Biracial Children: Must They Choose?

Taye Diggs was recently the center of a controversy about how he wanted his son to identify as biracial as opposed to focusing solely on his blackness. As generations get older and become more integrated, society appears to be struggling as to how to categorize biracial children and their families. Are they black? Are they white? Are they something else? Where do they stand and how are parents handling this as their children go to school?

Personally, I am biracial, and I identify as such. I was raised by my grandmother who was German and very set in her ways. She was the only role model I had growing up. Therefore, when I went to school, I identified with being white, and the majority of my friends were white as well. However, there was a point when the texture of my hair and the color of my skin started to matter. This is when having that parental support became important. I personally had no clue what people were talking about because I never really “saw” myself as anything but white. But as I grew older and embraced who I was, I became more comfortable associating with being biracial, because that’s what I am.

I grew up in a "white" household and identified that way until I was in High School

I grew up in a “white” household and identified that way until I was in High School

As I sit here and think of my childhood and school years, I now think of my son. He is almost two and he is multiracial. My husband is black. We both bring a different dynamic to his life. I hope that what we give to him is the ability to fit into any group of people, be it black or white or anything in between. It’s not so much to identify with what you are, but to identify with everyone.

This seems to be the issue with society at this point. We have Caitlyn Jenner who was a man and is now a woman, who also won Woman of the Year, and society is in an uproar. Ebony has become the latest to feel the backlash as to who is “black enough” to advocate for social justice issues.

In a Huffington Post article, the author, Kimberly Cooper, questions “who gets to decide” whether biracial activists are qualified to support the social justice of black people. Cooper also has her own blog and has discussed biracial children. Her article, Mixed Like Us: How to Support Biracial Children and Their Shifting Identities, describes how she dealt with the “negative social perceptions of biracial, multiracial and transracially adopted children [and how they] were largely impacting the growth, well-being, and resources available to members of our own community at home and in schools.” She posed the question, “But what if mixed-race and biracial children were supported for an identity which embraced both parents?”

Cooper offered some ways parents and teachers can support biracial children. Some of her ideas are “provide resources inclusive of multiracial families and mixed race people when talking about race; embracing biracial identity isn’t synonymous with rejecting the minority parent; understand that identifying as biracial may shift over time; learn how biracial, mixed-race and transracially adopted children aren’t only mixed black and white or from the United States; and listen for a variety of different perspectives when it comes to the topic of biracial identity and race.”

The premise is that as parents and educators, children need to be respected for their choices as to how they identity. Their desires need to be heard, as well. We also need to stop assuming that because they are biracial, that they are black and white. It might not necessarily be that way. At ages three and four, children are able to distinguish the fact that people have different skin colors, but aren’t prejudice against them unless prompted to do so, by either parents, friends, or other adults. We are the ones who help to foster a love between all people, and the notion that everyone is the same.

Sources

Kimberly Cooper, (2015, December 4). The Biracial Backlash: Zendaya, Alicia Keys and Other Activists Targeted Over Mixed Race Heritage

Kimberly Cooper. (2015, December 1) Mixed Like Us: How to Support Biracial Children and Their Shifting Identities


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