Interracial families come from all walks of life. Some of us are made up of black and white, Asian and Latino, Arab and Jewish, and everything in between. Join us here at Beyond Black & White Kids, as we explore the diversity of our families and our experiences.
Meet the Littles, an Indian/Caucasian family based in Chicago, Illinois.
Divya and Corey Little
Daughter, 2.5 years old, Asha Little (Half Indian, Half Caucasian)
Prior to becoming a parent, what were the concerns you had about raising mixed race children?
We always planned to live in a diverse area so I wasn’t too concerned about raising mixed race children – and we were heartened by the fact that they’re among the fastest growing groups, according to the last census. We were more excited than anything about mixing the two races and really living the American dream. We’re happy that genetically speaking, she’s less predisposed to birth defects and other chronic diseases endemic to certain ethnicities, because we are from such different parts of the world.
Are your families supportive of your union? If they aren’t, how do you address this with your children? If they are supportive, describe the ways in which your families made a positive impact on your children.
Our families are generally supportive of our relationship although it wasn’t easy at first. The only issue that has prevailed is religion. Both our families are religious and are disappointed that we are not religious and have no interest or intent in raising our child in either religion – Hinduism or Christianity. We have no issues with our parents taking our daughter to their religious establishments, however, and think it’ll be good cultural exposure for her. It’s very important to both of us that Asha not lose her Indian-ness, given that she’ll grow up in a mixed race home. In that sense, it’s great that she spends time with her maternal grandparents and hears a different language, eats Indian food, and is exposed to Indian culture. Her paternal grandparents are fairly young and energetic, in ways that her maternal grandparents aren’t. She gets to be more physical with her paternal grandparents as they’re much more likely to play with her and toss her around like she loves.
Some parents in interracial marriages worry that their children will favor one parent’s heritage over the other. What steps did you take to encourage your children to embrace both heritages?
Given that she’s growing up in America, we’re less concerned that she’ll lose her father’s heritage. She’s only 2 but we’re very conscious about telling her that her mother is Indian and she’s half Indian. We also take her to Indian cultural events and make sure she’s garbed in classic Indian clothing. We will continue to expose her to Indian culture through dance and music but in many ways, because her mother is so Americanized, it’s a losing battle.
What beliefs did you have about biracial children’s experiences in this society? Has any of that shifted upon becoming parents?
She’s fairly ethnically ambiguous at this point, so it’s yet to be seen how that will affect others’ perceptions of her. Right now we’re in a very supportive community so there haven’t really been any issues. In the way that growing up a different “color” in this country always affected me, I want to be ready to answer her questions and alleviate her concerns. I learned that people see you first – and that color shapes impressions before you can even open your mouth. My parents told me that I had to work harder than all my white peers because I would be judged twice as harshly and I had to overcome that initial obstacle. The world has changed a lot but not totally. I want our daughter to be ready for that although she can probably pass for a really tan white person.
Do your children look racially similar to or different from you? Describe interactions you’ve gotten from strangers while out in public and how you reacted.
Asha was born very fair-skinned so at the beginning, strangers asked questions about whether her mother was the nanny or whether Asha was adopted. That wasn’t thrilling but certainly taken in stride. We figure we’ll get plenty of questions. Spending high school in a predominantly white town, I was used to getting questions about my heritage…often ignorant. I try to be open-minded and give folks the benefit of the doubt. I don’t think people mean to be offensive and answering questions is a way to break down barriers.
For white parents of mixed children:
Describe the limitations you feel you have as a white parent raising mixed children? Explain how you overcame those limitations.
I feel my limitations as a white parent will manifest later in our daughter’s life when she begins considering her racial identity. It seems to me her mother will be able to empathize with and advise her in ways I won’t be able. I’m not worried about these limitations, however, as my wife and I view parenting as a partnership. Racial identity will be just one more area where I will rely on my wife’s parenting skills.
What have you learned about racism as a result of parenting mixed children?
Perhaps because of us living in a large city, I haven’t been exposed to any racism as a result of being a parent of a mixed race toddler. Also, my daughter could pass for white so when we jaunt about just the two of us it’s probably not clear she is biracial. This experience might change as she grows older.
What advice would you give to new parents of mixed children?
Move to a diverse city or neighborhood if you can! But more realistically, both parents need to be available to answer cultural questions, share experiences, and offer guidance. We have a toddler so we’ve yet to experience the difficult questions or concerns. But we want to create an environment of open dialogue so she knows she can always come to us. We’d encourage that for all families.
Lorraine M. Nowlin
Staff Writer, Beyond Black & White Kids
Independent Consultant at Touchstone Crystal by Swarovski
Consultant, Rodan + Fields