I have been seeing a lot of talk out on the web about raising biracial children, there are even a few great blogs devoted to the topic. This got me to wondering… should I post about growing up biracial?! I think so!
As I have mentioned in the past-my mother is Mexican American & my father is Caucasian. I was raised knowing that I am mixed- it was no big deal to me. I took after my mom in the looks department: dark hair, dark eyes. My sibling has blue eyes and more Caucasian features. When I was little, I used to tan very easily and always had a dark tan every summer.
My friends in school all knew I was mixed, because I made a point of telling them. I can remember being in middle school, (Art class) and my classmates were having a discussion about something, I don’t remember what…and one of my “white” friends turned to me and asked, “What do you Mexicans think about that?” I looked at her and said, “I’m not Mexican, I’m 1/2 Mexican & 1/2 White, my dad’s white, just like yours.” She quickly apologized and said, “Oh yeah, I forgot.”
You see, all the White kids thought I was Mexican, because of my darker features. But all my Mexican friends thought I was White, because my features were not as dark as theirs!
Then there was the time one of my Mexican friends referred to me as “Honky” (It was the late 70′s, ok?). There were about three other girls around us, it was before school one morning. They all started to laugh. I reminded her that I was 1/2 White & 1/2 Mexican, saying “My mom’s Mexican, just like yours.” That shut her up real quick.
Looking back, I can see how her comment could have had the opposite effect on me. Had my mom not continually told me that I was 1/2 White & 1/2 Mexican, I might have been really upset by that girl’s comment. I do believe that would be considered bullying today. Her comment did not hurt me or upset me. I took it in stride. I knew what I was, who I was, and I was comfortable in my own skin. I am thankful that my mom had reinforced that in me. If she hadn’t, I might have run off the playground that morning in tears.
Along the same lines, I never felt like I had to choose one ethnicity over the other. I know some mixed people feel like they have to claim one race… Alicia Keys is mixed, but says she’s Black, for example. That’s fine if that’s what works for her. I am proud of my mixed heritage. Growing up I felt like I had the best of both worlds. I had Aunts & Uncles & Tias & Tios. During the holidays, I ate Chicken & Dumplings and Tamales & Pan Dulce! I actually felt sorry for the kids that were just one race, I felt like they were missing out on so much!
In school, when we had to fill out all those forms at the beginning of the school year…you know the ones, “Mark an X in the box that describes your race” yeah, that one… I always filled in 2 boxes- White and Latino. One time, my English teacher told me, “Um, you can only mark one box.” To which I replied, “No, I can’t! I’m White and Mexican, not one or the other, I’m both!” She did not say anything else.
To this day, I tell everyone (my friends, not strangers on the street!) that I am mixed. I am also raising my kids to be proud of their racial identity… they get to add African American (Black) to the mix. How cool is that?!
My advice to anyone raising mixed children? Make sure you teach them who they are, reinforce it every chance you get. Make sure they know beyond a shadow of a doubt who they are, what they are mixed with. Don’t force them to choose one race over another. If they know who they are, then hopefully if they ever encounter a bully (like I did in elementary school) they will be prepared and able to brush it off… or better yet, educate the bully and those around them!
Most of all, teach them to be proud of who they are, so that when they are my age, they can exclaim, “I’m Mixed & I’m Proud!”