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Biracial & Multiracial Families

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > All Kinds of Families > Biracial & Multiracial Families


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Raising bi-racial teens

June 2007

I'm looking to discuss the challenges of raising a bi-racial teen in todays world. I'm feeling depressed about the challenges my son will face as a young black man - from racial profiling to simply the daily judgements he gets from the larger community to my own family. I'd love to find a support group, or classes to attend. A website would be fine too. Thanks. Anon


Check out: http://www.ipride.org You can also fiind some good role models for your son by visiting the East Bay Church of Religious Science: http://www.ebcrs.org/main.html He'll be just fine..... mom of 17 y/o bi-racial girl
Check out http://www.ipride.org/. It's a local group that has been around forever. They do parent and school trainings and you can find a great community there. I have two biracial (black/white) teens 16 and 19 (though they prefer to be called mixed) who grew up in ipride and we all have really benefited. white momma

Biracial preschooler is rejecting his Asian heritage

Jan 2005

My soon-to-be five year old, bi-racial (Asian/Caucasian) son seems to be rejecting his Asian heritage. He frequently says that he wants to change his middle name, which is my (Asian) surname, to an ''American'' sounding name. When I told him that his middle-name was my name because I (and his Asian heritage) were a part of him, he responded that ''that name'' and presumably being Asian, was O.K. for me, but not for him. He also refused to take a picture of himself clad in Asian clothes to school saying that his classmates would laugh at him and no one would want to be his friend. My (Caucasian) husband and I have tried to instill in my son pride in both his European and Asian heritages, but my son seems to have internalized the idea that it is somehow shameful or inferior to be Asian. Obviously, this attitude is very distressing to me. I'm very worried that my son will grow up to be self-hating or rejecting of his Asian background. His preschool class is pretty diverse with about 25% of the kids being of mixed Caucasian/Asian backgrounds and also with several kids of Afro-American and Hispanic, as well as Caucasian backgrounds. I should mention that I am second- generation, do not speak my language of origin and am not observant of Asian customs. We have, however, tried to expose my son to Asian food and certain other limited aspects of Asian culture. Any words of advice or suggested resources or books for dealing with this issue would be much appreciated. Thanks in advance! Don't want my son to be self-hating


From what I've read about raising biracial children (we have caucasion/latino kids), it's normal for them to reject one race for a while and then switch to the other one. ''Childhood Matters'', the radio show, had a show on raising biracial children and issues that come up. You can listen to old shows on the computer at their website. I read one of the books they recommended: ''Does anybody look like me? A parent's guide to raising biracial children''. It was great for making you aware of issues that may come up at different developmental ages, and talks that you need to have with your children while they are young. s
Your posting saddend me! I would guess that your son is having difficulty identifying with his Asian heritage because it is not a prominent part of your life. If you want hime to value his Asian culture, I believe you have to demonstrate to him firsthand how to. Even if you do not speak your native language, which is not uncommon, you can become active in an Asian community based organization, an Asian church group, take him places like the Asian art museum, share in folk tales from your country of origin. Lots of fun can be found in these enriching activities. There are books out there for children as well. I am 5th generation Japanese-American, and we enjoy ''Nikkei Donburi, A Japanese American Cultural Survival Guide''. It's a book written for children about Japanese American customs, holidays and the history of these customs in Japan. I wish you luck in this endeavor. A believer! in customs and traditions
I have given a lot of thought to this topic, as I have lots of bi- and multi-racial people in my family (son, step-daughter, ex-husband and 5 nieces and nephews). There are lots of good books to read -- 2 that I found helpful were ''Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race'' by Beverly Daniel Tatum, and ''40 Ways to Raise a Nonracist Child'' by Barbara Mathias & Mary Ann French. There are also lots of good novels about the experience of growing up bi- or multi-racial in our society -- one that comes to mind is ''Caucasia'' by Danzy Senna. One thing that I learned is that forming a racial identity, especially for a bi- or multi-racial person, is a long process that begins very early and can extend well into adulthood. It is not uncommon for children (and adults) to go through stages of not accepting one or another part of themselves. There are huge pressures in our society, and in school, for people to conform and fit in. Your son's desire to minimize the parts of him that he sees as ''different'' is possibly a response to this pressure.

My advice would be to educate yourself as much as you can about race and racism in our society, and keep giving your son appropriate information as he goes through various developmental stages. Most of all, try not to take it personally -- it might help you to keep in mind that he is working hard to figure all this out. With your understanding and support, it will be easier for him to move through this process. Diane


One of the wonderful things about living in the Bay Area is for our kids to be surrounded by biracial peers. I grew up biracial on the East Coast and while many of my friends were biracial, none of us thought that way. In our minds we were black, chinese, japanese... whatever the darker of our parents were... There are obviously a lot of good children's books out there and I would ! make sure you have a good handful lying around - Two Mrs Gibbons (about an Asian and a Black grandma), Aiko's flower's, Everyone Eats Dim Sum...

I would also buy one of those ''ABC's of whatever your specific culture is.'' I have found that supplying a basic resource for my kids who are asked to represent their Japanese heritage at times gives them the power to ''know something'' even if they look it up in a book. It is amazing how some of this stuff loops around again in a subtle way - ie Katagana writing on trading cards, New Year's traditions, liking traditional foods... A good book to check out at the library for you is ''I'm Chocolate, You're Vanilla.'' I would not push anything with your son now - incorporate what feels natural for you. He can tell what does not.

I think the most important thing is to supply him with positive images, a language for understanding who he is and a sense of pride and comfort in be! ing a part of the mixing of the world. His job is to come to terms with his racial/ethnic identity himself (which may not be an issue til later), your job is to give him the building blocks. I have found that the more challenging work is my shifting sense of identity and expectations for my kids identity-- it is amazing how being a mom can bring this up! Mixed Mama


I'm so sorry your son and you have been going through this. You may well have already considered this, but could there have been a specific incident at school that sparked his rejection? Or are there perhaps specfic kids who are making life difficult for him? If you could narrow the reasons for his comments down to something like this, they might be easier to tackle. Just a thought. Good luck! anon
Please read this book...it should be available! at the library and is one of the best of it's kind. I too have a biracial child and found thi sbook t be one of the best of it's kind. it is tilted I'm Chocolate You're Vanilla by Marguerite Wright. Please click on the link provided below which leads you to a description of the book. It is an excellent book that is a must for parents of biracial kids---regardless of the specific anscestry of the child this book is superb! http://www.josseybass.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0787952346.html
Heather
My 7-year-old daughter is also bi-racial. (Asian/Caucasian) Not sure why but she is the opposite of your son. She gravitates more to her Asian side. (her mom/me) Her middle name is my surname and her last name is my husband's surname. She wants to change her name to my last name (''because she came from me,'' she says) and have a ''girly'' middle name. I think she feels this way because we see a lot more of my family than my husband's. She also attends Jefferson Elementary in Berkeley and is part of their Chinese bi-cultural program. (I happen to be of Japanese heritage) In the summers she attends a Japanese cultural summer school in El Cerrito - Daruma No Gakko. I'm ! third generation and didn't learn any Japanese growing up but took it in college so I have some knowledge of the language. I wouldn't say she shuns my husband's heritage - we observe Hanukkah (in addition to Christmas) which she really enjoys. I would also note that I am more connected to my Japanese heritage than my husband is to his Eastern European/Jewish heritage.
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