Ask Lisa: Talking About Blackness, Take 2

 

Talking About Blackness Take 2

This week’s #AskLisaAdvice, the question digs deeper into last week’s topic: talking about Blackness—in this case with a Multiracial child who looks White.

Hi Lisa,

I have a seven-year-old daughter who is mixed but looks Caucasian. We have never really talked about race, but with us being military and moving to a more concentrated Black area I am concerned she will not be accepted by either race. I am mixed myself: Black/Korean and my husband is Caucasian. My family has been fortunate enough to live in an environment where race hasn’t been an issue. 

Being a military family we travel around a lot. This is my children’s first move from California and we are moving to Baltimore. They have only known small communities and country style living. So, city living and all the things that come with that is a concern. Since my daughter is so fair, no one really places her with me until she addresses me as “Mommy.” My son looks like me so he will have a different experience I think. I am kind of projecting my fears because I was discriminated a lot by other Black kids growing up in LA. I was not Black enough and even though I fit in with some, I really didn’t fit in anywhere if that makes since. I look forward to your answer. Thank you for taking the time to help my family. 

Sincerely,

L.B.

Dear L.B.,

Your daughter is still young, but don’t wait a minute more to start talking about Blackness. Your instincts are right: it will come up more as soon as you move to the more diverse area. My post last week focused on the importance of talking about Blackness—or whatever piece of one’s heritage is often maligned and denigrated by society.

Talking About Blackness in a Celebratory Way is Essential to Countering Toxic Stereotypes

Regardless of how your daughter appears, Blackness and Korean-ness are part of her birthright. She must learn to take pride in them. Teach her about your heritage and encourage your husband to do the same. (Don’t forget that Whiteness is made of different nationalities that she can learn about as well). Read your children books where the protagonists are Asian or Black or Multiracial as well as White. Explain that people of different races can appear all kinds of ways—and all are equally valuable as humans.

Being multiracial and having experienced racism yourself, you know that people judge others by appearance and often make incorrect assumptions. Multiracial people are frequently assigned mistaken racial identities based on what they look like. Your daughter must be prepared for being taken incorrectly for White—and not Mommy’s child. She must also be prepared for the reactions of others who doubt that she is Black and Korean. Give your daughter the language to address these challengers. Try role-playing in order to help her plan what to say when someone questions her heritage. Make a game of it; let her pretend to be the person who doubts her and you pretend to be her. Then switch roles. Include your son in this too. Both of your children will face questions when they reveal that they are siblings, in any case.

Also, tell your children stories about your own childhood. How did you handle it when someone assumed you did not belong to one of your parents? You can—and should—include your husband in these discussions. He may be White, but he is part of a Multiracial family. The people he loves most are people of color. The more your daughter knows that Daddy is in support of her full identity, the stronger she will be.

When Talking About Blackness—or Race in General—Don’t Forget to Include Dad in the Discussion

Here’s some good news: Because you are thinking about this, pondering these questions, your daughter will one day come to a place of full self-acceptance, which is the key to being accepted by those around her. She may always find that people ask her to explain which races she belongs to, but in the end, people will respond to her confidence. Some people will not accept her as Black or White or Asian, but that will be their loss. Talking about Blackness—and Korean-ness and Whiteness—will give her the language to understand who she is for the long hall.

My best to your family.

Lisa

The advice offered in this Advice for the Multiracial Community column is intended for informational purposes only. Use of this column is not intended to replace or substitute for any professional advice. If you have specific concerns or a situation in which you require professional, psychological or medical help, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified specialist.

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Published on: May 3, 2017

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