I met a man, fell in love, married and had children. Pretty boring story if you ask me (except for the part where we actually met on Tinder and I met his mom the first time we met in person, but that’s a story for another day.) Also, we are from different races. My husband is super white, both in his skin color but also in his upbringing. I’m Latina, noticeably darker-skinned than him, trilingual and an immigrant. When we first met we’d have fun introducing each other to our cultures. Despite having lived in the US for 7 years, I had never tried a peanut butter and jelly sandwich until I met him. In return, he didn’t know what an actual good empanada was until he met me. We drank caipirinhas and ate arepas before going to Phish concerts. After all, we lived in one of the most diverse cities in the world and exploring each other’s culture was so easy and fun.
We then had children and our differences became more evident. Not for us as a couple, but for the outside world. It’s as if we had opened a door and invited others to a place where they shouldn’t be, to begin with. My children were the subject of conversation from strangers because of how they looked or spoke. This to me was eye-opening in many levels, especially that if my white-ish kids (or café con leche as I like to call them) were so easily the target of low-key racism in New York City, what was it like for other less white-ish kids in less diverse or multicultural cities?
I also asked my co-worker who also has biracial kids for her experience. Her children are half-Black which opens the door to a bunch of other conversations I don’t have with my half-Latinx children.
So, this is what I learned about having biracial kids, and I hope it helps any parent out there in a similar family dynamic to ours to feel seen, loved and valued.
That strangers think my children’s looks are open for discussion.
“Wow, he got really tanned over the summer, huh?” I remember a friend saying about my then 1-year-old son. It seemed harmless at the time, but now it just makes me uncomfortable because who cares? Why are we talking about his skin to begin with? Had this been the only random comment about his looks, I would’ve probably brushed it off. But it was constant. “Wild curls” “his eyes are so dark” “he looks exactly like you, nothing like his dad”. All reminders of how he looked different to other kids in the playground. And look, I’m not saying these people were intentionally racist, but, they have been brought up in a culture and environment where people like me (and my kids) are not common, so even if their comments were well-intentioned, they were not received as such. It just kept reminding me that I’m not like them.
That people would mistake me for their nanny.
This would happen regularly at the playground because I’m darker skinned than they are and speak to them only in Spanish in an attempt to raise them being fully bilingual. Again, if this happened in NYC where there are so many immigrants from everywhere in the world, I can’t imagine how much more prominent it is in other smaller, less diverse cities.
That I’d be offered unsolicited hair care advice ALL the time.
As a white mom of two half-Black kids, I could fill a book with the unsolicited hair advice/comments/warnings I used to receive—especially for my son. Until he was eleven, he had a wild mop of gorgeous curls. It was his choice to keep it long and somewhat untamed (though always cared for) and eventually, it was also his choice to cut it.
But throughout his younger years, something about my whiteness + his hair = “please give me your thoughts, stranger.” I recall one time as he ran amuck at an arcade, a woman was giving him a sweet, adoring look and then shifted her gaze to me. “My daughter had hair like that when she was little. We never brushed it either.” Thanks?
That they’d feel “in the middle” and have a hard time fitting in with both black and white people.
Spoiler alert: there are so. many. kids that look just like them.
That, unconsciously, I would be constantly waiting for someone to make a racist remark.
Maybe it’s because I was yelled at to go back to Mexico when I was speaking on the phone with my parents in Spanish (I really wanted to explain to the man who yelled at me that not all Spanish-speaking people are from Mexico and that I’m actually from a country alllllll the way down in South America called Argentina, where the Pope is from, but I didn’t have the energy). Maybe it was because a bartender once told me to “speak English, I don’t understand you” when I asked for brunch chilaquiles (we were at a Mexican restaurant, and I will always pronounce Spanish words with the proper accent, mind you). Maybe it’s related to me having to explain over and over and over again to family and friends that no, I can’t vote, and no, I don’t eat spicy food and that no, Conz is not my real name but I’m tired of people botching my actual name that I just go by a nickname. Maybe it’s all of that PLUS all the things I see in the news and social media that always have me with my guard up when it comes to my children.
I have to have conversations with my children that other parents don’t.
My kids are slowly becoming aware that they don’t look like most of their friends. They are also starting to understand that not every family speaks two languages. So I have to talk to them about their background and how it’s different from many children. I make sure our books and dolls at home are very diverse, so they see themselves in stories. I need to talk to teachers about how they might use Spanish for some things and English for others and hope that they don’t correct them to just use English. I have to constantly make an effort, and it’s an effort I’m more than happy to do, but that others sometimes take for granted.