by Anti-Racist Parent Columnist Jae Ran Kim
A few months ago my family reached a new milestone in our lives as a multi-racial family. My 14 year-old daughter has her first “boyfriend.” I have to admit that I have long been very curious about who my kids would choose to date. In our home, we have tried to be very careful about being as inclusive as possible with the subject of dating/relationships. My partner and I have never placed the expectation that our kids would be heterosexual, for example, speaking of future “partners” instead of “husbands” or “wives” and talking not about marriage, which is a heterosexual privilege, but of commitment ceremonies and partnerships. We’ve tried not to assume or project an expectation that they would have children or parent someday either.
The benefit of that is having a child who is open-minded to the possibilities of all kinds of love relationships. So when my daughter told me this week that she and a boy at school had decided to be “girlfriend and boyfriend” I was more than thrilled to find out her boyfriend is not white.
And then that got me thinking. It’s not that I disapprove of her dating someone who is white. Her father, my partner, is white. So why was I secretly pleased that my daughter was dating a person of color?
I have had to confront some biases lately and it’s been uncomfortable. I’ve had to think about if I have been non-verbally encouraging my kids to date people of color. And if so, is there some hidden racist reason for this?
I also had to wonder whether I am secretly living out my own latent desires, having had no opportunity to date people of color. I was raised in such a white town and had no opportunity to date people of color in high school. By the time I was in college I was already engaged to my partner.
I wanted my kids to have a broader experience, more choices. I feel better when I surround myself with diversity. My kids have been raised to appreciate and celebrate all of their ethic heritages and maybe my fear was that if they partner with white persons they would think of or value their Korean heritage less – or that they will be less likely to hold on to their identity as a multi-racial person. Which I know is an assumption as many people, myself included, have held on tightly to our multi-racial and multi-ethnic identities despite having relationships with white partners.
I realize I’m worrying about my kid’s future partners a little on the early side; after all, my daughter has just started to date. She’s only at the beginning of her dating life.
I once asked her if she found herself more interested in boys who were white or boys of color.
“It doesn’t really matter. Except that if they’re white, they’d have to ‘get it’” she said. “You know, they’d have to understand racism – like, really get it.”
So now, my job is to be open and supportive. And trust that she will choose someone who is good to her, no matter who she brings home for dinner.
Jae Ran Kim, MSW is a social worker, teacher and writer. She was born in Taegu, South Korea and was adopted to Minnesota in 1971. She has written numerous articles and essays and is most recently published in the anthology “Outsiders Within: Writings on Transracial Adoption” from South End Press. Jae Ran’s blog, Harlow’s Monkey, is at http://harlowmonkey.typepad.com/