“I didn’t know you had a mixed baby!” My students react to my biracial daughter

Written by Michelle; Originally published at Balancing Jane

I do not wake up in the morning thinking to myself that I have a biracial child. I don’t tickle her and think about the color of her skin or the texture of her hair. I don’t do these things anymore than I kiss my husband in the morning and think to myself that he is black. These people are my family, my world, and the motivation behind just about everything I do.

It’s not that I’m “colorblind” (a term that only those blind to their own privilege can use with any sincerity). I am aware of both racial inequality and my own privilege as a white person in America, and I try very hard to check that privilege in ways that make me more productive in creating an equitable world. So I’ll never tell you that I “don’t see” race, but I certainly don’t make it the end-all, be-all of my observations about someone, and I certainly don’t put racial identity at the forefront of my interactions with my own family.

We are a family. The fact that we are a multiracial family really doesn’t have much bearing on my day-to-day life.

That’s all very nice to say (and I mean it), but I also live in St. Louis, Missouri, one of the most segregated cities in America. (Check out this BBC mini-documentary about Delmar Street, the street that divides one of the most segregated portions of one of the most segregated cities.) That means that families like ours aren’t all that common here.

This is a city where a picture of an interracial couple kissing on the cover of a local newspaper magazine insert had readers absolutely up in arms. The newspaper who ran the picture wrote about the “controversy,” (in an article titled “Black man kissing white woman causes stir,”which is interesting all on its own because–to me–it’s pretty clear that the white woman is the one doing the kissing.)

I’m not exactly living in a valley of tolerance and love, is what I’m trying to say.
Perhaps this is why my students always seem surprised to learn that my family is multiracial.
First, some background. I teach at a community college, and the student body is mostly made up of racial minorities. This is even more true of the students in my classrooms, as I teach developmental writing.
Over the course of the semester, my students and I get to know one another. I require them to come to my office to talk about their papers, and I have a picture of my daughter on my desk.
Their reactions are always interesting to me, and there almost always are reactions. This semester, I’ve gotten several versions of “I didn’t know your daughter was mixed!” (Of course you didn’t. I don’t walk into the classroom and announce “Hi! I’m your teacher. My daughter is biracial.”) Usually they make that statement, tell me how cute she is, tell me about their own kids, and then we move on to their papers. There have been a few variations on this conversation this semester.
“Your daughter’s mixed?! I could tell you had too much soul.”
“Is that your daughter? She’s so cute! Is she mixed? I knew that you . . . How do I say this? I could tell that you were cool with everyone.”
I will say that I haven’t gotten any reactions from my students that came across as negative. There has been genuine surprise, and there has been the suggestion that my daughter’s picture somehow affirms something they suspected about me, but the reactions are almost always positive.
What does this mean? Does it mean anything at all? I know that race matters, and I know that race factors into how I teach (especially when it comes to how I talk about grammar). While I don’t think that being part of a multiracial family makes me any less racially privileged, it has made me more aware of that privilege and how unjust it is. I hope that positively impacts the way I interact with my students as well.
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Nigerian Assembly

By Guest Contributor Mona Zutshi Opubor

Yesterday morning—three months after our move from New Jersey—I attended an assembly at the children’s school in Nigeria. At 7:25 a.m., parents shuffled into the open-walled gymnasium to claim a folding chair. As the pianist banged out a cheerful tune, I sipped coffee out of a giant cup and breathed dragon breath on the father next to me. Because you know what? Sharing is caring.

As soon as the assembly started, the students sang two verses about flowers in a pot. What is more emotional than the sound of children’s sweet, pure voices? While the man next to me typed an email on his Blackberry, I wept discreetly.

Then my daughter Radha’s second grade class performed. Thick, tropical air muffled the acoustics. The kids seemed to be discussing the educational system of England in the 1800′s. With no discernible segue, there was a rap. Radha rapped credibly. Or maybe she didn’t. It’s hard to say.

After her class finished, Radha performed with her modern dance troupe. If you didn’t know any better, you would think she learned the choreography that morning.

It reminded me of the time I took a Zumba class. That was before I had LASIK. At one point I looked up and saw my mother across the room, shaking her hips stiffly. Then I realized—with horror—that I was staring at my own reflection in the mirror.  I never went back.

What can I say? We’re not dancers. In our defense, we are part of a small South-Asian ethnic group that suffered generations of religious persecution. Our celebrations are dour. The songs sound like lamentations. Our dancing is indistinguishable from awkward shuffling. We couldn’t let our enemies know we were joyous because then they would slaughter us.

In a way, it can be argued that Radha honored her ancestors with all the moves she forgot and the look of bewilderment on her face.

That’s what I told myself.

After the dance, the head teacher began awarding prizes. She gave a few medals to the top table tennis players. She had trophies for the winners of a recent swim meet. She awarded prizes to the victors of the spelling bee. Then she awarded the House cup to the group with the most House points.

It was surreal.

See, we moved to Nigeria from a touchy-feely American town. No youngsters got prizes there because it would make other kids sad. It was deliberately inclusive. Giving medals to winners would have been insensitive to all the losers: Because no one was a loser. Everyone was special in his/her own way. It was great for a parent like me with a tenuous grip on reality. But sometimes I wondered what it would do to the children when they grew up and encountered failure.

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Posted in International, Parenting Stories, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

“I Didn’t Know You Had a Mixed Baby!” My Students React to My Biracial Daughter

By Guest Contributor Balancing Jane

I do not wake up in the morning thinking to myself that I have a biracial child. I don’t tickle her and think about the color of her skin or the texture of her hair. I don’t do these things anymore than I kiss my husband in the morning and think to myself that he is black. These people are my family, my world,  and the motivation behind just about everything I do.

It’s not that I’m “colorblind” (a term that only those blind to their own privilegecan use with any sincerity). I am aware of both racial inequality and my own privilege as a white person in America, and I try very hard to check that privilege in ways that make me more productive in creating an equitable world. So I’ll never tell you that I “don’t see” race, but I certainly don’t make it the end-all, be-all of my observations about someone, and I certainly don’t put racial identity at the forefront of my interactions with my own family.

We are a family. The fact that we are a multiracial family really doesn’t have much bearing on my day-to-day life.

That’s all very nice to say (and I mean it), but I also live in St. Louis, Missouri, one of the most segregated cities in America. (Check out this BBC mini-documentary about Delmar Street, the street that divides one of the most segregated portions of one of the most segregated cities.) That means that families like ours aren’t all that common here.

This is a city where a picture of an interracial couple kissing on the cover of a local newspaper magazine insert had readers absolutely up in arms. The newspaper who ran the picture wrote about the “controversy,” (in an article titled “Black man kissing white woman causes stir,”which is interesting all on its own because–to me–it’s pretty clear that the white woman is the one doing the kissing.)

I’m not exactly living in a valley of tolerance and love, is what I’m trying to say.
Perhaps this is why my students always seem surprised to learn that my family is multiracial.
First, some background. I teach at a community college, and the student body is mostly made up of racial minorities. This is even more true of the students in my classrooms, as I teach developmental writing.
Over the course of the semester, my students and I get to know one another. I require them to come to my office to talk about their papers, and I have a picture of my daughter on my desk.
Their reactions are always interesting to me, and there almost always are reactions. This semester, I’ve gotten several versions of “I didn’t know your daughter was mixed!” (Of course you didn’t. I don’t walk into the classroom and announce “Hi! I’m your teacher. My daughter is biracial.”) Usually they make that statement, tell me how cute she is, tell me about their own kids, and then we move on to their papers. There have been a few variations on this conversation this semester.
“Your daughter’s mixed?! I could tell you had too much soul.”
“Is that your daughter? She’s so cute! Is she mixed? I knew that you . . . How do I say this? I could tell that you were cool with everyone.”
I will say that I haven’t gotten any reactions from my students that came across as negative. There has been genuine surprise, and there has been the suggestion that my daughter’s picture somehow affirms something they suspected about me, but the reactions are almost always positive.
What does this mean? Does it mean anything at all? I know that race matters, and I know that race factors into how I teach (especially when it comes to how I talk about grammar). While I don’t think that being part of a multiracial family makes me any less racially privileged, it has made me more aware of that privilege and how unjust it is. I hope that positively impacts the way I interact with my students as well.
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Posted in Parenting Stories, Race | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Open thread

What’s going on in your life this week? We would love to hear from you.

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Gratuitous Cute Kid Pic

It’s Thursday, time for another gratuitous cute kid pic!

Here’s LIE reader Lynne’s darling boy astride a reptile. What a cutie!

Got cute kids? Send their photos to us so we can show them off for you!

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Why is the ‘normal television family’ always white?

By Guest Contributor SL Huang; crossposted from Racialicious

Oh, I know the answer, of course.  A white nuclear family is what networks think everyone can relate to.  And even if people can’t relate, they see and recognize that “ideal” and know what sort of cultural message the writers are trying to send.  It gets across the message of Normal, Everyday, Good Old Down-Home FAMILY to people.

But you know what?  It’s started pissing me off.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I love that more television shows are including diversity.  I dig it.  I’d much rather they include people of color somewhere, anywhere, than not at all.

But I’m starting to see the “ethnic sidekick” problem on family shows: that the ethnic or mixed families are being shown in contrast to a “normal” and “ordinary” family, and are therefore implicitly not normal or ordinary themselves.

Let’s take Modern Family. Now, I love Modern Family—I think it’s a smart, sharply-written show and that it does a lot of good with the diversity of characters it does show.  But part of the premise is clearly that the two families that are more “modern” versions of what family can be are being contrasted against the white nuclear family of a happily married mother and father and their three children living in suburbia.  The two families being contrasted? The mixed-generational couple of Jay and Colombian immigrant Gloria with Gloria’s son Manny—who becomes a stepson to Jay—and the gay couple with their daughter adopted from Vietnam.  All of the diversity in the show is bundled into the families that are billed as having “complications.”  What if, instead, Claire’s husband had been cast as an African-American man, and her kids were all half black?[1] Or, even more scandalously, what if Jay’s first wife had been an Asian woman, and Claire and Mitchell were both happa?  You might argue that it wouldn’t be the same show, and, well, of course not.  But it’s a show that bills diversity as part of its message, and all I’m saying is, what if the diversity weren’t billed as being so “different,” but instead mixed in with what we’re meant to see as “normal”?

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Posted in Race, Representation, Television | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Quoted: Riding In Cars With Black People And Other Newly Dangerous Acts

“What I remember most about that first stop was that he asked “Where are you headed.” Not “license, registration and proof of insurance, please” ─ but “Where are you headed.” ──

Eighteen years ─ nine months ─ sixteen days and one-thousand seconds of riding in cars with nothing but white people ─ and not once had an officer expressed interest in where we were heading.

While I did not know it at the time, growing up one of the benefits of my honorary white and suburban privilege was the ability to gather, congregate and move aimlessly through public spaces without attention or purpose… Perhaps that’s why for years after leaving home I carried an old family picture, tucked directly behind my driver’s license, where the latter went the former followed, sometimes whispering, and sometimes shouting “I am not the Black Man you think I am. Now please let me pass without delay or further hindrance.”

From Chad Goller-Sojourner’s sophomore solo performance: Riding in Cars with Black People & Other Newly Dangerous Acts: A Memoir in Vanishing Whiteness. ‘Riding in Cars with Black People’ is the groundbreaking and crushingly honest story of what happens when a black boy, raised by white parents, “ages out” of honorary white and suburban privilege and into a world where folklore, statistics, and conjecture deem him dangerous until proven otherwise. ‘Riding in Cars’ will debut in April 2013. Support the project on Indiegogo.

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Posted in Quoted, Race, identity, interracial adoption | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Open thread

It’s been quiet here lately, mostly due to the travails of your co-editors (apologies!), so here is a chance for all of you to catch up. Talk election, talk school-year blues, talk whatever is hitting home for you this week.

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Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Gratuitous Cute Kid Pic

It’s Thursday, time for another gratuitous cute kid pic!

Here are LIE reader Anne’s two cuties, Jean and Barbara, enjoying frozen yogurt. What sweethearts!

Got cute kids? Send their photos to us so we can show them off!

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Bringing it to the classroom: Adoption talk 101 in 2nd grade

Written by Catherine Anderson; Originally published at Mama C and the Boys

Happy Adoption Awareness Month!

Although I am of the mind set that every waking moment has adoption awareness potential out there in the big world-in this particular post, I am going to share with you my little attempt at reaching a new audience: a classroom of seven and eight year olds.

With the help of Adoptive Family Magazines guide to talking about adoption in the classroom, I took the plunge recently and went into Sam’s 2nd grade classroom to do a mini lesson. It took about twenty minutes, and according to Sam (the only opinion that matters in this case of course) I did a good job. With both teachers’ permission I was able to invite Marcel to watch too. Now he has twenty new best friends in 2nd grade–a total bonus as far as he’s concerned. Each age group is going to demand a different approach–but the one I took worked well for 2nd grade–and I would imagine for 1st grade too. The resource cited above, has tips and suggestions for whatever age you are presenting to.

When I asked Sam if he’d like me to come in and give a little talk on the topic he was all over it. It came up because the teacher sent home a letter asking for volunteers to come in and talk about rituals of importance in their family. I feel rather lame in the ritual department overall, and the ones we do, like jumping off docks together, don’t translate well into full class activities. So, I suggested adoption, since it is such an important part of our family story. I outlined the way the talk would go to the teacher, and what food I would bring to share at the end (pumpkin mini muffins). She thought the program looked very well suited for the class, and a morning slot was agreed upon.

Introduction: What do babies need? What do parents do?

With little “Baby Dexter” wrapped in a blanket on deck as my prop, I took the chair by the white board in front of twenty-one eager little faces on the rug in front of me.

“Hi everyone-I’m Catherine–Sam’s mom. Like your teacher, I’m a teacher too. But my most important job, is being Sam and Marcel’s mommy. I didn’t become a mommy until I met Sammy. How people become a family is why I am am here to talk to you today, and share something that we think is very, very important in our family: adoption”

A few eager hands went up volunteering their understanding of the word. It was sweet to see how many kids knew someone who was adopted, or had an adopted sibling, or cousin, or or adult extended family member. “Wow, this certainly is a room full of experts!” is a great line if you are not sure how to handle all the knowledge out there. “So you’ll really be able to help me and the friend I brought along to help me share our story..” This is where I reached down and got baby Dexter. He is a brown skin baby doll (that I got for Sammy before Marcel was born). Wrapped in a blanket I held like he was alive, and asked if the class thought they would be able to pass him gently and quietly from friend to friend as we came up with some very important answers to a few questions Dexter had for the class.

Question one: What do babies need? I held up a sign with those words which they read out loud, and then we took turns adding things to the list. Admittedly a little hard to engage, and write while sitting on a chair that is only eight inches from the ground–but I managed. “Milk, food, toys, warmth, clothing, love, hugs, a home, visits to the doctor, medicine…” and of course parents. After praising the kids for their continued expertise on being great older brothers or sisters or cousins or friends, we went on to “What parents do.” The kids easily volunteered all the right answers; “Feed the baby, love it, change it’s poopy diapers!! Ewwwww!” If they got stuck, I just went back to the baby list to prompt them. At the end I made sure to add; “parents to bring them into the world”.

So when Baby Dexter’s parents had him, and they were able to look at both these lists, they realized that they would not be able to give him everything a baby needs. They realized they were not in a place in their lives where they could manage to do all the things a parent needs to do. This was the hardest choice they could ever make, but they did. They got helping finding a mommy who could be his everyday in my case. Some families have two mommies, some have a mommy and a daddy, some have a grampy and a mommy, and an uncle…

At this point I went on about how lucky Baby Dexter is, because he has a mommy and a daddy who loved him so much to bring him into the world, and who still love him very much, and will always be part of his life who are his real parents. He also has an everyday mommy who gets to do all the things a parent does everyday too, and that means I am his real mommy too! (Sam specifically asked me to address the–Are you his real mommy-language. He said that kids asked him that a lot.) With Baby Dexter safely back in the satchel, and my eager learners transitioned back to their desks, I ended the talk with a read of “Tell Me Again About the Night I was Born” using a document reader and a smart board! (OK, so just holding the book would have worked for me, but the kids needed to move to a new setting after fifteen minutes on the floor. ) They loved the book. It is one of Sam’s all time faves too.

I left handing the teacher a box of muffins for their snack time in a few minutes, and a pile of handouts for the kids take home folders also from Adoptive Families Magazine called; “Talking to classmates about adoption” with a little note on the top from me saying; “Hi this is from Sammy’s mom, to help you if your kiddos have any questions about the talk I gave today.” It’s a great two sided sheet with lots of tips and positive adoption language. I left feeling tremendous that a few new allies were in the making, and Sam felt just a little easier within his beautiful brown adopted skin in school today.

***

Have you given a talk in your kids school? Share your successes, ask questions, or leave a link to a post you wrote about the event, to inspire others to get out there this month too.

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Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Do you believe in what we do here? Can you help?

Regular readers have likely noticed that it has been quiet around here, lately. Thank you to those of you who have written to check in on the LIE team. We’re fine, though a bit overburdened. Love Isn’t Enough is just a two-person operation, and as many of you know, maintaining a vibrant blogging community takes a lot of work. Between grad school, kids and family, work and…just life…Julia and I have been having a hard time offering the quality of dialog and information we want to have associated with Love Isn’t Enough.

But we believe in this site. We really do. There are few other places where parents and others concerned with social justice can talk about anti-racism and share challenges and best practices of raising good citizens who will actively work toward equality of race, gender, sexuality, etc.

And so we are asking for your help. To maintain and grow LIE, we need to expand our team. In the coming week, we will post some specific volunteer positions that we are looking to fill. In the meantime, here is just a sampling of ways you can help, even if you only have a little time to give:

  • Moderator: We need a couple of people dedicated to keeping the LIE comments section a safe space, and a useful place to discuss race and other social justice issues. (If you’re already a participant in comments and you have time to hop on to the site at least three times a day–am, noon and pm–this could be perfect for you.)
  • Kid pic and links editor: On Thursdays, post a submitted Gratuitous Cute Kid Pic and Open Thread. On Tuesdays, links to the best conversations about race and other social justice issues around the web.
  • Guest contributor: We need original content. We know our readership includes several smart writers. Consider contributing an original article to us or submitting a crosspost from your personal blog. We’re looking for meaty content that goes beyond race 101 stuff. There is also space for general parenting stories. And while LIE focuses on race and parenting, readers know we are also interested in posts about gender, sexuality, class and other issues. We’d also appreciate hearing from more young voices. Do you know a good teen correspondent? Send her our way.
  • Co-editor: We need another editor who can join Julia and I in overseeing the day-to-day of the blog: searching for good content; planning for the future; identifying regular columnists and more.

If you are willing to join the Love Isn’t Enough team, email us at team@loveisntenough.com. Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Tami

Image Credit: andjohan

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Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

LIE Links 9.25.12

The impact of new photo identification requirements on youth of color

Since the 2008 presidential election, in which youth of color turned out to vote at historic rates, many state legislatures have passed new voting laws that require voters to show state-issued photo identification before being allowed to cast a valid ballot. This essay evaluates the potential effects of these laws on young people (ages 18-29) of color, including Blacks, Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans, and Pacific Islanders.

Numerous studies show that people of color possess photo identification cards at much lower rates than whites.   Because young people and lower-income people are also less likely to have photo identification, young people of color are likely to be disproportionately demobilized by these laws.

[US] House passes adoption bill (Radio Free Asia)

The North Korean Refugee Adoption Act, adopted on Tuesday, directs U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, to develop a strategy to “facilitate the adoption of North Korean refugee children” by families in the U.S.
The legislation also requires that the State Department issue a report to Congress on that strategy within 180 days of its enactment.
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Posted in LIE Links | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

The first week of school and already a racist incident

By Guest Contributor Renee; originally published at Womanist Musings

As much as I love my children, I was absolutely giddy to see them get on the school bus last week.  The unhusband and I were singing and dancing, as the children pouted and whined. For as much as they  complained about our joy, they were actually ready to leave 45 minutes early, which tells me that they were ready to get back on routine.  We went outside to wait for the bus on our porch and it was raining causing Destruction to quip, “You see that, even God is crying for us today.”   I have to admit that this cracked me up.

I spent that first day reveling in the silence and hanging out with the unhusband. When the school bus pulled up at the end of the day, the dog barked loudly and ran in circles, but I was excited to hear about their first day.  The moment Destruction walked in the house, he told me he had yet another incident involving the word “nigger” and my heart just sank. They shouldn’t have to deal with this ever, but the first day of school?

My kids have had problems with the [this kid] before and so this time he got smart.  Instead of directly calling either of them “nigger,” he decided to very loudly sing, or rather rap, a song that had the word in it, of course emphasizing the word every time.  This, I assume, was his way of thwarting the rules, having already been spoken to about why it’s not appropriate to call my sons “niggers”.

Once again, I got on the phone with the school and the bus company and I had to fight to be heard.  We supposedly agree that this word is hurtful and racist, but apparently, in this context, it is supposedly not as serious. Clearly a kid who has a history of using this word as a weapon should not be given the benefit of the doubt. Clearly his intent was to harm my children but convincing others of that was a problem. Throughout the conversation, the bus company struggled to get me off the phone and I steadfastly refused to just let this go.  In the end, through my complaints, I managed to get the [child] suspended from the bus for two days.  As sad as that is, this is actually a massive achievement because this is the first time I have managed to get some kind of consequence for the racial insults my children have had to live with.

Discussing this with a friend, she claimed that at least part of the blame belongs to black rap and hip hop artists who continue to write lyrics, which not include the word but variations like “niggas”. In many ways this argument suggests that it is appropriate to blame the marginalized for their own marginalization. I will never ever use the word or any of its manifestations casually because I believe that all slurs amount to verbal violence.  That is my personal feeling; however, I think it’s a form of arrogance to suggest that others who share my marginalization must negotiate our shared oppression the same way.  ”Nigger” has the power to wound all black people, but since we do not exist with a hive mind, we must allow people the right to negotiate their experiences as they see fit.

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Posted in Race, School, The N Word, racial slurs | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Ask LIE

Dear LIE,

I’ve been reading LIE for many years now and you have helped me in the past when my son had to deal with racist behaviours thrust upon him.

I live in Italy. My husband recently signed up my son in a new soccer club and they requested a declaration of our family status and proof of residence. The document indicated that my son had immigrated from Ethiopia; my son is adopted. I don’t know if it’s this phrase or if it’s because my son is new, but they now requested proof that he attends school! Something NOT REQUESTED for the Italian-born kids……!!! We are refusing to give them this document. How should I handle it without telling them they are blatantly racist?

Update 1:
Tomorrow, the soccer team is going to the Soccer Federation to sign him and and will try to get clarification. When my husband called the Federation to ask for elucidation, they replied they didn’t have my son’s identification so they couldn’t check. They now have his Italian I.D. card that clearly states he is Italian. The thing is, my son has been with different teams over the four years he has been in the Soccer Federation and this is the first time they as for proof of school attendance! And I am sure it’s all because that form stated he had immigrated to Italy from Ethiopia.

It may resolve itself tomorrow and I can update on Wednesday, but still, what about all the other immigrant children, why do they have to show proof of school attendance and Italians do not?

Update 2:
Just wanted to give you the outcome of the meeting. Seems that the fact that he has Italian citizenship changes things and that document certifying he attends school is no longer required. When questioned, they just shifted the blame to the former Soccer team saying he had been incorrectly registered two years ago.

It’s still blatantly racist and I’m glad we solved our problem, but what can I do in the future?

-Anna from Turin

Hi Anna,

I’m so sorry that you had to experience this discriminatory treatment of your son. I think that I have heard of adoptive parents of Ethiopian children having similar issues in the US, at doctor’s offices etc. It is, as you say, racist and, may I add, unbelievably petty.

I wish I had some grand answer for you, but I think perhaps you did all that one could do in such a situation–you stood up for your son, you resisted and questioned and refused to accept second-class treatment. No matter the outcome, I imagine that your actions sent a powerful message to your son, and modeled for him how to resist.

I will be interested to hear what our readers think. Readers? Thoughts for Anna?

-Julia, co-editor

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Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Open thread

Tell us how things are going in your world. Or talk about whatever is on your mind.

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Quoted: Afro-Latin And The Negro Common: An Interview With Dr. Marco Polo Hernández-Cuevas

We’ve spoken about the racism inherent in many “beloved,” classic children’s characters before on Love Isn’t Enough. In a recent interview with Lamont Lilly published on Racialicious, Marco Polo Hernández-Cuevas talks about Memín Penguín, a Mexican character akin to Little Black Sambo.

LL: I found your research on the caricature Memín Penguín to be quite intriguing. Interestingly enough, such a caricature draws an awful close resemblance to Helen Bannerman’s Little Black Sambo. What is Memín Penguín’s cultural and political relevance to those of Mexican descent?

Memín Pinguín. Courtesy: brownplanet.com

Hernández-Cuevas: Well, the same thing that was done with Little Black Sambo is being done with Memín Pinguín. The first work I published on this was in 2003; however, I’ve recently completed a comparative study on Memin Penguin and two other comics. I like to refer to them as “the dark side of light reading.” Dr. Richard L. Jackson, (one of my professors) has produced a great deal of work reflecting such material’s utter detriment. Ariel Dorfman–the Chilean exile now at Duke University–speaks on this as well.

This sort of inexpensive media reaches a lot of people in terms of the masses…and is easy to reproduce. It’s composed at a level where our young are easily indoctrinated. I’m talking about the mind–the wellbeing of our psyches. In his Slaves of the White God: Blacks in Mexico, Dr. Colin A. Palmer articulates in detail the grave horrors our folks endured in New Spain. Far from connecting us to that history, the Memín cartoon actually creates an “other.” It caricatures that experience of us as humorous. It only feeds what Quince Duncan refers to as Endophobia (or a hatred of one’s self). In Mexico City, we had this saying growing up as a kid, “At least I’m not as black as you are!” So you see, it’s the African part that we choose to chop off. We laugh at it, learn to make light of it as if our culture were some comedy show.

In order to really understand Memín Penguín, we’ve got to filter through the historical murk of imperialism. We should know that such material is produced from the outside and is really aimed as an attack, having little to do with a sense of humor. This is nothing but European denigration against the very people who’ve worked the hardest! This is the colonial vacuum in which Africa and its current descendants are still encapsulated. The Afro contribution is serious; it’s no damn joke! It’s generally when the discourse is fed from the outside that the consequences prove to be negative. Sure, my perspective and essays on this can be questioned. However, when Memin defenders call it “pure entertainment,” I don’t believe their explanations to be true or sincere. It’s time we start feeding cohesion and strength, not ignorance!

Read the full interview.

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Posted in Quoted, Race and classic media | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Gratuitous Cute Kid Pic

It’s Thursday, time for another gratuitous cute kid pic! Here is LIE reader Lydia’s darling daughter Ixchel with her dad.

Got cute kids? Send their pictures to us so we can show them off for you!

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Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Jimmy Kimmel is pranking kids again and not everything is funny

By Guest Contributor Renee; originally published at Womanist Musings

Jimmy Kimmel seems to just love getting parents to pull fast ones on their kids for laughs.  As a parent, there is a big part of me that gets why moms and dads are so willing to do this.  No matter how much you love your children, they absolutely will get on your last nerve from time to time.  Sometimes there are days when you think they are on a personal mission to ensure that you snap. Both [my children] Mayhem and Destruction are particularly adept at this.  On the other hand, I cannot shake the feeling that there is some cruelty involved in this.  The intention is not to laugh with your children but laugh at them.  The moment you start to laugh at someone, it’s no longer just good clean fun.

[This time, Kimmel urged parents to trick their kids by presenting them with particularly ugly back-to-school clothes.]

My concern with this exercise is the clothing choices that parents made for their children.  Kimmel simply instructed parents to buy ugly clothes for their kids, but in many cases, parents chose clothing that was counter to their child’s gender.  Boys were given what socially is determined to be girls  clothing.

The boys got very upset and clearly did not want to look like girls.  Of course, part of this is because things that are associated with femininity are almost always cast in a negative light. It also has a lot to do with peer pressure and a desire to fit in. This set up encourages boys to associate negative things with femininity.  It was no accident that the boys were given girls clothing while the girls themselves just received ugly clothing that largely matched their gender identity.  This once again shows the difference between how masculinity and femininity is understood.  We cannot blame these little boys because all they are doing is expressing what they have been taught since birth.

One mother gave her son the following t-shirt to wear.

How is this shirt a practical joke on a child?  To me, it looks like she is teaching her son that being gay is something to laugh it. With her choice, the joke was no longer on her kids but on gays and lesbians.  This was beyond inappropriate and, unfortunately, her son was the only one who said this.  If it turns out that her son is actually gay, she is also denigrating his identity.

This may have seemed like a harmless joke but it is laden with many social messages that should at the very least make us uncomfortable.  These are things that we shouldn’t take lightly because it reveals what children have internalized as normal.

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Posted in Gender, Sexuality, Television | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ask LIE: How do we address microaggressions at our children’s schools?

Dear Love Isn’t Enough.

As the new school year approaches my husband and I are again finding that we need to address race issues within the school system. My stepkids are teenagers in high school and more of these issues are occurring. Sadly, it seems that most of the racial comments are coming from teachers rather than other classmates. I am not sure if this is worse or better than if the comments were coming from classmates.

First,  my husband and I are both white. We have full custody of my stepkids who are biracial Hispanic. We also have two young daughters who we adopted from China.  I grew up in a diverse area and witnessed much racism.  I was taught that many people treat each other differently based on their skin color and that this is wrong and that I should say something in those situations. My husband grew up in a predominately white area and did not really see much racism other than on TV.

In the past couple of years my stepdaughter has come home with accounts from school largely involving inappropriate comments or actions from teachers. Some of which I really felt required intervention by my husband (For instance, contacting the school and asking for a meeting).

Examples:

While in class, a student makes a joke about the kids at school who are mentally challenged. Instead of correcting this child, the teacher laughs at the joke. (Actually administrators were informed of this and the teacher was made to apologize to the class).

While in class, the teacher refers to an Asian student by the name of a different Asian student who is not in that class. When the Asian student corrects the teacher the teacher responds, “Oh, you must be the other one.”

While talking with a teacher about general family stuff, another student mentions she has a younger sibling who was adopted internationally. Stepdaughter mentions her family’s ethnic make-up. The teacher comments to her, “You live in a regular United Nations.”

Another situation: my stepdaughter told a coach that she was not going to make practice because she had two tests to prepare for. The coach responded that there were other girls on the team who were coming to practice and that they are in the top 10 percent of their class. Then she added, “I doubt you fall into that category.”

This was one comment I felt my husband should have called about. My question to this statement is why does this person doubt my stepdaughter can be in the top 10 percent of her class? Because she’s Hispanic?

None of these single incidents happened in close proximity to each other—this is over the past two years, but it definitely seems to be a tone.

Recently, my stepson was cut from a high school soccer tryout. He is an incoming freshman and the school only has JV and Varsity—so while it is disappointing, he is an incoming freshman. Then stepdaughter mentioned that only four kids were cut from the team and that three of the four are Hispanic.

My husband is seriously up in arms. This was another situation where I asked if there were other minority kids being effected and at first ‘Dear Hubby’ dismissed me—until his daughter mentioned most of the kids who were cut are Hispanic. My husband told me he didn’t listen to me because he simply did not believe it would/could happen.

***Sigh***

My husband said he is calling the principal to talk about all this and the tone of the school.  This is not about my stepson getting on the team. I doubt he would accept it after being cut even if offered.  I also doubt he will want his dad talking to someone at the school.

We know our kids need to grow up and learn how to deal with this kind of crap. As parents we have to walk a line between letting them handle situations on their own in their own way and knowing when we need to step in and take action.

What do you suggest in this situation? If he meets with the principal, what are some points, questions, requests he should make?

I think the entire staff needs training on race relations.

Thanks in advance for your help.

Anonymous

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Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | 7 Comments

We’re Not About That Hug Life

Well, we are, but we aren’t.

Anyone who has seen Tiny Smalls and I together, or her with her dad, they’d know that we are really affectionate. She’s all about the hugs and the sugar (that’s kiss for those of you who don’t know) and is usually climbing all over us, touting her snaggle-toothed grin. But when it comes to other folks outside our immediate circle, no ma’am.

I have never and will never force my child to hug or shake hands or even chuck deuces to someone she may not be comfortable interacting with. Nope, not gonna do it. When we force our kids to do this, we peel away their agency and begin to impress into their brains that they must show adults affection — even when their gut is throwing up stop signs.

I’ll never forget a time when I was around 5, hanging with my gramps and we ran into a relative that I didn’t particularly care for. She went to hug and kiss me and I said “No.” Instead of forcing me to show faux-affection, my grandfather let her know, politely, that no love would would be shown that day and we went about our business. No harm, no foul. That was one of the first instances when I realized that I was a person and that my feelings and thoughts were important. Yay!

Children are much better judges of character than adults, since they have yet to be socialized to become sheeps in the flock. They trust themselves and their intrinsic knowingness, as they should. How many adults do you know who are re-learning to trust themselves? Mmm hmm!

This is not about being rude, aloof or trifling; it’s about giving Tiny Smalls the tools she needs to make her way in the world as best as she possibly can. How many of our children have been harmed by adults they’ve been mandated to trust? According to the American Psychological Association, 90% of children are abused by someone they know and trust. I’m not saying that abuse is 100% preventable, but how many of us give our children the opportunity to give their opinions either verbal or non-verbal about the adults we bring into their lives? How many of us take them seriously when they say they don’t like cousin Boo Boo?

I clearly recall a time when Tiny Smalls was a baby and we were at a local diner placing our order. Several folks peeked into her stroller and she gave them the gummy grin, but when this one woman tried to get closer, she gave her the mini-stink eye and began to pout. At that point, I told the woman that she needed to back up, as my child is feeling some type of way. She did because, well, she didn’t have much of a choice. There have also been times when strangers on the street have said hello and she’s given everything from a curt “no, thank you” to speeding up and walking faster. She knows what she knows and I trust her knowing.

And that’s what it comes down to, trust. We have to trust that our children have insight into their own lives and needs, paying attention to their cues while doing what we feel is best for them.

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Posted in Uncategorized | 15 Comments