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Parents of Multiracial Kids

20 Things Never to Say to Parents of Multiracial Kids

multiracial familyWith nearly 9 million people identifying as mixed race in 2010 (according to the U.S. Census Bureau), you’d think people would be past the point of asking parents of multiracial kids stupid questions by now — but sadly, this is still far from the case. Sure, not everybody who questions a stranger’s family for looking different is trying to be rude — most are just curious — but the things that people say are still downright jaw-dropping at times!

As the mother of two half-Korean/half-Caucasian children (from my first marriage) and one all-Caucasian child (from my second, current marriage), I’ve heard it all. And to tell you the truth, I don’t even need to hear it to know what people are thinking: I can see it in their wide eyes (or narrowed eyes, depending on whether a particular individual’s curiosity stems from a place of fascination or intolerance), feel it in their tentative approach. Yes, they’re mine.Korean, their father is Korean.No, my husband’s eyes aren’t blue, either. (That last one is about my youngest — no matter that he’s the same race as his mother and father, apparently he still doesn’t “match” by some people’s standards!)

I don’t usually find these questions offensive, unless they’re particularly invasive and/or ignorant — I understand that our family is still somewhat unusual-looking, even in our supposedly post-racial society — but I can’t help but be occasionally taken aback by the things strangers (and sometimes friends and family) say. And I’m not alone: When The Stir asked other parents of multiracial kids about the kinds of things they hear, we found out that these types of queries are far from uncommon. Here are some of the more outrageous comments:

1. “It’s good your kids turned out looking more white than black; it’ll be easier for them.”

2. A family member of mine told me that I should consider not having children with my husband because our babies will be biracial and will be teased. Needless to say, I didn’t listen and our babies are gorgeous.

3. After practice a few years ago, I actually had a parent STOP my daughter as she ran to me, asking, “Where’s your mom, sweetie?” Ummmm … hello. I’m right here. Seriously.

4. “How’d your black baby get those blue eyes??”

5. “Wow, your family looks like the United Nations.”

6. “Oh, she’s so cute! What province did you get her from?”

7. “What was it like giving birth and seeing this Asian baby come out of you?” (As if I had given birth to a frog.)

8. “Look at her cute chinky eyes!”

9. “At least her father knows she’s really his!”

10. “I wish my nanny was as attentive as you; do you have any openings?”

11. “Bet you don’t have to put sunscreen on those kids!”

12. While I was pregnant, someone asked, “I wonder if her hair will be nappy?”

13. “Are you sure they’re really yours?” [Directed to the father of two light-skinned children.]

14. I was shopping with my two daughters and one of my daughter’s friends. An employee handing out samples of granola of some sort started pointing at each child. She pointed at my oldest and said, “She’s yours!” She pointed at my daughter’s friend and said, “She’s not yours.” Then she points at my youngest, who was maybe about a year old, and she said, “What country?” She is very lucky she was about 70.

15. “Aww, you’re so lucky. Biracial kids are soooo much cuter.”

16. “You should always check the ‘minority’ box on school forms so your kids can get scholarships later.”

17. “Do you worry that she’ll be confused about her racial identity?”

18. “They probably don’t need your help with math homework!” [About half-Asian kids.]
19. “You’ll have to watch out he doesn’t get the wrong kind of attention at school.” [About a half-black child.]
20. “They can even be president now!”
Source: The Stir

TV Families

 

Where Is My Family on TV?

ONE of my earliest memories is of sitting in an idling car with my mom and sister outside a convenience store in Virginia. Dad’s inside, buying cigarettes and scratch-off lottery tickets. Suddenly, a wild-eyed man appears at the driver-side window, yelling about white women and black men and how they don’t belong together. My mother goes feral, blocking his access to us. My father runs out, furious and swearing, before driving us away. I don’t remember what happened next, just a confusing and searing shame about the ugliness that the sight of my family could provoke.

I hadn’t thought about that in years. But it bubbled up last spring in response to the vitriolic reactions to a Cheerios commercial showing a family that echoed my own: black dad, white mom, mocha-skinned little girl with soft curly hair. The commercial was uploaded to YouTube, where it provoked such foul, overtly racist reactions that General Mills, the maker of Cheerios, decided to delete all of the comments. The memory bubbled up once again last weekend when the same family appeared in a second Cheerios commercial, just as mild and sweet-tempered, shown during the Super Bowl. That one, too, drew online criticism, if not as intense.

Sticks and stones, the saying goes, especially on the Internet. But the outpouring of disgust about an innocuous 30-second marketing spot may signal something deeper at work, a denial of the reality that the face of our nation is changing, and fast.

According to a 2012 Census Bureau report, mixed-race Americans, while still a small minority, are one of the fastest-growing demographic groups in the country, driven by immigration and an uptick in intermarriage. Yet while there are some very public examples of seemingly stable mixed-race families — the de Blasios of New York or even Kim, Kanye and sweet baby Nori come to mind — they are remarkably absent from our screens. (Our biracial president does get his share of screen time, of course.)

It’s true that multiracial characters have become more abundant on television and in the movies, even if their relationships are typically played for melodrama or broad humor, like in “Anchorman 2” or “The Best Man Holiday.” (Television shows like “Sleepy Hollow” and “Almost Human” are helping right that imbalance some.)

But it is far rarer to see them portrayed as part of a dynamic family structure raising children and going about their daily lives. Olivia Pope and President Fitzgerald Grant, for example, the hot interracial couple on the popular ABC drama “Scandal,” are caught up with figuring out the intricacies of their affair, not wrangling with uncomfortable mix-ups at the grocery store or talking their child through the alienation that can come with figuring out where and how to fit in.

There are a few exceptions, like “The Fosters” on ABC Family and the Showtime series “The L Word,” but not many.

Television is still both a barometer of social change and an evolutionary force that can help change cultural attitudes. So it’s hard not to wonder whether the simple lack of depictions of normal, mixed-race families and well-adjusted biracial offspring in popular culture is in part responsible for the reaction to the Cheerios commercials.

Social media, which erects a two-way mirror into regular lives, also has the power to transform what was once alien and uncomfortable into normal and routine. There are enough online outposts, from photographs on Facebook to Instagram, that can show a variety of diverse families and offer some measure of hope. But still.

Growing up in the early 1990s, when I fell into my mother’s lap, crying over being called names like “oreo,” “zebra baby” or worse, my mother would hug me and say that someday, everyone will be a little bit of everything, and no one will be able to tease anyone ever again. I’m still hoping she’s right about that.

Last weekend, I settled down to watch the Super Bowl with a group of friends, some of whom were also mixed race. The room fell quiet as the Cheerios ad came on the screen.

I held my breath, checked Twitter — the initial responses were largely positive — and my heart soared. Despite the obvious marketing advantage General Mills hoped to leverage by running a second Cheerios spot, it was still a stirring experience to see my reality presented so positively and naturally on screen.

Later we cheered for the halftime performer Bruno Mars, born in Hawaii, the product of a Filipino mother and a Puerto Rican and Jewish father, and finished our beers, spicy wings and cheese dip.

 

Jenna Wortham is a technology reporter for The New York Times.

 

Things That Were Cool About the Super Bowl

Everybody knows that as far as football games, the Super Bowl stunk. It was a complete blowout, which means it was totally boring. Some people say the best part was the commercials, but here is my list of some very cool things about the Super Bowl.

1. Bruno Mars’ concert was just awesome … plus he is multiracial!
2. The Cheerios multiracial family was back with a great new commercial. She’s getting a puppy!
3. My Dad is an NFL Vet so I got to go to some fun NFL events with lots of players and lots of good food.
4. And probably the coolest of all… IT’S REALLY COOL KNOWING THAT RUSSELL WILSON, A MULTIRACIAL QB, WON THE SUPER BOWL!

– Karson Baldwin, President

Skin Tone and Family

 

 

 

Skin Tone and Family: Love is a Family Affair

by Cherrye Vasquez, Ph.D.

 

  

Whenever I looked into the mirror, I never saw a reflection of her, so for years I often wondered why she always told me, “You look just like me.”

It wasn’t until around 2008 when Mom visited my office that I learned why. I introduced her to the custodian that day. The custodian replied, “Oh, she looks just like you.” Suddenly, my Mom jerked around and answered, “You think so? You’re one of the few people who have ever said that. Actually, she looks like her Dad.”

I can’t tell you how shocked I was not only hearing those words, but visualizing Mom’s expression when she uttered them. Now, years later I had my answer and it came directly from Mom’s mouth. It was at that exact moment I realized that Mom, just like a protective animal whose instincts automatically kicks in to protect their young, used her loving motherly tactics all these years to protect my emotional state, thus my mental complex. Mom used her motherly skills and “know how” to shape a healthy identity within me.

You see, I’ve long known that even within the Black race there’s a sense of bigotry and hidden hegemony where skin color is concerned. What would one term this sort of racism? Intraracism, interracism, inner racism? Who knows?  What I’ve experienced is the lighter the skin tone, the more advances you’d receive in life. I grew up hearing lighter skin toned girls fondly referred to as bright skin, red, or yellow bone. They appeared to be favored by most and were considered the prettiest girls in school. For me, something was wrong with that picture (ideology) because whenever I Iooked into the mirror, I saw beauty existing in my dark skin.

From a very early age, I remember countless incidences at Mom’s side whether it was a funeral, family reunion and/or the like. People remembered which child I was due to my dark skin tone. One of my Mom’s friends said, “Oh, I know exactly which one you are. You’re Cherrye, the dark one.” Although Mom tried to hide it, I could see how incensed she became. How dare anyone identify her baby by skin color! I heard messages such as this, and more, all my young life. The more I heard these words, the more Mom would say, “You look just like me.”  

I was confused by her conviction, but I never confessed. I never saw an image of my face within hers. I always felt that I did favor my Dad’s skin tone because I am the darkest of my siblings. I’ve always had that “chocolate” hue and/or overtone, and my siblings are a golden brown, but I never shared my inner thoughts with Mom.  As honored as I was to share in her beauty, somehow I felt she’d be the one with hurt feelings.

 

In my eyes, I saw reflections of my younger brother and sister (each to the far left and right) of Mom, and as one can see, I am darker than the rest. What I noticed, however, was that my Mom never used skin tone when referring to her children. Why would she? Along with our Dad, Mom spent time rearing each of us having deep self-assurance and love for self. They bragged on our intelligences and performances whenever warranted.

As time moves on, I’m reminded of profound divisions among races of people, especially when there are high profile cases in the media. Seemingly, we read and hear stark differences in opinions, but not based on right/wrong; just/unjust, and morals/values, but on the color of one’s skin tone.  

Realizing this, however, jerks my heart strings because I know first-hand that skin tone isn’t just a Black and White issue, but an issue among inter races of people. Where did this come from?

Since most people realize what racial prejudice means (separation, hatred, division, segregation, intolerance) why or how could a race of people do this one to another? Is it due to political power, the sense of social economic advancement, prestige, money, or supremacy? Whatever the cause it’s a devastating political color complex issue that we should readily want to liberate ourselves away from. Historically speaking, we know the stories of domination, cruelty and oppression based on skin tone, so why in the world would people inflict the same pain on members of their particular race? Wasn’t this sort of bigotry hated by the oppressed?

Similarly, it is just as damaging for darker skinned people to embrace power movements while disallowing lighter skinned people to become a part of groups, forum discussions, and the like. The philosophy and belief system of a true melting pot nation shouldn’t convert into a one-sided message.

Regardless of your take on the matter, you’d think race and color wouldn’t have stock in twenty-first century America, but there are still divisions today.

Now we’ve merged into an influx of interracial marriages, thus biracial and multiracial unions.  After 46 years, interracial marriages have flourished, but we still do not have a “good grip” on color and race matters in terms of the traditional African Americans on one side and Caucasians on the other side of issues, let alone color complex biases and prejudices within a single race.

The 1967 landmark case Loving v. Virginia ruling should have given us the step needed to get past race issues. Many people may not know the story, but Mildred Loving, a black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, were sentenced to a year in prison in Virginia for marrying each other. It was deemed that their marriage violated the state’s anti-miscegenation (sexual relations between people of different races, especially of different skin colors, leading to the birth of children) statute, the Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which barred marriage between people classified as “white” and people classified as “colored (a term/classification for Black race used in those days). The Supreme Court’s undisputed verdict seized this ban as unconstitutional. This victory also meant that Pace v. Alabama (1883) ruling was overturned, so there are no longer race-based lawful limitations on marriages in the United States.

Our 21st century America is more diverse than ever before with the potential of becoming a true melting pot. So much so, I married my husband not based on his race, skin tone, or hue, but due to the content of his character.  What was once known as exotic, strange and outlandish is now commonplace. With this in mind we must make paradigm shifts needed for embracing people based on their talents and character and not skin tone.

 

As years passed and fast forwarding as a parent and mother of a biracial child, I knew right away that I would empower my child just as my Mom and Dad had done for me. There wasn’t going to be an “Imitation of Life” episode in my mixed-raced family home.  

Irrespective of one’s skin tone children should feel empowered with a belief system of having skills and virtues in life worthy of being shared with others. Children should possess deep-seated affirmation of self-worth and a strong sense of being capable of making valued contributions in our society. We must shape and support the identity development of our children, whether they are monoracial, biracial or multiracial, and regardless of their skin tone and/or hue.

Wouldn’t it be a wonderful place to dwell realizing that each of us has raised our children to consider the content of one’s character and not base their self-worth according to skin tone alone? This is how I’m choosing to raise my daughter. By doing so, I believe we’d be better off as a nation. We may be able to erase the fundamental racial divide world-wide. Perhaps skin tone wouldn’t matter at all.

 

Note: Dr. Cherrye Vasquez is a member of the Project RACE Advisory Board

Author Bio:

Cherrye Vasquez is a public school administrator and an adjunct professor. She has a Doctorate of Philosophy in Curriculum & Instruction; a Master of Education in Special Education; and a Bachelor of Arts in Speech Pathology/Audiology. Vasquez specializes in Multi-cultural education and holds certifications in Early Childhood Handicapped, in Mid-Management and as an Educational Diagnostician. She lives in Houston with her husband, Roy and her daughter, Kelly.

To learn more about Dr. Cherrye Vasquez, and her work:  
Books That Sow: Strength, Character & Diversity, DBA
Visit her Website at: http://www.BooksThatSow.com

My Kids are Biracial: Let’s Discuss

              My Kids Are Biracial: Let’s Discuss

My eyes widened this week when I saw The Stir’s “15 Things Not to Say to the Parents of Biracial Children” show up in my Facebook feed. Moms and Dads were asked to share the communication gaffes they’ve heard from other people regarding their biracial kids. 
Like many, I’ve recently read a lot of these “don’t go there” pieces (“What Not to Say to a Working Mom,” “What Not to Say to Breastfeeding Moms,” “What Not to Say to a Stay-At Home Dad,” etc.). I wondered why we were all pissing each other off so much and saying the wrong things. If people didn’t start saying the right things, would the world just go silent?
Now up at bat: the parents of biracial kids — oh, that’s me! So, what the heck should people not say to me now?

First, I don’t really view my children as biracial. I mean, yes, of course, they are. But to my husband and me, they are Zoe and Sam. What that alone stands for in and of itself and what those two beautiful spaces in the world they occupy mean is more powerfully definitive than any checkmark on a form or license. We’re not naïve, though. The world shows us every day that we don’t live in The Land of Make Believe. We know how the world can see us in varying degrees and extremes because of our differences. Everyone has something. This is just one of our somethings.

“Are you the nanny?” “I wonder if her hair will be nappy?” “You’re lucky. Biracial kids are sooo much cuter.” These are just a few of the comments that interracial parents may hear. Whether we hear these exact words or a variation of the remarks in question (“Look at them! That’s God’s Photoshop right there!”), we’ve had a handful of eye-raising interactions and potentially awkward situations. It’s a little weird when a complete stranger stares at your child in a stroller while asking you about your ethnicity and your non-present husband’s genetics in the elevator at Nordstrom’s.

But, if life’s taught me anything, it’s that “a little weird” can be quite awesome. I had a lovely conversation with the woman in the elevator that day. It felt like we both walked away with a harmonious appreciation — for kindness. I’d like to think Mr. Rogers would have been proud.

I’m aware the world is not rainbows and unicorns too. I realize there are awful people with unfortunate upbringings who will spit venom on cue or gladly share it from behind a computer screen. I’m no bigot-whisperer. But I do know that thus far, it’s been fairly easy to decipher evil from your everyday lack of understanding. The majority of the comments I’ve heard in these five years of parenthood have never seemed to come from a place of ill will. Don’t I have a responsibility to offer a kind response to an at-the-moment clueless neighbor?

Enter my actual neighbor — 6-year-old Amanda. She’s everything that makes 6 awesome: curious, chatty, and a remarkable old soul. Heading out for some errands with the kids, I started chatting up her mom in the street while Zoe and Amanda made a beeline to climb a tree in the garden. Amanda decided to drop in from a low-lying limb for a quick Q & A with the grown-ups.
“Miss Jenn, did you adopt Zoe?”
Poof.
“Huh? Well, no…”
“You didn’t? Oh… then why are you the only one that’s not brown in your family?”

Her mom and I smiled at her inquisitiveness. It was breathtakingly beautiful and innocent. Her mom, perhaps slightly embarrassed, started rambling about how she had just ordered a book about how to raise a spirited child. I smiled again. Thank God for that spirit, right?

After a brief explanation about how parents and kids can share different features and also have differences too (“Yeah, my Dad doesn’t have my freckles,”), Amanda was off and jetting up the tree trunk again.

There wasn’t an ounce of me that considered not responding thoughtfully to Amanda — not one molecule of distrust, frustration or fear. You may be thinking, “Yeah, but she’s a kid. An adult is supposed to know.” Says who? Just because I know something doesn’t mean it should be known. I usually don’t have any insight into what led them to their question or statement toward me. I just know that there’s something in it that might not feel easy to navigate. Much of what is worthwhile is not easy. Is a compassionate response only warranted if the remark comes from the mouths of babes?

A common reaction to all of these “don’t go there” articles is, “You’re preaching to the choir. The people who need to read these lists do not.” I get it. We’re cultured, have strong morals and already know what to say and when to say it. But, what are we helping bridge if we say nothing or very little at all? If it takes a village to raise our kids, sign me up for the choir that sings a little louder celebrating our differences. Whether we’re an X, Y or Z parent or have an X, Y or Z kind of child is irrelevant. Sing.

The universe has a funny way of bringing clarity into our lives. Amanda gave me mine. And whether the next Amanda is another 6-year-old precocious tree climbing neighbor or a 66-year-old grandma, I’ll offer her kindness and understanding. I don’t know her story. But if I offer mine, maybe she’ll tell me hers.

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Follow Jenn Horton on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jennhorton  
Source: HuffPost    

Jewish Multiracial Families Grow

Jewish multiracial families grow in numbers and commitment
By Electa Draper The Denver Post

Three Denver mothers heading multiracial families are seeking to build on what it means to live in Jewish community.

The community is changing.

It’s perhaps a surprising slice of demography that shows that 16 percent of metro Denver Jewish households headed by people ages 39 and younger are multiracial.Among all age groups, 9 percent are multiracial, according to the 2007 Metro Denver/Boulder Jewish Community Study. National organizations note that the trend is increasing through conversion, marriage and adoption.

Last December, Jennifer Kraft adopted Tali Bamlak Kraft, from Ethiopia. Tali is almost 14 months old. “She’s my gift, by the grace of God,” Kraft said, explaining her daughter’s name — a Hebrew word, Tali, for dew drops, and Bamlak, a name given her at an Ethiopian orphanage. It’s an expression in the Amharic language of that country: “by the grace of God.”Jennifer Kraft lived with her daughter in an Ethiopian hotel for three months waiting for the adoption process to be complete.  “It was important to me — intellectually — that she grow up with her Ethiopian identity and this whole other Jewish identity I would instill,” Kraft said. “After being there with her, it also became viscerally important to me that she have both.”

Source: DenverPost.com

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