“Perhaps as the number of multiracial Americans continues to grow, there will be plurality of golden people who are impossible to positively identify as one race or the other. And the rest of us who can be easily categorized will be forced to accept that color does not contribute to the content of one’s character because we won’t know which set of stereotypes to apply to whom. I want my son to grow up wearing his biracial heritage like an invisibility cloak, able to move unseen among people’s prejudices—impervious to racial profiling. But I will prepare him for a world that may think he is black or white, even though he is golden.”
It felt like I could have written this article. It was almost as if Kelley had taken the words right out of my head. In fact, I had pitched a similar idea to Latina magazine early last year. I’ve mentioned before on this blog my worries about my future biracial child. I don’t think I was as honest as Kelley was. I will try to be that honest now.
My husband, I have said, is praying for a brown child. Since my mother and maternal great-grandmother are brown (my grandmothers are not), there is a significant amount of brown DNA coursing through my veins that belies my “dark white” skin tone. (Author Mary Higgins Clark once complimented my fascinating dark white complexion.)
The first time my husband told me I was shocked. Before my husband, I had dated white men who didn’t hide their disgust for my “nappy” hair. They begged me to straighten it. I even had friends as a kid who told me my brown cousins couldn’t possibly be related to white little me.
I grew up in a multicolored family where skin color was very much a topic of conversation. I was confused by mix messages: family members who wanted to pretend to be lighter skinned and family members who teased me for being so light skinned. Certain family members wanted to disguise our African heritage and accentuate our white, Spanish heritage.
When I decided to convert to Judaism, a flustered colleague said to me, “You’re already Hispanic and a woman?! You’re going to add Jewish to that?” Talk about being a minority within a minority…. But I was naïve, I didn’t think of my race when I decided to become a Jew. I didn’t wonder about whether I would fit in or whether or not people would make racist comments around me, about me.
My stomach coils with anxiety when I think of bringing a brown baby in the world. I am scared. I remember that my darker-skinned sister was always followed around in stores while I, with my whiter skin, was not. I think about racial profiling. I think about racism. I think about the fact that despite our brown president, there will still be racist forces (both overt and subtle) conspiring against people who are not white.
I still think it’s easier to be white. I think that this is terrible but true. I think that if my baby looks like my husband, no one will ever question his or her Jewish identity. In this way, I think my child would just blend into the colorless background of white, Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Judaism. This ugly thought makes me angry. I cry as I write this. It is such a cynical truth to face in cold black and white.
Like Raina Kelley, I have terrible fears about raising a child who doesn’t look like me. It occurred to me one day that with one parent and three grand parents who all had blond hair as children, who all have white skin and recessive genes for light eyes, I could bring a child into the world that looks like the dolls I played with as a child.
Kelley heard her husband muttering to their child, “Mommy’s racist against us white people.” (My husband has voiced similar things once or twice.) Kelley writes, “It sounded absurd to hear [my son] described as white even though I myself had been saying things like ‘I hope he darkens up’ and ‘He looks Dutch.’ Clearly, I had become so eager for my son to be black that I was tiptoeing across the line from mildly offensive to racist. Not to mention that at the moment in time, it was even more absurd to call him black. Can you imagine the reverse scenario? Gabe born dark-skinned and my husband saying, ‘I hope he gets whiter.’”
That is the scenario I often imagined when I dated those white men who had strong feelings about my hair. I have one close family member whose white, European father made ugly comments about her African features and I know how those comments scarred her for life. So in the end, all I hope is that my unborn not yet conceived child will be healthy and happy...no matter what color he or she is.
This article really hit home for me. I am part of an interracial relationship and will soon enough have biracial children. I found a lot of the comments made disheartening.
I don't want to live in a colorblind society but I do want to live in a society that does not judge people by the color of their skin. I am very proud that I am different. I am very proud that I am myself biracial, that I speak two languages and am part of three rich cultures. To say that we are all the same is to deny the wonderful ways in which we are different. I wrote a more in-depth response on my blog of my personal feelings after reading your story. Thank you for being so honest!