I was 6 years old when I realized that my parents and I don’t “match.” Ever since I was younger, I saw the evidence of my parents’ different hair and skin color. But that was an insignificant, even trivial, detail about my parents. They were my parents and it didn’t matter what color skin they were or what color hair they had. My dad had white alabaster skin with brown hair and green eyes. My mom had darker hair and her skin was a shade or two darker from my dad’s.
When society looked at us, as a familial unit, sometimes they didn’t see us as being of one blood and related by the awesome power of genetics. Society may have assumed that my mom was my mom because of our similar complexion and darker hair color. But sometimes, society didn’t see that my dad was really my dad. All they saw was the color of the skin and hair, refusing to look past even the minute details and similarities that exist between us.
Because of these assumptions made by society, it can be hard when parents and kids don’t “match.” I put match in quotation marks, because of course my parents and I match. Of course, I match with my multiracial children. But in the eyes of a world, and a society, that still sees nothing but the exterior, it can be heartbreaking for those assumptions to be ever present.
What It’s Like When Parents and Kids Don’t “Match”
When I was younger…
As a child, I honestly didn’t notice that my parents had different complexions. I didn’t notice that they were of two different races. All I knew was that they were my mom and dad. All I knew was that even though the color of their hair or skin might have been different, it didn’t matter. All it mattered was that they loved me and we were a family unit.
I didn’t identify or think of my parents as being of a particular race. I saw the different skin color and hair color, but that was insignificant and trivial. It’s because young kids don’t notice those things. All kids see is people. Kids aren’t born dividing people by the color of their skin. This is something that is later taught by society. Society is the one that teaches kids that people must fall into specific racial categories, A, B, or C. But the truth, not everyone can fit into one racial category. Not everyone is who they may look on the outside. We must never make assumptions based on what we see. Because at the end of the day, that is all that they are: assumptions.
Assumptions. They get you all the time.The Color of Friendship, Disney Channel Original Movie, spoken from an American woman to her Daughter
As I grew older into the teen years…
As I grew older, the societal assumptions grew more pronounced. There were things that people would say, or not say, that showed their ignorance. Also, these bouts of ignorance wouldn’t have been as pronounced had I grown up in another part of the country in which multiculturalism is more of the norm. But I grew up in the Deep South, and there is a lot of prejudice and ignorance that exist there.
I remember once, I was in math class in middle school. I was at my desk, quietly working on a math problem, when a girl came and sat across from me. She told me that she saw my parents, and commented that they seemed nice. And then, she said, “but you’re dad’s white.”
Not looking up, I nodded, though I could feel her eyes on me. I could feel her attempts at trying to understand. And, I wasn’t about to give her any hints. She then asked by making a statement, “were you adopted?” When she said that, I could detect the smallest note of pity. I shook my head once and in that movement, the truth tumbled out silently.
She just stared at me, hard. I could feel the last vestiges of disbelief behind those words. At last, she said, “so you’re half white?” And I nodded.
What this means to me…
This incident was one of many that plagued my teenage years. People would look at me, my parents, and I could feel their sense of wonder, curiosity, and bewilderment. It was as if my parents and I deserved to be on display at a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not?. This happened in the first decade of the twenty-first century, fifty years after the American Civil Rights Movement, and yet we were still having problems with these assumptions that people had about my family. The fact that they sometimes assumed that I was adopted simply because my parents and I don’t “match,” really rankles me a lot. It means that they don’t believe that we don’t “look” related. All that they see when they look at us is the exterior, not taking the time to look at the details, such as facial features and behavior.
Having been plagued by these assumptions nearly all of my life, it is heartbreaking to know that that is all that people see. Because of this, I try not to make any assumptions about people. I don’t identify people as being of a particular race, but rather simply identify them as being human. With the increase of the number of multiracial people in this country, it is simply unjust that we continue to categorize people, boxing them into certain stereotypes. As the number of multiracial people continues to increase, my hope is that people will start being more open minded and less judgmental. Most of all, I hope that people will see families, even when they don’t necessarily “match,” as a family that does match. And I hope that their first thought isn’t one of suspicion.
When assumptions turn deadly…
I spoke about how people have assumed that I was adopted or that my dad was not my real dad simply because of the color of our skin. I have heard of other people saying that they have often been mistake for the children’s nanny, simply because the color of their skin don’t “match.” I have heard of people calling the cops on interracial families simply because of suspected kidnapping. I have heard of older children getting mistaken as their parent’s spouse, as the person couldn’t believe that they could be the child, not taking into account the vastly different ages. I also never tend to hear people saying that parents and children with different complexions are “twins,” as you may hear with families who have the same color skin. It is as if the color of the skin acts as a thick barrier, and a bigger obstacle than it should be. It is heart breaking when people make these assumptions. Just because you have a different complexion from your parents or your children does not mean that you are not related.
As a biracial parent to multiracial children…
Fortunately, I haven’t heard any negative racial remarks when I am out with my children … except one time. I was at the local splash park with my then 1-year-old daughter. Another little girl who was about 6 or 7 asked me if I was her mother. And then she just preceded to stare at me, hard, in disbelief and shock, though she didn’t say anything. It is strange experience when people, no matter their ages, tend to doubt that you are related. I wonder, should I just fling the results of a DNA test at any naysayer we may come across as proof of the blood relation?
Other than that, we have been relatively unscathed from the sometimes scorching remarks from other people. Of course, we don’t go out much, especially because of the pandemic, and so we have been more sheltered this year and the previous year. I just hope that when we do start venturing out more into the world that people won’t make assumptions, or say words that can hurt. I just hope that people become more open minded and realize that any group of people can be a family, regardless if you “look” related or not, or are related or not. It doesn’t matter what color people are. And it shouldn’t matter what other people think. But, it does regardless of what we may tell ourselves, because the opinions of other people matter more than we care to admit.