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Month: January 2016

The Threat of “Different”: Perception as Reality

I just returned from a week in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Each time I’m there I’m amazed at how accommodating and kind people are; how nearly everyone with whom we interact speaks English; how our expectation is such that we often don’t even attempt to fumble with broken Spanish. How, I too, although a Spanish major in college, tend to revert to English to avoid awkward fumbling for vocabulary long lost.

On our last day, I glanced down at the Los Cabos Daily News and my heart dropped at the headline, “The telling way white Americans react to pictures of dark-skinned immigrants.” Ugh! My first thought was, “I hope they don’t think I’m like that.”

Political Science Professor, Shanto Iyengar, explains, “people are threatened by different ways of life, different religions, and different languages” (Guo, J., 2016, Washington Post). The body of literature surrounding this idea is immense. I won’t pretend to know the intricacies and variables involved. However, I challenge you to think a bit about the following idea…

We act toward others based on our perceptions of that “type” of person. We create a reality based on that perception. The power of how we choose to see the world, to see others, is consuming.

My experience in Mexico leaves me with the feeling that I was perceived positively, whether warranted or not ;). I hope that we all reflect on where our perceptions of those who are different from us come from; that we challenge those perceptions and adjust our reality accordingly.

Racism also appears at Baptisms

I’ve been blessed to have been married to my husband Andy who happens to be white  from Northern Minnesota. I’m overwhelmingly blessed to have been married into his amazing family. Who have always  supported and accepted our marriage and family.  Having said that, living where we are, some people are not too keen to see our family in this community. Church is  not a ‘racist free zone’ either. Over eleven years ago,  I was attending my beautiful nephew’s baptism. Our whole immediate family was in attendance at the church.  It was a beautiful ceremony.  My favorite part about baptisms is to see the baby’s reaction to getting dowsed with water.

When it came at the end of the service  our family started taking pictures. My former employer who was also a member of the church volunteered to take our family pictures. I’ll never forget it when he said to me “Jebeh, get out of the shot because it’s their family photo.” When I explained to him, that this was my family and this boy is my nephew, he chuckled and said “How is it possible that this baby has you as his ‘black aunt?’ Why did my former employer think I wasn’t worthy enough to be related to my own family? Did he think it was impossible for a black woman like myself to have white relatives? He then again proceeded to ask me how it was remotely possible? I remember pointing to my husband and saying “Do the math”.

Although this was a long time ago, the memory still hurts when I think of my nephew’s Christian rite of passage. From that moment eleven years ago, I promised myself to continue to be involved in both my niece and nephew’s lives.  I make a point to present my cultural heritage in their classrooms and show my presence at their various sporting events. Although, I still get a few looks of surprise from some of their peers and teachers. I still receive the infamous question, “How are you guys related?” I still reply  slyly  “Do the math”. When it all comes down to it, I am still their goofy Aunt, who loves them and supports them with all of her heart.

How do  people in your community react to your interracial family?



5 Life Lessons for my Biracial Sons

boysEvery mother wants the best for her children. Most mothers like myself would love to live in a country where racism and white privilege are no longer an issue. When my husband and I started dating, we faced many obstacles associated with being an interracial couple. Some friends and family members weren’t too keen on our relationship at first. We were strong enough and smart enough to know challenges were ahead.

Thirteen years and two kids later, Andy and I have some advice for our boys. We want to arm them with tools to face the world, respond respectfully to other’s curiosity, and at times stand tall in the face of ignorance.

1) You have an identity; it’s uniquely you. Be proud of who you are. Some people might have an identity issue with you. Embrace both sides of your heritage – Liberian and Scandinavian.

2) Chuckle at those who ask, “What are you?” Simply reply, “I’m a human being.” When they persist, continue by introducing yourself. You’ve been raised to define yourself by your character, not your color.

3) Education is the foundation. Stand tall and wow them with your intelligence. No one can take your education away from you.

4) Love should not be constrained by race. This never stopped mommy and daddy and it should never stop you. Some people who’ve left our lives during our courtship resented the fact that we were an interracial couple. Ironically, their negative energy strengthened our relationship.

5) It’s okay to check more than one box. Every form in your life – from pre-K screening to college – will ask you to check only one racial/ethnicity box. Take pride that you are multicultural and never apologize for it. #mixednation #beautifullyblended

What are some life lessons you’ve given your biracial or multiracial children? We’d love to hear your thoughts – leave in comments or post to Facebook!


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