Columnist intro: Sue

by Anti-Racist Parent columnist Sue Lyons-Joell

sue lyons joellWhen I was asked to join Anti-Racist Parent as a guest writer, my first thought was, “Wait, I’m not a parent yet – what could I possibly say?” Then I started thinking about parenthood and what it means to raise a child. Prepping for parenthood really starts the minute you even consider the notion. I like to think that I’m ready for whatever motherhood will throw at me. Yes, stop laughing, moms and dads, I know I’m very, very wrong!

I’ll soon find out exactly how wrong. I’m a Parent-In-Training, expecting my first child, a daughter, in February. Since my husband and I found out about the pregnancy, we’ve been going through all the usual ups and downs: How’s our finances? Where are the good schools? Do we like our doctors? How’s her health? Mom’s health? Dad’s sanity?

Of course we have to consider other issues that never quite make it into the trendiest pregnancy guides. I’m biracial, of African-American/Bermudan and European-American descent. My husband is Puerto Rican, of undefined-mixed-with-everything descent. 3 continents, 3 arbitrary U.S. “race” categories 7 traceable ethnicities. Little things in this pregnancy have been a reminder. I had unnecessary blood work done because the statistics for inheriting many disorders never include mixed-race people. I want to donate my child’s cord blood for the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP), but it’s an unusual request for both my doctors and the hospital. My gut tells me that this may do some good for another multiracial person down the line, but I’m still not sure if the hospital will donate their time and staff for the cause.

On a less clinical level, both of us have kept up an ongoing discussion on race and racism, almost from Day 1. His parents have a decent amount of racial baggage, some of which they’ve been able to jettison. But the color-struck phenomenon is alive and well. My own family is far from perfect, but they’ve had a 30-year head start on the whole interracial/biracial thing. Both sides have come a long way towards accepting us and the family we’re starting. His sister’s in-laws and my uncle still need to hold a How Not To Be A Racist self-help seminar, far, far away from the rest of us. Otherwise, we hope both our families will be the supports we’ll need. But I’m a realist, and my guard is up for any slight, any off-hand comment, and even any praise based on this child’s looks.

What will “multiracial” even mean to my daughter? I honestly don’t know. My own mother changed hospital forms, a birth certificate, and the 1980 census to make a “biracial” category. It was a bold move coming from my conservative Catholic mom, but I don’t think I’ll have to face the snide remarks and outright criticism my mom did – things have improved that much at least. Judging from our local school’s diversity, my daughter should also be able to avoid what my mom dubbed “Only One” Syndrome – the awkward experience of always being the “only one [fill in the blank]” in the room. But subtle racism/bias is so hard to detect, harder to confront, hardest to remove – scariest to deal with. I worry sometimes, and I watch.

In some ways, I’m confident that I’ve experienced, or at least heard of, many things my kids will encounter as multiethnic people. They are my “known” variables. The “unknowns” are what keep me up at night. I hope her experiences will be overwhelmingly positive. I fear that she’ll face things I cannot even begin to prepare her for. And I’m working towards acceptance that those hopes and fears are the same for every single parent of every single child. Yes, my daughter will be ‘unique’, just like everyone else.

ARP for me is my chance to share experiences and learn with other parents and with everyone who gives a damn about anti-racist issues. I’m excited to be here, as a poster or just commenting in the peanut gallery. And I can’t wait to be an Anti-Racist Parent for real, not just in training.

Sue Lyons-Joell is a wetlands scientist near Philadelphia, PA. Also known as Lyonside, she has been active in various multiethnic groups and online forums since college. She’s more of a blogging fan than an actual blogger. Sue and her husband are expecting their first child in February 2007.

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