In light of recent events, it is more important than ever to talk about race with your child. And it is even more important to talk about race with your multiracial child. When you are multiracial, then you transcend the boundaries of race, making it clear that it is never a matter of simply choosing the right box. Rather it encompasses everything from your physical appearance, how you feel about who you are, and how you are ultimately perceived by the general public.
‘And when you have interracial parents, there are certain conversations that must take place that someone else wouldn’t have to have. When your parents are of different races, then the question of what you are becomes blurry and confusing. If one parent is white, and another parent is black, then logically, you would be 50% black and 50% white. But unfortunately, society won’t always see you that way, but instead make judgements and assumptions. Because of this, it is vital to talk about race with your multiracial child. There is a right and wrong way on how to talk about race. In this article, I want to give you the 6 do’s and don’ts on how to talk about race with your multiracial child.
Let’s Talk About Race: Do’s and Don’ts
1. Don’t label them
One thing that seems to be almost instinctive as well as habitual is this need to give things a name. When we see people, we subconsciously identify them as being of a particular race or ethnicity. But when someone doesn’t quite fit the mold of a certain “look” for a race or ethnicity, then we might just classify them as an other, a foreigner, or mixed. But even those are label too with their own set of stereotypes and problems.
I believe that nothing is more damaging than giving a label. By telling them what they are, you inevitably place them into a box that they will then spend the rest of their lives trying to fit, but then find that they don’t quite fit. Instead, tell your child about their heritage and where their ancestors came from. Tell your child about what you choose to identity as — whether it is a traditional racial term like ‘white’ or ‘black’ or ‘human’ — and then explain to them why you chose that identity. By doing this, you give them the tools that they need so that they have information. Knowledge combined with how they feel about themselves, as well as how people treat them in the world, will ultimately form the basis of their racial identity.
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2. Do teach them to love themselves
More important than allowing them to choose their own label, or lack thereof, is the skill that is needed to love themselves. After all, a label is just a word, or a series of words. What is needed, no matter if the child is monoracial or multiracial, is the ability to love who they are. They need to like themselves. Furthermore, they need to love the color of their skin, hair, and eyes. They need to love who they are on the inside as well as the outside. If a child can learn to love themselves, then they can withstand anything thrown their way by everyone else.
But how can you teach a child to love themselves? I am a firm believer that a child learns best by imitation. If you love who you are, and you present certain behaviors that show that, then your child will emulate that. I also believe in the power of affirmations. Teach your child to say positive affirmations everyday, removing the negative words from their vocabulary. Teach your child to say I am beautiful, I am worthy, and I love my hair, skin, and eyes. And finally, teach your child that every person is beautiful and truly worthy.
3. Don’t use stereotypes against them
One thing that can be particularly damaging to a child of mixed racial heritage is by using stereotypes against them, even if it happens subconsciously. Every race has certain stereotypes that members of society might expect people who present themselves of a certain race to exhibit. For example, people assume that all Asians are good at math. Or, people assume that blacks are athletic, strong, and violent. Even mixed race people are faced with stereotypes, such as being admired for their beauty and exoticism.
You should try not to compare your child against these preconceived racial stereotypes. Because at the end of the day, your child is a unique blend of you and your partner. Your child is not the archetype for a specific race, but his or her own person. That is why they should be allowed to forge their own path, do what interests them, and never mind the stereotypes. These stereotypes came about from ignorance and bigotry and nearly always do more harm than good.
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4. Do encourage them to be themselves
Always encourage your child to be themselves. Don’t let them be affected by race or even being mixed race. They are unique, as are every single person on this Earth. Since they are unique, they should be allowed to discover what they like, who they are, and where they want to go from here. Encourage them that their race, or even their presumed race, should have absolutely no bearing on that.
At the end of the day, what “race” your child is doesn’t matter. Remember that race is simply a social construct. It was created by society in an attempt to understand and categorize people. There is no specific “race” gene, and the idea that certain races can appear to be “washed out” or invisible is simply not true. We are simply a combination of many genes working together, and not a single one determines what race we are. If we can teach the younger generation that race doesn’t matter and what is more important is how the individual acts, then maybe we might have a chance at eliminating racism for good.
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5. Don’t treat them like everyone else
This one goes hand-in-hand with tip number 3. Even though it is important that you don’t let your child be defined by stereotypes, you should not treat them like everyone else. Remember that your child is a unique individual. You child is not just another mixed race kid. There is more to your child than what he or she appears like from the outside. Recognize, cultivate, and help your child hone their many talents and skills so they can become the person who rises above everyone’s assumed notions of them.
By doing this, you also set them up for future success. By not comparing them against other kids of a similar race, or background, you are emphasizing that race or ethnicity doesn’t matter. In the end, it is who you are on the inside, how you treat people, and who you ultimately choose to be that makes all the difference.
6. Do introduce them to role models
It can be damaging to be exposed to a media in which there is no representation. It can affect you self esteem when you turn on the TV or surf the Internet and see people who have physical attributes that are nearly impossible to attain. And it is even more damaging when these physical attributes are being marketed as the epitome of beauty. Because then it suggests that those who don’t have those physical attributes are somehow less than, or ugly and inferior.
So, do introduce your child to a variety of role models. Show your child pictures of celebrities and influencers who have a variety of different skin colors and other physical attributes, as well as different backgrounds. By giving your child representation, you are suggesting that you don’t have to be of a certain race to be successful. Furthermore, you are giving them role models to look up to, as a source of inspiration. Personally, growing up half Korean, I relished in pictures of celebrities who were also half-Korean. It made me feel not so alone or different, knowing that there were others like me. And knowing that I wasn’t the only one who was biracial gave me a sense of purpose and renewed wisdom to keep reaching for the stars to perhaps one day be as successful as them.