their black parentage, whereas during childhood, people do so because of physical appearances and experiences with group contact. That is, adults believe that parentage determines identity, whereas children believe that physical appearance and contexts do.

“These developmental differences are important for parents to know—especially parents of multiracial children,” said Roberts, who authored the study with Susan Gelman, a professor of psychology and linguistics.

“They show that how multiracial children are perceived depends on where they are, who they interact with and what they look like. Helping children understand this will help them understand why others may not see them the way they see themselves.”

When multiracial children are misidentified—or placed in an incorrect category—it can affect their self-esteem, motivation and ability to form quality social relationships, Roberts said.

“For these reasons, self-identified multiracial people appreciate when others see them as multiracial, rather than as black or as white,” he said.

The findings appear in Child Development.


More information:

Famous Friday: Tristian the Multiracial Turkey

tristian turkey











Hi! My name is Tristian Turkey and I am honored to be invited to share my story with all of you at Project RACE for this week’s Famous Friday. I live on a beautiful farm in Plymouth, Massachusetts where my ancestors have lived since the 1600s. My great great great great grandmother came from England with the Plymouth colonists and my great great great great grandfather was raised by a Wampanoag Indian chief.  They met in 1621 when the colonists invited the Wampanoag to share an autumn harvest feast. My great great great great grandparents went to the celebration, which is known as the first Thanksgiving. It was there, under the table, eating the crumbs of lobster, seal, swans, venison and berries that they met. It was love at first sight.  She thought that he was strong, honest and funny. He thought she was beautiful, kind and smart. No one cared that she was an English Turkey and he was a Wampanoag Turkey, because everyone understood the obvious, turkeys are turkeys no matter what their heritage.  My grandparents married and had 14 children.  Every year, all my ancestors went along to enjoy the big Thanksgiving feast. It became the Turkey Family Reunion for over 200 years. But then everything changed!

An American writer named Sarah Josepha Hale, who wrote the nursery rhyme Mary Had a Little Lamb, started a campaign to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. She also published recipes for pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing and … TURKEY!! TURKEY! Can you believe it? Yes, we always came to the Thanksgiving feast, but we came to celebrate our family history. We came to celebrate how our ancestors from two different backgrounds came together and became one awesome turkey family.  We did NOT come to be cooked and eaten!!

So now, as the final Thursday in November nears, you will not find my family and me celebrating. No, we hide in November, but we thankfully celebrate our rich and wonderful heritage the other 11 months of the year!


-Karson Baldwin, President, Project RACE Kids


Are Biracial Children Damaged?

Are Biracial Children Damaged?

by Cherry Vasquez, Ph.D.


Kelly Vasquez 2


Approximately seven years ago, I was engaged in, what I thought was a friendly conversation with a group of ladies at my work. As mothers, we often talked about daily activities our children were engaged in. Our conversations were personal, easy stress relievers, and generally ended with much laughter among the group.

When I ended my “story for the day” on the subject of my daughter’s latest activity, one of the ladies turned and said, “Well, she’s going to have psychological problems anyway.”

I looked at her, startled, and asked what she meant by that. “Well, she’s biracial,” she continued,” and all biracial children end up with psychological problems.”

This woman was the first person who’d ever made such an asinine statement to me, but unfortunately not the last. What she claimed never crossed my mind. Why would it?

My daughter is a charming, well-rounded, culturally balanced, beautiful biracial girl who excels academically, and–I might add she’s one very fine pianist. She has friends of all races and heritages, and she loves people. In fact, whenever someone refers to my daughter as one ethnic group over another, she’ll quickly inform she’s neither one over the other, but both (African-American and Hispanic), thus bi-racial. She loves all of who she is, and is very proud of both her heritages.

I must admit, I have heard of and read stories about biracial children and adults alleging they’ve encountered problems fitting into groups, but I truly hadn’t spent any time at all pondering over this subject where my own child is concerned. Don’t get me wrong, I did my homework as a parent; I made sure to do my part to balance knowledge of both heritages and pointedly built her character, self-esteem and self-worth. This is mainly because self-esteem challenges, good or bad, have to do with any parenting and environmental situations, and not based on one’s racial make-up.

Because I happen to be an African-American mother of a biracial child whose father is Hispanic, I felt if there are those who declare just because a child is biracial they will automatically have psychological problems; I needed to set a platform about diversity and bullying in motion.

The truth of the matter is, children have it hard these days no matter what their ethnic background. Psychological problems stem from a child’s own lack of self-worth, not from the color of the child’s skin. If anything, the problem stems from adults’ bigotry and small-mindedness. In twenty-first century America, there is no room for biases and division.

Multicultural education is the key to diversity and an important factor for decreasing bullying behaviors. We need to stop making assumptions about children based on what they look like and allow them the chance they deserve to grow into healthy, well-adjusted individuals.

Cherrye S. Vasquez, Ph.D. is the owner of Books That Sow: Strength, Character & Diversity, DBA. Her collection of books builds character, self-worth, and empowers all children, whether monoculture, biracial of multiracial. Visit her website for more information: We are proud to have her on Project RACE’s Advisory Board.


Children and Multiracial Identity

Talking Mixed-Race Identity with Young Children

“Mom, am I white?”
A few weeks ago, I got this question from my four-year-old. Technically he is “biracial”—but that label does him a severe representative injustice, because his bloodline is actually Japanese, Taiwanese, Slovakian, German, French Canadian, British, and Welsh. He also does not possess a parent of one race and a parent of another race as  “biracial” is usually assumed—both my husband and I are mixed-race Asian/white too. To that end, I much prefer to describe us, and him, as multiracial.
I write about and research race, families, and children with an especial focus on multiraciality and the intersection of mixed-race ID/Asian. I don’t believe in avoiding race talk with my child, though I do discuss it in age-appropriate ways. I’ve tried to stand by my conviction that it’s better he learn how to think and talk about these issues within the family first, rather than have normative ideals force-fed down his throat by everyone else when he walks out the door.
That said, I wasn’t fully prepared when he turned to me and asked, “Mom, am I white?” When I told him no, he immediately followed up with, “Am I Black?” Then when told he wasn’t that either, he started crying and plaintively turned downtrodden eyes to me, “But I want a color too.”
I know something about battling with the obscurity of race-labels, as I have never fit neatly into boxes myself. But I really didn’t expect to have a discussion like this with my son until he was older.
As I sat there, stumbling over describing “Black” and “white” to him in the context of skin tone, I could see profound confusion cross his face. And then I stopped talking, because he was totally right, of course. As I’ve written before and as we all know on some level, nobody really has “black” or “white” skin. Nothing better unveils the ridiculous, arbitrary, and shallow nature of the supposed race divisions than trying to explain race-labels to a still pretty literal preschooler. We’re all various shades of brown, almond, caramel, tan, pink, peach – there are a million more accurate colors for skin pigment. In the end he and I got to talking about brown and color mixing, and he finally decided he was “a mix-up of brown and white.”
At the same time, I know that race is very real, and that it needs to be constantly and critically addressed. I realize that my son, though he might not have the words or cognizance to tell me so yet, already knows a great deal about the racial hierarchy – including that he most certainly does not sit at the top of it ( (…). And when I tell him he’s not white, I also know I’m telling him that some things will always be harder for him than for his white friends, and that people will sometimes treat him in ways his white friends will never have to endure. As a parent of color whose soul will be forever connected to the wellbeing of her child, it hurts that I have to be the bearer of this bad news – especially because I worry that my son already feels “less” because of his race.
In our family, we have the additional complexity of overlaying all these tough conversations with being “mixed” — not only existing somewhere in between our nation’s incredibly polarized white-constructed racial extremes, but then also falling uncomfortably off the whole spectrum entirely fogged in some sort of ambiguous racial ether. I imagine the conversation unfolding like this over the years:
Yes, honey, separating people into races is illogical, but racial categories do exist and they are nasty. No, you’re not white. Well, yes, your paternal grandpa and maternal grandmother are white – but you’re still not white. No, you’re not Black, either — or Latino/a or Native. You’re Asian, but other Asians might not accept you on that count, so be prepared. Then again, if non-Asians see you as Asian, that might have repercussions for you too (…). But what race are you and how should you prepare? I’m sorry, honey. I should know, being mixed-race myself, but I think I really might have no idea.
All this complexity and insufficient language leaves me with the million-dollar mixed-race parenting question: How do you prepare your multiracial child to exist in a society that persists in being racially divided, when he’s one of the many stuck straddling the divide? How do you give him a straight answer to a question to which you don’t even have the answer? How do you foster a meaningful discussion on a topic most adults typically avoid talking about because it’s so overwhelming confusing and painful –before your son even starts kindergarten?


Sharon H. Chang writes about these questions and much more in her forthcoming book on multiracial Asian children. She has an M.A. in Human Development with an Early Childhood Specialization, writes for ParentMap Magazine and Racism Review, and maintains the blog Multiracial Asian Families. Sharon currently lives in Seattle, WA with her 100% mixed-race husband and mixed-race son.

Source: Hyphen Magazine