How Do You Raise A Multiracial Child?
As I am always researching matters pertaining interracial families, I came across a post on The Salt Collective written by Liz Lin entitled. How Do You Raise A Multiracial Child?. As woman of Chinese descent, Lin’s experience differs from many of ours. But as a mother, it is not so different. We all want the best for our children. We want them to work hard, thrive and be successful. The multiracial aspect we do share in that our children have two sets of grandparents of different races and some of their experiences may be the same. But again as a woman of Asian descent her experience is unique in being born of Chinese parents who had little to no reason to discuss race in their own childhood. I enjoyed reading the post. But I also enjoyed reading the response by “Thinking Out Loud”; a Chinese American man.
“I have bi-racial children. I am Chinese, and their mother is Irish. There is no handbook for raising children. My upbringing mirrors yours, in that, my parents were from the mainland, and I was told, “in this home, it is China.” So, I was raised with all the sensibilities of “being Chinese.” That means, work hard, don’t make waves, go along, to get along. I’ve rejected most of those things, however, the “hard work” part has stuck with me.
Here’s my suggestion to you: first and foremost, raise your children as human beings, making them aware they are part of the *human* race. By identifying your children as “multi-racial” you are already “tagging” your children. There will be plenty of time for society to do the tagging for you.My daughter and son are now 21, and 16. I had my suspicions on how they would be treated: differently. Different from what? From not quite white, and not quite Asian. However, they bear my last name, and that, in itself, tags them, and all that what being Asian is all about, for good or bad. They *must* be smart, and obedient, and compliant, and passive. I gently hinted to them very early on that they would be treated differently, and they have — from strangers, to teachers. I was once called in by my daughter’s guidance counselor, ostensibly to talk about her grades. She was getting 90s, and some 80s across the board. I asked the counselor, what’s the problem here? The counselor, after some fumbling, said, “Well, she’s Chinese. She should be doing better!” I. HIT. THE. ROOF. I don’t fit the Asian stereotype. I’m not passive, and well aware of the “good/smart Asian” mythology. Asians are just born smart, right? To put it mildly, I ripped the counselor a new one, and told her, should race, and grades ever be brought up again, I’d sue her, and the school. My premonition for how society would treat my children was sadly coming true.
Now that my kids are older, we’ve had many discussions on race in general, and racial self-identification. I didn’t push one race over the other, but, both were exposed to their “Asian side” through family gatherings, certain traditions, and hearing the stories from their older Asian relatives. I did tell them, while being proud of my Asian heritage (as opposed to self-loathing for not being white), Asians are *not* inherently smarter, or obedient, or passive, no matter how the dominant white society likes to tell us we are. To buy into the Asian mythology, is to internalize biases of the dominant culture. Also, the dominant culture is not inherently racist, but it certainly may appear to be. For my daughter, she would be tagged with all those things Asian women would be tagged with; for my son, all those things Asians men are tagged with. So, there are issues of both race and gender.
I never wanted my kids to feel they had to choose one race over another; to do so would have been like asking them to choose one parent over another. They really didn’t need to be “taught to be white.” Society at large already does that. But, that raises the question, what does it mean to be Asian? We wear our “differentness” on our faces, as do most multi-racial people. So, your children, as mine have, will very likely be posed with the “what are you?” questions.
I didn’t make it a point to “sell” my Asian heritage on my children (they may disagree; I don’t know). However, I taught them things, as all parents do from my own experiences: Daoism/Zen, and Eastern philosophy litter our discussions. The dichotomy of East/West philosophy, and in how we *think* differently. All this may confuse, as well as inform them. I’ve made no secret in how racism had affected me. They will have to decide for themselves what it, first, means to be part of the human race, and, secondly, what it means to be bi-racial. They are not mutually exclusive.
Both my kids are beautiful, by the way (haha).
Thank you for writing such a thoughtful article. If I had more time, I would have given a more thoughtful response.
ETA: Your child/children may hate you if you send them to Chinese school. I tried that with my daughter, and she literally ran screaming from the school. When you’re not exposed to stereotypical Chinese behavior — SCREAMING Chinese teachers well, it’s freak out time. My Cantonese largely sucks too, and one-way conversations make for learning a language difficult. I wish I simply played Chinese-language videos, because, yeah, being multi-lingual is cool.”