Yet another post on race

Kwynne left a long and very thoughtful (and though provoking) comment on my post Making Space for Race, that I thought I would respond to here, rather than in the comments section. Hopefully this will interest everyone, if not, well, then, just think about cheese.

Kwynne, thanks for commenting. I was really wondering what you had to say on this subject.

Yes, I am saturated with white privilege. I am uncomfortably aware of this just as I have very little practical knowledge of how to step away from it, how to dismantle it. But I realize that the very fact that Kristin and I were upset that someone would dare to racialize our child is based on the fact that whites have the luxury of not expecting that their children will be racialized.

We did talk about what birthing and raising a biracial child would mean. From the time our donor offered (yes, he offered, we didn’t know him well at the time, so we never would have asked) to the time we actually conceived, Kristin and I (and our donor) had countless discussions about how we would raise our child, how we would feel about parenting a biracial child, how we would present him/her to the world until he/she could present herself. We were aware that we were in a unique situation since most biracial children are either adopted (not the bio kid of either parent) or are being raised by a biracial couple. We wondered if we were capable of being good parents to our child. Before we accepted his offer we talked with each other, with our friends, with therapists, with the (potential) donor. And we decided that in terms of expectations, availability, temperament, and medical/ sexual history he was the perfect donor. And though we heard the arguments against bringing a biracial child (particularly a biracial child of lesbians) into the world, they sounded very much like the reasons against queers having children at all: how could you willingly bring a child into the world knowing that people will have a hard time accepting it, that people will treat it differently because of who it is and who it’s parents are? We don’t buy that argument, and finally we decided that to turn a perfect donor down because of skin color would be racist and hypocritical. And, further, we felt that even having the discussion in the first place was racist and hypocritical. So we drew up donor contracts and sealed the deal.

After we began inseminating we read articles and websites and books like “Does Anyone Look Like Me?” and we talked and we talked and we talked some more. And it felt academic. And it felt hypothetical. And still we felt prepared. And then we conceived and skin color and racial heritages seemed so much less important than simply getting this child healthily into the world. And after she was born, skin color still didn’t matter. I don’t look at my child and see a raced child. I see my beautiful daughter. When the comment on her face was made, Kristin and I had to get out the baby pictures of our Caucasian friends and hold them to Julia’s baby pictures to see that she does, indeed, look different. Blind, naive, yes, we are.

I hear what you say about Julia never being accepted as white. You are right about that. She won’t be. But I worry that she will never be accepted as black by the black community either. So Kristin’s and my task becomes two-fold -- trying to educate those (including ourselves) who will have a major influence on her life; and trying to give Julia the tools and the love to hold to her own and move through both worlds as gracefully as she can as well as to deal with racism – whether it comes from the outside world, or from her parents and family. Yes, I know that despite my best efforts she will encounter some residual, unconscious racism from me, and I know this will hurt her probably more than racism coming from outsiders. This is similar to the way I feel when I experience homophobia from my parents and family – despite their monumental efforts to understand and educate themselves. Such things seem impossible to eradicate completely. Though one must not stop the effort. And so the discussion continues.

Now another question if y’all don’t mind:

When Kristin got pregnant, I started to join on-line groups and websites dedicated to the care of black hair. Silly, I know, but I barely know how to take care of my own super-straight, baby-fine, oily-if-you-look-at-it-twice hair, let alone something so delicate and beautiful and curly as African-American hair. And I learned something. Well, something was explained to me. See, when I taught pre-school, we would have these black girls, sometimes as young as 2, with these full heads of extensions. I used to feel so bad for the two year old who could barely hold her head up under the weight of braids and beads and she definitely looked uncomfortable trying to sleep. But on website after website I would read black women telling white women that they were seriously damaging their daughter’s emotional and social health by keeping their girl’s hair short, not putting extensions in their hair, and/or not keeping their hair braided/twisted/beaded. And I read on Daddy, Papa and me about their hair-related decisions, and I worried. As a white mother raising a biracial daughter I don’t want to do anything to alienate her from the black community. As a lesbian, I strongly object to forced gender conformity (one of the main reasons against cutting hair short is so the girl won’t look like/be called a boy) especially one that results in discomfort for appearance’s sake. As a lesbian in Utah, I am very much aware of the fact that very few people will see me as Julia’s legitimate parent and so I am sensitive to anything that remotely touches upon parental legitimacy and authority. Our donor doesn’t seem to think it’s a big deal what we do with Julia’s hair, to extend or not to extend doesn’t matter to him. I did finally find a site that focuses on natural hair (no extensions) and I plan to use that site as an educational tool. Still, I wonder what other people think of this. Not that Julia’s hair is long enough to worry about now, but I’d like to be a little pro-active here.

Posted by Trista @ 12:34 PM

Read or Post a Comment

I think once we as humans can get past race we can then truely evolve into a species stronger than stone. Beautiful baby....

Posted by Blogger honkeie2 @ 12:58 PM #

First off... I have no stinkin clue about hair. Her hair, my hair, dog hair. I think if you keep it out of her face and moderately cute, you're ahead of the game.
I agree with what Kwynne said about Julia being black. She is. She will never be white. To most people she will not be mixed. She will be black.
Jean has two cousins, Jericho and Sarah, who are biracial. NO ONE told grandpa before these kids were born that they would be black (well, when Sarah was born I guess he had figured it out by then). He was a racist man, a product of his upbringing that could not be overcome. He was very upset when Jericho was born, and I do not know how long it took him to get over it, or if he ever truly did. I don't think they noticed, they were too young (he's dead now), but I would hope that, as they grew, he would do his best not to let on. I do know he loved them, regardless of their skin color.
Julia has black skin. Charlie has blue eyes. I know it's not as simple as that to most of the world, but it is to me. Make it that simple for you, and it will be for Julia as well, at least for a while.
You have a beautiful daughter. That's all that matters. Do not let other people make you second guess anything. You adore her and nurture her and that is all she needs. Well, she needs cloth diapers too, but we'll work on that in May :)
FWIW, Sarah's hair is just hair. "Black" hair yes, as in oily and kinky, but her mom either leaves it down brushed out, or just pulls it back in a ponytail. No beads, no little braids. Looks fine to me, and Sarah doesn't seem to mind it.

Posted by Blogger Estelle @ 1:37 PM #

I remember one day on an infertility email list people were complaining that a religious adoption agency was no longer considering minorities or mixed race children "special needs". There was a limit of 2 adopted children per family but you could have more "special needs" children.

I wrote how I had prayed and was hoping for a special needs child of my own genes, namely because DH is hispanic, and I am a pale white. The idea that race makes an adoption special needs is still quite offensive to me. Many private agencies give a discout if you adopt an African American child. Why?????

When I married him, I knew that, to the world, our children will be the race they look like. If they are lighter skinned, they will be white. If they are darker skinned, they will be hispanic.

Like you, I have chosen to have bi-racial children. I did this by chosing a person of hispanic descent to procreate with. I was raised not to see color of skin, but what is inside, so DH's race did not even cross my mind untill an African American professor at Weber brought it up. He asked how I would feel raising a child who did not look like me. I responded that the skin may not match, but my nose, mouth, eyes and ears may still be passed on. There is no guarantee that a child will look like their parents anyway. I also don't believe that you need a genetic link to raise a child, which is why I believe in adoption and in non-bio mommies and dadies as parents.

I guess what I am trying to say is that one of the jobs of parents is to prepare children for the real world, to send them out to a racist world, and have a safe, loving, secure place for them to come home to and get healed.

As for the gender forcing, well, I did give her a pink blanket and a cutie headband. When I bought the headband, I thought how cute the contrast of the white lace and red roses would look against her darker skin and curly hair.

Is there a point to my post, well not really. I've done a great job rambling. This is an interesting topic to talk about.

Posted by Blogger WendyLou @ 11:06 AM #

This is just a guess, but I'm doubting hair is something you'll have to worry about so much with a biracial child as most Ive met in my area(that has an amazing population of biracial families(including my daughter) has hair that is much much closer to the texture of MY hair than that of my full AA partners. No need for special shampoos, a good curl activator or leave in conditioner makes her curly hair very easy to manage. Things such as twists and braids stay in her hair just about as well as they stay in mine. Typically bi-racial hair grows much differently than that of full AA's. I locked my partners hair right after our daughter was born, doing hair is a bi-monthly affair where I wash, twist her locks condition her scalp and dry. Anyway I'm rambling here, my point is caring for my daughters hair is not at all like caring for my partners hair and it takes no extra work or effort than caring for my own hair.
I also want to say that in reading these comments I do feel somewhat offended at some of the responses you got regarding that of a biracial child simply being a black child. I am not naive to the fact that my child is part black, but denying the fact that she is part white I feel isn't going to help her at all. It is my goal to raise a happy healthy child. We live in a very diverse neighborhood with 2 other interracial families on my block(one right next door and one across the street)
I think my biggest struggle is with the ppl who are closest to me who try to protect my daughter, I feel that while I realize that their hearts ARE in the right place, it is a very racist move(obviously made unknowingly). I am very aware that my daughter has brown skin, and that ppl notice. I notice and I don't think the "I just seeing my child not her skin color is going to get me or her anywhere". PPL have questions, and while I don't feel its my responsibility to educate the world I think that there are times when talking about it even with complete strangers will help prepare my daughter to face adversity and be proud of who she is. Most of the questions Ive encountered have been from either AA's or children. We feel that it is important for her to grow up with not only black role models but white, and a good mix of friends who are biracial themselves(and feel so so so fortunate to live where we do)
I wont lie, I did feel alittle uncomfortable when I came to your blog and saw that you are a white couple who used a black donor. I'm not sure why(and its obviously my problem)but it makes me uncomfortable. I think that these feelings are directly related to my own insecurities as a white woman raising a child who is part black. I will never for a day know what it is like to be black, and I'm aware that a day might come when my daughter will feel that she can relate much more to my partner than to me. I sometimes imagine her at say age 13 or so asking me not to attend back to school night, or depending on her circle of friends maybe not sharing with them that her mommy is white. I cant for a minute imagine raising my daughter without my partner, or without her AA grandfather, uncle, aunts, etc. Anyway Ive rambled on enough(quite a long one Ive created here *wink*

Posted by Blogger Renee @ 11:35 PM #

Hey all,

I've also stayed away from this conversation, one cuz I'm black and have a pretty different outlook than white people on race (obviously) and two, I do not yet have a child but of course, have lived the life of a light skinned black person, with many other folks of colour in my life, mixed race and not. My thoughts come from my own experience, but also my hopes, fears and dreams about the little one I am currently carrying.

Firstly, Estelle, I wasn't trying to make Trista second guess her parenting. I just thought it was a bit naive to pretend that her child will ever be seen as white. I mean, yes, for you, who may never have had to deal with fucked up shit in terms of race, it may seem easy just to say, Charlie has blue eyes, Julia has brown skin. The only issue with that is that Charlie will, in many ways, have privileges that come with his blue eyes (and white skin and male gender) that Julia will not (with her brown skin and female gender).

And Renee, I'm not saying that Julia is ONLY black. But what I am saying is that she surely IS NOT white, and that trying to pretend that she is will make life hard for her, but of course, you know that so this is totally repetitive. I think for me, the fact that when I talk with white folks about raising mixed race kids, I often hear that one of their first concerns is hair, which to me is quite telling. As someone who is black and will also have 'issues' with my future children's hair for many reasons (i have no idea what to do either, it didn't come in the blood) this is one of my LAST concerns. What about racism at school? From family? From society? Wanting my partner's blue eyes? Or maybe being so light, her connection to me becomes invisible? Dealing with racist homophobia? I have so many other things I am concerned about, hair is pretty far down the list.

And also, Renee, I was also pretty weirded out by the donor situation as well, and I don't necessarily think it is all your problem as you say. Trista, I know that you said you DID think about all these things prior to insemination, but when I read your last post it seemed that you hadn't and you even mentioned how it may seem weird to us readers that you were thinking/talking of this after Julia arrived. I don't know. I think of all the ways that racism has made my life a living hell, and know that if I have a child biologically, they will also experience the same hell. It may be some of the stuff Renee has mentioned (insecurities) or maybe my concern when folks (mainly white) tell me how "cute" a mixed race child will be. I didn't do this for the exoticism. I did this for our family, for our family to be accepted, to hopefully give my child a connection to her other mother in a way that now seems messed up, but for some reason was so important to me 14 weeks ago. It really is all so messy and complicated, and well...makes my heart hurt to pretend that we can all just get along or "get past race".

Posted by Blogger Kwynne @ 10:22 AM #

This won't be popular or appreciated and it makes me seem like I don't get what you're all talking about but I also don't care. A child is a child is a child is a child. Period. It's good to talk, to prepare as much as you think you can (and you can't, really, even though you think you are), to discuss and all. But when the kid comes out and you find yourself in the shoes of the parent there are a thousand things that are not more important than race or gender identity but that are more immediate. As the parent of a biracial child I wonder if her little white friends will still think she's so cool when they're socialized into seeing her skin as different, but honestly, I worry more that she doesn't have another freakin' ear infection and that some sick-o doesn't grab her from the mall parking lot. The challenge of being a parent actually parenting (and not just hypothesizing) is picking your battles and knowing your child.

Posted by Anonymous Christy @ 2:37 PM #

Kwynne, I understand your assertion that hair is the last of your concerns, because it seems like a non-issue against the larger backdrop of race.

I do think, however, that hair relates to the other concerns you list more closely than you give it credit for. Don't you think that how a child is perceived and racialized at school, in society, and even in the family is often directly related to his/her physical appearance, which includes the hair? We live in a very visual society (otherwise all of this would be less of an issue), and hair is very important socially, whether we like it or not. All of your concerns are directly related to race, the child's visible appearance, and I think hair is a part of that.

I am not trying to be antagonistic, but I feel like you are being critical of a very legitimate concern; and I am unsure how you can separate these things so easily.

Posted by Anonymous Lauri @ 5:34 PM #

Nope, I still don't think it is such a critical concern. I didn't say it wasn't a concern, I said it was the last of my concerns (i.e. still being a concern).

And how can I separate it so easily? Well, I guess because with a history of experiences of racism, I quickly realized how *little* my hair had to do with it. It didn't matter if my hair was well combed or not. Folks found a way to fuck with me. My racialization was not dependent on my hair. Believe me, it was much less superficial.

So you may worry about the way your of colour child's hair looks (and I think we are talking mostly of black/mixed race kids here) but when that is in order, when are you gonna deal with the other stuff that will keep piling up even though she has great hair?

My issue with seeing yet *another* discussion about black kids and hair is that often these folks have yet to talk about their white privilege and how that will affect their child. It becomes a game of evade evade evade. That's what I don't get.

And you can be antagonistic. This conversation isn't easy or fun to have. It surely isn't fun to continue to talk about it with folks who are white, or who don't ID as black as far as I can tell (assumptions yes, but I'm waiting for some person of colour to share their experiences of racism instead of me). So on that note, I'm probably not coming back.

Posted by Blogger Kwynne @ 5:54 PM #

Kwynne - maybe people fuck with you not because of your race but because of the person that you are. Race is your sword and you've clearly thrown yourself upon it. You might stop to consider that others have swords just as mighty and just as prone to hurt. I've read your blog for a long time as I think it and you are interesting, but enough is enough. Take care of yourself and good luck with parenting.

Posted by Anonymous Christy @ 6:18 PM #

It doesn't sound like they chose a black donor to be exotic. Kwynne, is it your opinion they should have turned down their donor because of his race?

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous @ 6:35 PM #

Yes, maybe people fucked with me as a five year old cuz of "who I was" back then. Funny thing: who I was was black. That still hasn't changed.

If you want to believe that I have many "swords", go ahead. These swords are for my survival, cuz as I recall, the ones with the white privilege have some pretty big ones. When you've lived 5 seconds in my shoes, then come and talk to me.

Good luck with your parenting. All the best to your child.

Trista, I wanted to add to my last post that when I started to reply to your post, it was in the spirit of community and love as I mentioned. I also believe that *you* are the one I initially wanted to have this conversation with, and not others who have not shared their lives online like you or I have. You know my email, hope we can someday chat soon.

Posted by Blogger Kwynne @ 6:47 PM #

I noticed your website and wanted to share one with you that you may find interesting. Sunflower Mom On A Mission has just launched and will have some cool information about parenting for multi-ethnic families...especially how self-image and self-esteem is tied to hair care called Texture Softener. This mom is the spokesperson for a breakthrough in multi-ethnic children's hair care. Check it out!

Posted by Blogger Elle @ 5:14 PM #
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