Racial Fractions

As I may have mentioned previously, I have several friends who have biracial or multiracial children.

In the past year, I’ve noticed an interesting pattern among some of
my friends. In the past year, three of my friends have become engaged
or partnered. Three different friends with many differences among them.
The one thing that is common is that the mother of a biracial child is
partnering with a white man.

For my friend "Heather," she and her daughter "Amy" have been
friends with me and my daughter since the girls were 1 1/2 years old.
"Heather" is white and "Amy’s" father is African. This past year,
"Heather" met a man and within 6 months had moved in with him and his
son from a previous marriage, and was pregnant. The boyfriend and his
son are both white.

My friend "Wanda" is Korean and adopted. Her ex-husband is African
American and their daughter "Leah" is biracial. You would never guess
that "Leah" is Asian as she looks African American. My daughter and I
have been friends with "Wanda" and "Leah" since the girls were 6 years
old. Last November she met the man who would become her fiancé by the
end of spring. He is white. Although "Wanda" is Korean American, she
has had her own issues with racial identity and is so angry at her ex,
that she’s resisted encouraging her daughter to identify as African
American to the degree that "Leah" hates being Black and wants to be
Korean like her mom. Even though "Wanda" has no interest in exploring a
Korean American identity.

My friend "Jerry" is the new partner. He is white. His girlfriend
"Molly" is white and she has a biracial son, "Sam." They moved in
together a few weeks ago and "Jerry" was actually the only one of my
three friends who recognized that in their new blended family, "Sam"
was now going to be the odd one out just like I was in my adoptive

"Jerry" called me for advice because he was concerned how "Sam"
would feel left out. Recently "Sam," who is 8, had said, "what, because
I’m the brown one, I’m your slave?"

"Jerry" was sensitive enough to recognize that "Sam" was noticing
the difference in the racial composition of his family. We discussed
how his racial positioning in the family was going to be one of the
many adjustments he would have to make.

I had made this observation to my friend "Heather" as well. When she
announced that she and "Amy" were moving in with her fiancé and his
son, I remarked that "Amy’s" position was going to change from racially
representing 1/2 of a family unit to 1/5. We’ve been friends for 12
years now, and I could be honest enough with her to say that I wanted
to give "Amy" a hug and tell her I knew what it was like to be the only
brown person in the family. "Heather" asked me if she could let "Amy"
know that if she ever wanted to talk to someone about this issue, could
she come to me. Of course, I’ve felt like a surrogate auntie to "Amy"
for 12 years now! Absolutely, she could talk to me. But I told
"Heather" that I could only talk about in general terms what it was
like as the only Asian in the family. I have no experience being the only African American in the family.

One of the arguements PRO-transracial adoption I have been hearing
lately was reintroduced last week via. a transracial adoptee’s blog.
This adoptee is biracial black and white. She is pro-transracial
adoption, and one of her supporting arguements is that white women have
been raising biological children of color successfully for years and
why would transracial adoption be any different?

I’m not sure how your state is, but there are a lot of white women
partnering with black men in my state, and I don’t think they are
automatically doing a good job raising biracial children with a
recognition of their child’s racial and cultural needs. I don’t think
that by partnering or having children with someone of a different race
automatically gives one a free pass into being racially or culturally
Writer Rebecca Walker, whose mother is Alice Walker (novelist of The Color Purple among many other books) and Mel Leventhal, who is Jewish, writes:

"After my (white) stepmother read my book, Black, White and Jewish,
one of the things she said was that she never thought of me as black,
she just thought of me as Rebecca. While this is a wonderful and
important concept, I found it quite dangerous. Growing up, I was in
fact a black child and I had to navigate being a black child in a
racially stratified world. For any of my caregivers to ignore this
basic truth was, in my opinion, to ignore the reality of my daily
existence and thus be unable to help me figure out how to move
skillfully through it.

My friend "Heather" was one of those women who strongly advocated
for her daughter. She sent her daughter to a diverse, public school.
She lived in the city. She was very conscious about the needs of
raising a strong, black child. Yet, ever since becoming engaged and
having a white child with her white partner, she seems to have placed
the racial and cultural needs of her daughter on the back burner. I
think this mostly has to do with the attitudes and behaviors of her
fiancé, who is not culturally or racially sensitive. It makes me very
sad, and I worry a little about how this will affect "Amy’s" self image.

I am very curious about whether a biracial person’s racial and
cultural identity mirrors that of transracial adoptees if they live
with their white parent and a white step-parent. Although the
biological ties are there, unlike adoption, it seems there could be
many parallels.

My friend "Jerry" is fortunately one of those white step-fathers who
will actively seek to ensure that his step-son’s needs are met – and he
has a very diverse group of friends who will be availble to mentor both
of them as they navigate through this new territory. I only wish my
other friends had partners that were so conscious and caring of just
how important this will be. After all, it’s hard for any child to give
up 50% of their parent’s attention to someone else. Having that
"someone else" unable to recognize the racialized power differentials
only makes it that much harder.

Author: JaeRan

Assistant professor at UW Tacoma, writer, and researcher.

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