When I first got pregnant, it didn’t occur to me that anyone would think anything negative about our child-to-be, especially not anything to do with what they looked like. I am Latina (of Nicaraguan and Mexican heritage) while my husband is white (my OB/GYN once described him as a “European milkshake”). As I pictured what our child would look like, I only thought of how beautiful they would be. Never in my life did I imagine that in 2015, at a time when the multiracial population is at an all-time high (6% according to a recent poll by Pew Research), there would still be folks frowning upon multiracial families. But in fact, that same poll tells us that 55% of multiracial individuals have been subjected to racial slurs and jokes due to their mixed background — not exactly conditions that any parent would be excited to bring their fresh child into.
If you’re a new parent to a multi-racial child, as unfair and hopefully impermanent this reality is, you should be prepared to handle some of the following commentary throughout your child’s life (at which point, you can decide whether to simply ignore them, graciously and heroically educate them, or swiftly and gracefully let them know where they can put their comments).
“What Are They?”
While some people tend to be curious about the racial background of a multiracial person, it is certainly not good manners to just go up to someone and ask in such a blunt way. They are humans, first and foremost, and children behind that, and it technically isn’t anyone’s business what their background is, so there are many reasons to be a hell of a lot more delicate about this question, if you need to ask at all, which you likely do not. And if they are the children of your friends, then shouldn’t you already have some insight into your friend’s heritage in the first place? A good rule of thumb — for this and so many other things — is "if you're close enough with someone that it's OK to ask, you probably won't have to."
“Are You The Nanny?”
When my mother and brother first came to this country, my mother (whose hair is black and whose skin is naturally a light caramel color) had a deep tan from working outdoors. Her son, however, had a particularly fair complexion and light-colored hair. Those who did not know her would ask if she was watching the boy for a family, and she would quickly snap back that that was indeed her son. My own son is also fairly Caucasian and I’m just waiting for the day someone asks me this as well.
“They Still Pass For White! You Don’t Have To Tell Anyone About Their Background.”
In a society where “white is right,” it’s not uncommon to hear people say things like this, especially about “white-passing” babies. Old racist folks will be quick to mention how you really don’t need to let anyone know their grandbaby/nephew/niece is actually half-black or half-Filipino or half-Peruvian or whatever other background they may have. Feel free to tell these people to shove it.
“I Bet They’re Going To Be Great At _______!”
[Insert your chosen stereotype here.] Someone will eventually say that your baby, based on their race, will be either good or bad at... something. Even though your baby is actually still just chewing on a rubber dinosaur and drooling on themselves. And then you’ll wonder why you’re bothering to even talk to this person in the first place, and the world spins madly on.
“They Don’t Look Anything Like You!”
What is it with people always comparing children to their parents? From the moment they’re born, you’re met with an onslaught of, “Oh they’ve got your eyes and your husband’s hair!” or some other combination. And this goes on probably until forever, but for some reason people tend to forget their filter with multiracial kids and comment about just how much they look like (or more often than not, how much they don't look like) you, the parent. To which I say, “Trust me, he came out of my vagina. HE IS MINE.” And then whoever said it is probably uncomfortable because they are now thinking about heinous things happening to your vagina during birth, which serves them right. Don't bring up my kid's origins unless you want me to get very, very specific about ~where they came from~.
“But He Can’t Be The Father!”
Just like folks will be quick to bring up how much you don’t look like your kid, they’ll also (quite rudely) mention how much your child looks nothing like their other parent. I had one friend who was accused by another “friend” of having an affair because her daughter was so tan and my friend’s husband is Caucasian. (Worse still, my friend’s daughter is adopted. People are idiots.)
“That’s Cool. I Met Someone Who Is Half-Lebanese, Half-Swedish!”
Cool story, bro, but what does that have to do with us? I once met a man who could breathe fire. Is that relevant to your life or your children? No? OK then.
“Estas Mejorando La Raza! It’s Nice To See You’re Improving The Race!”
This is something that is often heard among Latino families (quite unfortunately) and may be heard among other minorities as well. Growing up, I was always told that if I married a white man, I would be “mejorando la raza” (which translates to “improving the race,” ours to be specific). Because it’s seen as a good thing to be white and a bad thing to be black (or too brown), this kind of hateful remark continues to permeate Latino culture, and especially the minds of young Latinas. I did not marry my husband because he is white. I married him because I love him (and he just happens to be white). I did not have a baby with him to have a “whiter baby” but rather because we wanted to have a baby. Period. Quit saying stuff like this.