Friday, February 18, 2011

I won't make her choose

When I imagined my daughter before she was born I saw her with dark skin and light eyes. Instead she came out light skin with dark eyes. The complete opposite.

I didn't brace myself for the reality of this possibility. The possibility that my daughter could have skin as light as my husband and not look anything like me at first glance. I knew it could happen. I just didn't think it would.
Forever Bliss Photography
Growing up in the south where racial issues are still tense, and the predominant races are black and white, kids were forced to choose sides. It may not have been as obvious as team captains choosing teammates for their kickball team, but it was noticeable, and people would call you out for it.

The black kids hung out with the black kids and the white kids hung out with the white kids. And if you decided to cross the line in the sand you were considered a sort of traitor of your own race. Blacks who had white friends were nicknamed "Oreos" and whites who had black friends were called "Wiggers." I still can't help but feel disgusted toward the terms.

So much in our world is black or white. The gray area is gone. This goes for race too. Especially in our country.

Many are so quick to call President Obama "Black" although he's half white as well. I'll admit I do it. I was one of the women who was so angry when Tiger Woods corrected people when they called him "the first Black golfer to be #1" saying he was the first Thai/Black. Why was he ashamed to be called black?

My husband took the opposing stance. Why should he denounce his mother's side of the family because society says he has to choose?

Back then, there were no if ands or buts about it. My children would choose. And they'd choose their black side. Because that's what they'd look like, and that's what society would label them as anyway. Claiming to be "mixed" felt like a shot at me. As if it wasn't a good thing to be called what I'm called.

But then my daughter was born. Her skin as light as my husbands and eyes as dark as mine. She's a beautiful mix of both of us and I the thought of making her choose one side--My side--seems wrong.

She'll grow up facing questions I never had to deal with. The oh too common "what are you?" question on the playground will come up time and time again. While no harm is intended I can understand how it would feel embarrassing at first, or sound extremely rude to people like me. But the more multiracial people I meet, the more I'm hearing they got used to it, and would just smile and explain.

According to the census bureau, by 2050, minorities will be the majority with the number of mixed-raced children is on the rise. I don't know what it's like to be biracial but I've met some who told me they felt like they had to choose a side in order to fit in, or feel accepted my family members or social groups. A section of this TIME article calls this the "forced-choice dilemma."

It goes on to say that these days mixed-raced children don't feel the need to choose a side but share their background with pride.

Seeing more and more interracial marriages around me, and more mixed-raced children in result, I can see the forced-choice problem as a dying dilemma. I've decided to squash it at my house.

I may choose her dinners, wardrobe, and even try to choose her social circles; but today I've decided I won't make her choose my race over her own.