Biracial children often have a hard time figuring out their identity and their place in society. “Am I white?” “Am I Black?” Many daughters, like mine, have had darker-skinned little girls with courser hair bully them for having “good hair“. Biracial children have experienced racism, like mine first did in preschool by a teacher’s assistant, and several times after that throughout kindergarten and elementary school so far. A few years ago in February, I reflected on the trials and tribulation of having a biracial daughter in Black History Month.
It should be enough to just deal with the regular hormones that accompany growing up and transitioning into teenage-hood without the added layer of feeling like you’re a bit of a square peg in a round whole in the world. I had many friends throughout my life that went through it themselves. I got many opinions from a lot of those friends when I was about to have my own biracial child. (And, I took their first-hand accounts and perspectives to heart.)
At the time of the inspiration for this post, my daughter was ten years old. For Black History Month in school, there was a day set aside for everyone to dress up as (or do a presentation on) the most inspiring Black person to them. A year or so before, my husband had taught a series to a local elementary school on some of the most famous Black individuals from the Harlem Renaissance. I went through some of the lesson sheets I had helped him create to tell her more about them and give her some ideas on who she wanted to dress up as.
She still couldn’t decide, and it seemed like such a hard decision for her. Finally, she asked, “You’re the one that inspires me most. Can I dress up as you, even though you aren’t in history?” I replied, “Honey, mommy’s not Black; I’m white.” Then, she said, “Oh, yeah! I forgot!” It made us chuckle that she forgot her mom was white. 😉 I started taking her through so many other actual Black women of history, but she didn’t want to dress up as any of those.
Finally, she told me she found a famous Black person from history that she was most inspired by. She showed us the Google search she had done, and it was Nat Turner. We were surprised. We asked her why. She responded, “He was the only slave that was able to lead a rebellion to try and help free slaves. I know a lot of people were killed, but if it weren’t for brave people like him, I might be a slave today or not even been able to be born.”
We were impressed. At first, we were worried she was going to just go to school and talk about rebellions and killing slavemasters without a proper understanding of all that it meant and signified for Black people in American history. We were so glad that she understood it as she did. We encouraged her wholeheartedly to dress up as Nat Turner and share all she had learned with her classmates and her teacher. She had developed so much confidence in her Black history around that time.
As she progressed through her pre-teen years and entered into her teen years, she started feeling all the societal pressures again. She has a mixture of Black and white friends, lives in a diverse neighborhood, and goes to a diverse school. She struggles again with being confused on where she fits in. Some schoolmates tell her she acts too white or acts too Black… What does that even mean?! Kids can be cruel and confused as it is, but I hate that my sweet, tenderhearted, and impressionable girl feels all of it so deeply.
Some people told me not to date men of color, to not have a baby that was biracial. It would be too hard for her. It wasn’t fair to a child. Why would I be so selfish? It went on and on. Do I hate that my daughter has to go through this? Absolutely. Would I rather she not be born at all? ABSOLUTELY NOT!!! We do our best to make her proud of her heritage, to take ownership of the parts of her heritage she may not be proud of, and to help her be a strong Black woman (because that’s how the majority of society will always see her). We’ve got her in therapy (not just for this, but for her dyslexia and how she struggles with a two-household childhood), and we’ll always support her being her best and strongest self.
There may be some trials and tribulations, just as there is again going into another Black History Month, but we’re trying to raise a world-changer. She brought together parts of my extended family I had never thought possible when she was a baby. She is kind and loving and tender. She will make the world a better place, and I will help her celebrate all her Black heroes from Nat Turner to Rosa Parks and beyond. I’ll also still do my best to be one of her biggest inspirations (even if I am white). 🙂 I love that girl, and I’m so proud of her.
How can you and your family help shatter racial divides and unify us all? It starts with each of us, and we have the chance to make the next generation better than ours and all the ones that came before us. Take the month of February to intentionally study and celebrate Black history with your kids and lessen the trials and tribulations of biracial kids – and all kids of color – everywhere.