By Lorraine Nowlin
Parents in multiracial families are often concerned about the bigotry their children will face from those on the outside. What if the mother or father in the mirror is the one that needs to unpack their bigotry? I recently came across a “confession” of Journalist Frank Somerville on Facebook. He is the white adoptive father of a black daughter. His confession was raw and contrite:
I saw a white woman sitting at a bus stop at about 8pm.
And there was a black guy dressed kind of “street” walking on the sidewalk in her direction.(I say “kind of” because he didn’t look like a hoodlum. More like “street casual.”) I was across the street and instantly thought to myself: “I’m going to watch this guy just to make sure he doesn’t do anything to the woman.” And then it happened. As he’s was walking I noticed a little boy running to catch up with him. The little boy then grabbed his dad’s hand.
Somerville painfully admitted that he too is unfortunately influenced by the racial bigotry that infests our society:
The man did absolutely nothing wrong.
And yet I initially saw him as a possible threat.
And let’s be honest.
The main reason was because of his skin color.
The whole way home I was thinking to myself:
“I grew up in Berkeley.
I have a black daughter.
And yet I still have that %$#%$@ bias.
What the %$#%$ is wrong with me.”
Somerville is not the only parent that needs to confront personal biases namely for the sake of children. We all, especially those parenting children of other races, need to do some serious soul searching. A white parent can’t assume that since they are willing to marry, form families with, or adopt a person of another race that they are free from racial bias. Did you too think the young black man you saw at a bus stop was up to no good? Did you deny a deserving black woman a job or promotion because in your mind she was lazy or incompetent? If you don’t confront this issue it will likely come up with the black and biracial children you are raising. This could come in the form of “silencing” your child with responses like “you should have just obeyed the officer” after they have been racially profiled or violently victimized by police.
This doesn’t stop with white parents. Black parents of biracial children need introspection as well. Have you healed from negative experiences with colorism? Do you harbor angst against the opposite sex members of your race? This must be acknowledged and unpacked or it will affect your children. This will be the case whether in the form of resenting your biracial daughter’s light skin and straight hair or resenting your son for being accepted more because he physically resembles his European heritage. Just consider the criticism biracial men like Jesse Williams or Colin Kaepernick received from black men after speaking out on racial issues. They aren’t “black enough” to speak out on black issues. Make no mistake, this same hostility can occur within families.
We should follow Frank Somerville’s lead and unpack our biases. The sooner we unpack, the better our relationships will be with our children.