I am a white woman and mother to four beautiful black children. My children are my biological children. I imagine, based on those two sentences, you have already prejudged me, my situation, background, and existence. With all the civil unrest in our country lately, a few things have been brought to my attention. Although I would like for things to be different, what I have learned is that we still have a long way to go. But before you judge me, let me tell you who I really am.
I am a college-educated thirty-something white female. I am a mother, sister, daughter, and friend. I have four children, a husband, and a dog. I am over-educated and underpaid, and I work every day, just like everyone else, doing my best to take care of and raise happy, educated, and cultured children. I have dreams and goals just like everyone else. I believe in freedom of speech, the Constitution, and that prayer should be added back into public schools alongside the Pledge of Allegiance and cursive.
I am not a stranger to the occasional offhanded looks and gestures, nor am I ignorant of the fact that not everyone is in love with the idea of my interracial marriage. At our children’s doctors appointments, or the “meet the teachers” at the beginning of the year, anytime that we are propelled to disclose the background of our children and personal information about our family, there are always the same questions fancifully arranged in a number of ways with the same accusing presumptions:”Do all of your children have the same father?” “What about the father(s) of your other children?” “Are you married?” “Are you and the father still together?” “Do your children have any involvement with their dad(s)?” “So, where does Dad work?” I could continue, but this is the basic idea. As if having biracial children makes me automatically escalated to a status of having multiple fathers for my children and being a single mother. It doesn’t. Really, what people are presuming is that black men don’t stick around for their children or their family. That is not true either.
The answer to these and numerous other questions is a resounding YES. Yes, even with a twelve year age difference between by oldest children and youngest, all of my children have the same father. I want so badly to ask, “Are you jealous?” Yes, their father is involved in their lives. Yes, we do live together and are married. Yes, my children are supported by BOTH of us.
These are the main questions I always receive about my relationship that make me feel uneasy. They make me feel like I have to defend my marriage and my children. These are the only times I feel like I have to defend my life choice for falling in love with someone for who they are as a person.
As far as my children go, despite the adversity they face, they are growing into beautiful people. My goal for my children has always been for them to grow up into productive members of society. I want them to be happy, and healthy. I think these are pretty normal expectations regardless of your race or background.
The past few weeks with all the racial tension in America, as well as here in South Carolina, have been tough. Prior to recent events I would tell my children that they are biracial. I do not use the word “mixed” because to me it’s derogatory. My children consist of two races, the beautiful and ugly aspects of both. I did not want them to identify as “black” only because I felt as though I was being unfairly tossed to the side. It was as if, despite my carrying and birthing and raising these beautiful people, my heritage didn’t count. If they were identified as black only on the little race bubble or in conversation with their friends, I felt discounted. I did not want to be discounted. I checked black and white and other in all race bubbles regardless of the directions that say “check one”.
I taught my children that they are biracial consisting of two races, and that each race is special and important in its own way. I taught them that they are uniquely gifted and blessed with the ability to belong to and understand both races, a gift few people are given. I tell them how special they are and they can do anything they want when they grow up, just as any mother would tell her children.
Now, though, I feel as though I’ve been lying to them. I’ve been lying to myself and my children. Apparently I am a racist mother of four black children. My children are not “biracial” even though technically they are, because as much as I see that, or want to see that, that is not what the world sees. What the world sees is three young black men and one small black girl.
So I have had to dig deeper into myself and honestly discuss why me not being discounted was so important. What I learned is that I am myself racially biased. I thought I grew up without racial bias, but that’s not the case. I know how black people are treated. Even though my family did not expose me to jaded views growing up, I didn’t escape the reality of the world. I saw it with my eyes and experienced it in my life. So, in an unconscious way I wanted my children to have the same freedom and privilege I had. To me, that meant if I called them biracial and I was not discounted, the world would not only see that they were black but it would see they were white too. They would have the same freedom and privilege as their white peers. They would be able to fit into two different cultures and have this wonderful, unique insight into the world. I was only trying to fool myself. The truth is, by doing this, I was the one who was discounting them. I was so determined not to be overlooked because of that unconscious white privilege that I was overlooking my own children. Big fail.
Recent events have made me realize that my children will never truly have the same freedom as their white peers. For example, I now have to tell my teenage boys they cannot wear hooded sweatshirts in public outside of the house. I have also had to tell them they can’t wear bandanas to hold their sweat back off their foreheads. The simple fact is it’s too dangerous for them to wear these clothing articles. Other (white) people can wear them without consequences, but young black men can’t. This one particular conversation with my boys made me realize that they are in fact not biracial. They don’t have the privileges allotted to me, such as simply getting dressed without thinking about it. They can’t do what I can do without consequence. For them, getting dressed could be a life or death decision – literally. They have to walk a very thin line of social acceptance not only within one race, but two races. They are young black men. They will always be viewed by society as black men. My role in their lives is irrelevant; they will always have to justify their existence in that one box, or a class of society, or a racial group. They will have to do this just because one white woman fell in love with one black man and wasn’t afraid of the world and the world’s views.
Moving forward, I have been lucky enough to realize my own subconscious racial bias. Now that it’s forefront, I have acknowledged it, accepted it, and am moving past it. I am making better decisions within my family and personally to learn and grow. A part of that growth for me is education and awareness. Who would have thought that a middle-class white girl who was raised unjaded by her family, who grew up to marry and have a family with a black man, was racially biased? Not me. But a part of writing this article is to bring awareness that it happens. If you are in a similar situation, maybe it’s happened to you also. Nothing about my bias is malicious. It’s just that I’ve seen the inequality in life, and I didn’t want my children to be treated that way. My personal social circle consists of beautiful people and friends from the past and present, who are in my life because of character, not color. For our family, character counts. I acknowledge that is not the case everywhere. So, I am taking ownership of my feelings and beliefs, and moving on.
So, I am happy, flawed, and married to a wonderful black man. I have three wonderful young black male children, one gorgeous young black female child, and I love them. I will never stop loving them. I will never stop wanting them to be happy, healthy, and productive members of society, and I will never stop telling them they CAN do anything, because I believe that. And no matter what race, religion, country, or nationality you are, one thing I am sure is universal; nothing can stop a mother’s love.