The Top 5 Things I Want People to Know About My Mixed Family

Child Walking Up Bottom of Stairs
Child Walking Up Bottom of Stairs

The following is based on real-life experiences with my family since the birth of my son. It goes without saying that these situations, from cultural misunderstandings to racial/ethnic insensitivity to flat-out ignorance, likely represent only the tip of the iceberg in terms of what my biracial son can expect to experience throughout his life.

They also, combined, represent some of the fears I had when my family and I decided to move to a less diverse suburb in an effort to give my son access to high quality public schools -- a loaded term to be sure, and one I feel particularly strange about given the civil rights work I have done in the education equity space. I wrote about it before here.

More importantly, however, these stories represent a snapshot of typical day-to-day words, actions and interactions that may or may not be intended to offend, but nevertheless do. They are a snapshot of just how nefarious racism is and how it manifests in situations that may outwardly seem innocuous. And they represent how a certain kind of privilege works in these spaces -- where folks feel entitled to touch my son and comment on his skin color or hair and where they give unsolicited advice about how he is being raised and the way they interpret interracial marriage -- even in supposedly progressive enclaves.

1. My son's origin story. Despite my son's beige complexion, his dad (me) is just regular old American apple pie, plantation, slave trade, Confederate states, Southern roots black -- not what you may see as a more exotic, less threatening sort of brown, like Brazilian or Moroccan or Dominican.

2. That white lady standing awkwardly close to me in the mall/movie theater/insert other random context is my son's mother, my wife. That white lady standing on the side of me and/or behind me and/or in front of me in the checkout aisle making googly eyes at my baby and maybe holding items that look like they match mine or pushing a cart with items and carrying a diaper bag that looks like it goes with the baby I am carrying -- she is my wife. She is not trying to cut me in line; you don't need to tell her to back up a few steps until you are done with ringing up my groceries. (Note: This is also true in the reverse; substitute our roles and we are still together. I am not a random black guy standing in the way of a white woman pushing her stroller, but thanks anyway for watching out to make sure she has a clear path to walk with the baby!)

3. My son is not a demi-negro in the vein of Hercules, impervious to the effects of the sun. Yes, he has to wear sunscreen to protect his delicate skin. No, this is not because he is only half-black -- black folks can also get sunburnt and we can also acquire and die of skin cancer.

4. He is mixed, but the same rules apply. Do NOT randomly walk up and touch his hair, his skin, his anything... EVER. He is not exotic (see #1). He is a human being, not a curly-haired creature for your inspection.

5. Hoodies are good enough for Mark Zuckerberg, so... While we appreciate you thinking you have the agency to share your words of wisdom regarding our son's attire with us, we certainly don't need them. You seeing him wearing a hoodie does not entitle you to give us your thoughts on whether or not that is teaching him to embrace thuggery. And according to the demi-negro myth, a hoodie on him should at least be half acceptable, right?