The birth of a child is a joy parents are blessed to experience. Great expectations and hearts full of hopes often overshadow any worries mothers and fathers have for their children’s future. Still, as with most intimate relationships, fears are eventually triggered, often by external circumstances beyond parental control, though there are some cases when the fears stem from internal conflicts within the parents themselves.
Parents of bi-racial children can prepare for challenges from the outside world that will inevitably invade their family experience. What interracial couples may not be prepared for are the biases that they bring into their own homes. Most parents would be loath to admit they hold any racist ideas or feelings. Living in America, however, most people discover it is often unavoidable to harbor remnants of the old racial order. Unconscious though it may be, parents may find that conducting a thorough and honest examination of their own racial shadows to be a healthy exercise.
The mother of a bi-racial child attempts to do just that by sharing her story with Newsweek. Her story, though anonymous, presented a rarely heard account of a black woman’s struggle with her fair skinned child. During the first three months, she struggled with skin tones and racial worries held her in bondage for the first seven months of her child’s life.
When her son was born, after checking to make sure he had all his fingers and toes, this mother’s first wonder was how dark his skin would get. Married to a white man, she worried that her son would be so light-skinned he might appear Caucasian. She wanted him to look more like her. This worry became a consuming compulsion. She searched the internet for genetic facts and research on dominate traits, looking for some assurance that her son Gabriel would indeed darken up.
Her husband tried to answer what she admits were “embarrassingly leading questions” with humor, “Mommy’s racist against us white people.” This exposed her shadow, revealing an interesting reversal of the black/white race card. “Clearly, I had become so eager for my son to be Black that I was tiptoeing across the line from mildly offensive to racist.” It has been argued that it is not possible for Blacks to be racist, however, this is patently false. White or Black, if a person is in a position of power, he or she can be a racist.
Though the explanation of racism can vary, scholars agree that an accurate definition includes the element of power; a person who is prejudice is not necessarily racist if he has no power to influence and discriminate within a relationship. A parent, however, has incredible power in a relationship. A mother’s prejudice, for example, can become racist if she perpetuates archaic racial concepts. Though she merely wanted her son to be proud of his black heritage, Gabriel’s mother strode down a precarious slope into the dark hollow of racism.
During this time, she did not realize her own obsession with race was becoming part of that which she sought to fight against. This thinking changed only after Gabriel’s color began to change. At seven months, Gabriel was “golden.” Once Gabriel’s mother was able to see herself in her son, she leveled out and came to a couple realizations that might be helpful for parents of bi-racial children to consider. “I made some silly mistakes, first I realized that passively accepting skin tones to construct a racial identity perpetuates racial stereotyping and discrimination. Secondly I understood that part of American freedom means we don’t have to accept the roles that society assigns us.”