Tag Archives: racial identity

From a Mixed Race Child: Tips for a White Parent

By Special Correspondent Thea Lim

The other day in convo with a friend, I burst into tears when he mentioned a couple he knows who are in the process of adopting. As a Korean couple, they have been discussing the potential race of their baby and whether or not having a Korean child is a priority for them.

My reaction was pretty over the top. Maybe it was because I was tired and stressed. Maybe it was because it was close to 4 p.m. and I hadn’t talked to anyone except my cat that day, and I don’t deal well with isolation. But the truth is on an ordinary day, when I hear parents talk about choosing their child’s race, or the politics of having a child of a different race, I immediately clench up.

My mother is English and Irish, and my father is Singaporean Chinese. Neither of them are particularly involved in radical race politics, and I will never know what or how they thought about having mixed race children before my sister and I were born, because (at least at this point in my life) I am afraid to ask them that question.

I often imagine that their thought process was similar to that of Nicole Sprinkle. In her article for the New York Times Magazine, Sprinkle talks about being the white mother of a white/Colombian daughter*:

When I was pregnant, the thought of having an “exotic” looking child based on our combined genetics – Jose’s inky black hair, dark eyes, and round face coupled with my waspy, delicate looks and tiny build – hadn’t really occurred to me.

Sprinkle talks about how this attitude changed after the first time she and her husband experienced discrimination as a mixed race couple:

Would her choices of where to live or travel be compromised by her looks? Or would her mixed genes work in her favor? Not being quite Hispanic-looking enough to make her a victim of racism, but enough for, say, college scholarships? Maybe she’d walk through different worlds at will, be whoever she needed to be for any situation. Nice in theory, but the idea of conveniently shifting identities to protect or promote herself left me cold.

One of the first posts I wrote for Racialicious discussed mixed race parenting, and I remember being quite moved by a comment Abu Sinan made:

Thanks for the article. As a father of two bi-racial children I try to understand as much as I can about the issues they are going to face here in America.

As the daughter of parents who, for better or worse, never discussed what it meant that my sister and I were mixed race (except to regularly tell us that we were “beautiful” and “special”), I am captivated by parents who want to talk and learn about how being mixed race might be a big deal for their kids, and even further, white parents who can admit that – even though they came forth from their own bodies – their children will have experiences that they themselves can never understand.

Sprinkle goes on to describe her family’s attempt to navigate the hairy terrain of multi-racial experience, and even lovingly accepts the reasons why her husband is hesitant to speak Spanish to their daughter, based on his own experiences of discrimination. Yet despite her initial sensitivity, Sprinkle quickly lost me.

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