If you are a parent of a mixed race child or children, you may have encountered this awful and annoying moment in your life. If you haven’t yet, then you must be living in an area where integration is the norm and is highly accepted. So thank your lucky stars because at one point in time, you may have to deal with it.
Nevin Martell, a White man married to a Black Ghanaian woman was with his son one Saturday with his 3-year-old son, Zephyr in the dining area of a local Whole Foods when he noticed a Black man giving him “odd, furtive glance” since they sat down. At first, he thought the man thought he looked familiar so he was bracing himself for that awkward conversation that he felt was about to happen. Little did he know it was going to be a different kind of awkward and super annoying conversation.
I am just going to quote most of the conversation so that you get a clear picture. He writes about their conversation in the Washington Post:
“Is that your son?” the man suddenly asked, without any preamble, and with an aggressive edge to his tone.
“Yes, this is my son,” I answered, a little warily.
“Hmph,” he snorted. “I didn’t think so.”
Now my defenses were fully up. “Why not?” I shot back.
Now he was on the defensive. “Why would you say that?”
“Because he has been calling me ‘Poppa’ since we arrived, he looks like me, we’re clearly very close and I’m obviously his caregiver,” I replied. “There’s nothing else.”
He huffed and he puffed, but I knew my verbal punch had landed.
Nice punch that one, right?
Anyway, Martell left with son and when he got to his car, he realized how furious he was about the whole encounter. “I was angry this stranger would question my paternity of my son, because he couldn’t see past his own biases and stereotypical visions of a family. I was heartsick he couldn’t see the love and connection between Zephyr and me. And I was outraged that anyone would think they had a right to confront a parent in such a way,” he says.
Martell is not the first interracial parent to encounter this kind of ignorance and prejudice. Sadly, he wont be the last. People will always make assumptions if you and your mixed race child have different skin color; no matter how slight it is. A Black friend of mine was with her mixed race daughter at the mall one time when a Chinese woman approached her daughter and asked: “Where is your mummy?” Imagine how hurtful that must have been to her.
The problem is strangers shoot up these questions without a care as to what they are doing to such parents. Well, here is one experience Martell narrates that really really got out of hand (and that’s putting it lightly):
My Salvadoran friend, Javier, is married to a white woman, Ashby. They have a sweet, round-cheeked and light-skinned daughter, Nina. When she was about 6 months old, Javier was taking her home alone after dinner with friends. It was late, so Nina was tired and crying. He was at his wits’ end as he tried to soothe her and strap her into her car seat.
As he was doing so, a woman in an apartment overlooking the street opened her window to ask what was happening. He replied that he was simply trying to get his cranky baby into his car and figured that was the end of it. It wasn’t. A few minutes later, as he was still trying to calm Nina down, a police car pulled up. The officer got out and began quizzing Javier. What was he doing? Was this his daughter? What was his address?
Javier replied that Nina was his daughter and he just wanted to get home. Why was he being treated like a criminal? The officer said someone called in a suspected kidnapping.
Whether its the questions or what Javier went through, these experiences are very painful to parents. How do strangers get off telling someone that your own child couldn’t possibly be yours? Whether its an interracial adoption or your own flesh and blood, people need to mind their freaking business. Such questions might even make a child start questioning their paternity.
Such experiences are very depressing given the fact that mixed families are on the rise. They are everywhere you look these days. So for someone to ask such questions, you wonder if they have been living in a cage for decades on end and just got out. Its plain and simple. Such people are just racists who don’t want to accept the society as is. So they deliberately attack interracial parents and children just so they can sleep at night.
Martell concludes brilliantly:
“I feel like I’m speaking to kindergartners, but here are some tips for anyone thinking of questioning someone else’s family arrangement: Mind your own business. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it. Apologize if you hurt somebody.
And if you’re one of the parents of an interracial child who is questioned about your position in your child’s life, do what I plan on doing if it happens to me again: Start a rational conversation. You just might change someone’s mind about the endless possibilities of the modern family.”
If you have mixed race children and have gone through this, share your experience.