By Guest Blogger Juan Santos M.S., CRC, LCMHC
Not too long ago my daughter said that she wanted skin like Mommy’s. For some reason, my immediate thought was pain and hurt. My eyes grew with water and in that moment, I did what I presume most parents would do. I pulled the thoughts and tears back and told her that I also love Mommy’s skin. I asked her why and she told me. She shared that it was pretty. She said that the other kids at school have it.
This was one of many conversations that we had and of those to come. For my wife and I, it has continued to be a journey being an interracial relationship. We are welcome in some groups and not in others. Parenting was a journey of its own.
I remember thinking if my kids would be treated in ways that I was treated. If they would be judged by their color and labeled to be X or Y before given a chance to speak. Interesting enough, I felt optimistic. Thinking to myself that their skin tone would pull from my wife (who, by the way, is a white Caucasian female). I thought that just maybe they would be treated with kindness and not have to go through what I went through.
Even as I’m writing this, I sense hesitation. To share or not to share. To divulge vulnerability or to retain it.
I want to share with you conversations that take place behind closed doors. Some funny others well let’s just say painful.
Using the Media to Create Dialogue
Not too long ago, we grabbed poster boards and designed them with supportive words. It read something like, “Blow Bubbles For Black Lives.” As a unit, we marched downtown and found a comfy spot along the many beautiful and supportive citizens of Greensboro, NC. My wife and I held the posters while our kids Nola and Alex blew bubbles.
That this was such a momentous day. Yet, it wasn’t just one conversation for our kids.
As a foreign-born Latino father native to the Dominican Republic. I found myself years back doing a DNA test. I like to say that I’ve got rich blend of ethnic backgrounds. Among them is Portugal, Spain, and North Africa. Which makes sense. The tone of my skin when kissed by the sun can transition my skin tone to that of mocha. The texture of my hair is coursed and has just that bounce I like. I am who I am for that I am thankful to my generational linage. My wife’s results came back with her top three ethnicities as Scotland, England, and Ireland. I can see the Irish in her. She is confident and strong.
That day and many others like it, we sit as a family and talk about race. With our kids we talk about what happened that day and why they think we attended the event.
Overall, attending the event created a platform for conversation to take place.
Talk About Race
This can be difficult yet it’s eye opening and can bridge the gap to the unknown questions that linger a child’s mind. I was that child at one point. Wondering why I was left out? Or if my color would have just been white and my eyes blue. Just maybe that day would have been better…
As a 32-year-old man, I can tell you that the words you are reading are marked with a mixture of vulnerability and pain. Yet, life is what it is and we must do our best to move forward while learning and growing.
As a family, we talk about my wife’s background and mine. We extend beyond, mom is white. We dig into the richness of Scotland and the history behind the Irish. Together we talk about how they feel in their skin.
I’ll be the first to tell you that these conversations with a 4 and 6-year-old often do not carry too far. I nudge you to start subtle and create consistency. In my opinion, the main emphasis is that the conversations are taking place and as such will continue to.
I believe that everyone has a story to tell. That there is good in all of us. Sit down with your kids and open the door to outlining the positive aspects of your child’s culture.
My son and daughter are biracial. Which is so cool!
They have these big beautiful brown eyes. Hair that bounces the rays of the sun just perfectly. In the warmest words, I love being their father and beyond thankful to have my wife as their mother.
For this conversation piece, I like to give all the credit to my wife. She searches high and low for children’s books that connect to varying cultures. There is this one book, which always makes me smile. I think it’s called “Feminist Baby”. At one point in the book, the baby is running nude which represents from what I recall marching for advocacy.
Again, you can take this in any direction you desire. I find the basic point is to share the positive aspects of your child’s culture.
My kids are 4 and 6 years old. They will have their own unique experiences when it comes to being biracial. I will do my best to give them space to have their own experiences while doing what parents do, protect and nurture them. I hope that they will not experience what I have experienced as a person of color. As their father and a person of color, I will do and continue to do my best to advocate for others.
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