By now, it seems reasonable to think that we could all understand that families come in all different shapes, sizes, and configurations. But even in 2019, the idea of biracial families is still apparently radical to some. The long-outdated belief that children are inherently supposed to closely resemble their parents is why many moms of mixed race children will tell you they've at one point or another been assumed to be their child's nanny. But it can also go far beyond racist microaggressions. In fact, as The Washington Post reported, one black mom revealed she carried her daughter's birth certificate in her diaper bag due to her fear that others will think her light-skinned daughter isn't actually hers.
Minneapolis police officer and mom of three Amberkatherine DeCory told the Atlanta Black Star that when her 11-year-old daughter, Mila, was a baby, she felt so afraid that strangers would get suspicious seeing her out with her light-haired, blue-eyed little girl that she carried her birth certificate. The 38-year-old mom shared with the news outlet that she also brought an actual photo of her giving birth, so that she'd have proof in case anyone ever tried to question her.
While that might seem extreme, a recent radio interview given by Cindy McCain, wife of late Arizona Sen. John McCain, exemplified up why it was actually a reasonable thing to do.
Earlier this month, McCain — the current co-chair of the Arizona Governor's Council on Human Trafficking — sat down with local radio station KTAR. In the interview, she claimed that she'd thwarted a recent human trafficking attempt at Phoenix Sky Harbor airport when she saw "a woman of a different ethnicity than the child" she was with, and reported it to police after she felt "something didn't click" about the pairing, according to CNN. McCain told the radio station that police then questioned the woman and confirmed that "she was trafficking that kid," and added that the woman was "waiting for the guy who bought the child to get off an airplane."
Following the interview, however, Phoenix Police spokesman Sgt. Armando Carbajal said that the officers who questioned the woman determined "there was no evidence of criminal conduct or child endangerment," according to CBS News.
On Feb. 6, McCain took to Twitter to address the incident, writing: "I reported an incident that I thought was trafficking. I commend the police officers for their diligence. I apologize if anything else I have said on this matter distracts from 'if you see something, say something.'"
In a follow-up statement, The McCain Institute told Romper that McCain's "on the spot decision to ask a law enforcement officer for a welfare check on a woman and young child at the Phoenix airport was based on the totality of circumstances observed, not skin color."
"She apologizes for both the hassle and for misspeaking about it during a live radio interview," the statement continued. "But that shouldn't discourage other conscientious citizens from requesting a situation be checked out. To be clear, racial background is simply not an indicator of human trafficking. Signs of abuse, duress, coercion, fraud and confusion can be. But the real issue is prevention, before anything might ever take place."
Human trafficking is certainly a serious issue that warrants major attention, however, many on social media criticized McCain's Feb. 6 tweet for not directly addressing the mother involved.
"I really like how Cindy McCain's apology isn't to the innocent family she racially profiled and then libeled as criminal traffickers, but is instead for whatever harm she may have done to the abstract concept of reactionary bigotry as a useful law enforcement tool," one such person tweeted.
This incident has led other parents of mixed race children to open up about their experiences, and like DeCory, many said they'd been on the receiving end of other people's judgements.
In response to McCain's apology tweet, one mom wrote, "as the white mother of two African American children, I can not tell you how many times my being their parent was questioned."
Another mom said: "Biracial son was nearly forcibly removed from White husband because Walmart employees felt he matched the description of a missing Black boy & wouldn’t listen to him crying & hiding behind SO. He’s autistic & was terrified to non verbalization. We were buying his birthday cake."
As for DeCory? She told The Atlanta Black Star that her decision to carry her daughter's birth certificate ultimately came down to a similar deep-rooted fear: that someone would claim her infant daughter wasn't hers. She explained to the news outlet that, without physical proof on-hand, she worried Mila could conceivably have been "placed between her and a white woman while someone in authority watched to see which way she crawled."
DeCory went on to tell The Atlanta Black Star that awful possibility meant she "would get anxiety going out with her in public," and added that she tried her best to avoid doing anything that would draw attention to them being together.
As far too many parents know from first-hand experience, having a different skin color from your children is still, sadly, dangerous and distressing territory in the United States.