Thursday, August 5, 2010

Deep thoughts (yes, this is causing my brain to hurt a little...)

A few weeks ago someone posted an article on one of the Seattle newspapers' blogs.  I don't remember when or which one and haven't got the time to go find it again, so you'll just have to believe me :) Anyway, this article was about the President's appearance on The View, and Barbara Walters asking him why he refers to himself most of the time as "black" rather than "mixed". After reading the post and seeing the President's answer to the question, I left a comment.

My comment essentially said that I was glad to know the president's answer, and that, as the mom of mixed-race kids, I feel like the President is denying his mixed-race heritage by referring to himself as "black".  And a later comment critized me for my statement, pointing out that the president is very open about who he is, and has never denied being mixed race.

I thought about that a lot after I read the response to my comment. At first I was a little offended, because I don't do criticism well, but then I realized that the person was right.  I'm projecting my feelings and my life on a situation that doesn't involve me.  The President has never claimed to not be mixed-race, he just identifies more with one ethnicity than the other.

And then I had another eye-opening experience last night which really made me think about this even more.  Last year we bought Vivian a baby doll- and we found one that is an Asian doll, so it actually looks like her.

And then this year for her birthday, my grandmother went to the store to buy Vivian a baby doll and got the exact same doll, but with blond hair and blue eyes (she didn't know about Vivian's other baby doll).  So now Vivian has two almost identical dolls, one Asian and one Caucasian.

And the thing is- I gravitate toward having her play with the Asian baby doll, since it looks like her. Last night I was taking toys out of her crib before bedtime and I actually took out the blond doll and left the other one.  Which actually made me stop in my tracks as I realized what I had done. Even though I know, more than anyone else, that Vivian is half-Caucasian, even I think of her as Chinese because that's how she appears on the outside.

It's a weird situation, having a child that not only doesn't look like me, but that looks like she's a completely different race from me. And from her brother as well. People know that Vivian is mixed race (or assume so when they see I'm white) and ask often what her exact ethnic background is, but it's rare that anyone even notices it in Ethan. I think it's going to be interesting to see how the kids identify themselves as they grow up. Hopefully they'll be able to embrace both cultures and ethnicities in a way that works for them and helps each of them be a well-rounded person.  And hopefully I can figure out how to help them do this without messing them up too much!

I don't know the point of this post- just stuff I'm thinking about this week. And no, I haven't had my coffee yet this morning, which is why it's a little muddled. :)  Seriously though, anyone else think this is about the longest week ever?  I need Friday night to show up already...

Oh, and might I add? My kids? Cutest things ever, no matter what race they are :)


Andrea said...

My husband is white, with dark hair. Both of my girls, as you know, look a lot like him. I was hoping I'd get a blond, but mother nature had brunettes in my future. I always try to buy dolls that look like them, with dark hair. And I would have taken our the Caucasian doll too if I were you. I think for me, it's not necessarily about a brunette doll, but more, in my mind at least, about my wanting them not to grow up and put themselves in that Barbie Doll mold.

Society dictates what is beautiful, we see it on magazines, with the latest weight loss fad, on tv where they dye a little girl's hair, put make up on babies, make dolls that look like prostitutes, low rise pants in a size 4T...etc.

So why hunt for the brunette doll for my girls, or the Asian doll for Vivian? Because we want them to love who they are, and somewhere deep in us we think they will learn to accept themselves as the beautiful people we see them to be....starting with a doll. :-)

It irritated me too about Obama calling himself black. I have a niece who is 1/2 black as well, and she was the one who brought it up to me that she thought it was annoying he was the first "black" president. But you're right on with the doll thing and identifying with one side of one's race. I never thought of it that way, but now I see I do the same in just simple HAIR COLOR! ha

maggie said...

I have a post brewing on this EXACT SUBJECT. I'm just too lazy to hunt down the photos. But I will. AND WE WILL DISCUSS.

A said...

J has that very same asian lil hugs doll!! So far her doll collection is three dolls two cabbage patch and the lil hugs. One of the CP was mine from when I was little, blue eyes blond hair. When she started loving to play with it I bought her a black CP doll, and then the asian lil hugs doll. I guess I want her to see not just black faces in her dolls and books and whatnot but diverse faces.

I interpreted the president's statement as a choice to claim what is just a reality in this country. He can claim caucasian heritage all he wants (and he does) but to the vast majority of folks he is black.

good post. :)

Doll Nasian said...

We have Asian Dolls and we'd love to send you one of our 12" versions for free. Just let us know which nationality your daughter would like... most of our Filipino friends want the chinese dolls.

Angela said...

Good post...It's interesting to hear about these things from a mom of a biracial child.
I am half-white and half-black, and I too was irritated at first by Obama being referred to as the first black president, and his silent acceptance of the label. But as I thought about it, I came to the same conclusion as you, because it's something that I live everyday---you can claim to be whatever you want, but if you look like a certain race of people, society's going to put you in that box whether you want to be there or not, especially if you're half black. It's just a hard fact of being bi- or multi-racial.
So most of us do identify more with one race or another, not necessarily because we want to, but that's where society leads you. I can see with my generation (I'm almost 30) how this need to categorize people is fading. Hopefully when Vivian and Ethan get to be my age, it'll be even more of a non-issue....they'll identify with one side or another because they want to, or they can just be biracial, because that's okay too.
As a biracial person, this has been my experience: your identity is formed by equal parts of how your family addressed the issue of being biracial, and your own experiences, interests, and preferences.
As long as you present your kids with opportunities to explore both sides of their heritage (give them dolls of all colors!), and instill in them that both sides make up a total package, they'll embrace this as they get older...there won't be such a pressing need to identify with one or the other because you've already made it okay to be both.
And your kids are adorable!!