Silence Is Sometimes Best

On February 10, 2012, in Biracial, by Honeysmoke

Parenting is tough enough without strangers asking insensitive questions about our children. After a Michigan woman assumed Jeremy Verdusco had adopted his daughter, he wrote about his reaction. How have you handled similar situations?

For more posts from Jeremy, visit his blog, blocletters.

By Jeremy Verdusco

© Jeremy Verdusco

I fathered a mixed-race child. Honestly, I don’t give her “mix” much thought, and don’t think twice about the idea of people marrying and (gasp) having children across racial lines. Mom didn’t raise me like that.

So, I was taken aback on a trip to a local hardware store this week by a comment from the cashier. I dashed in to buy light bulbs and trudged up to the register with the bulbs in one hand and my daughter in her carrier in the other. The older woman took the cash and began cooing. “She’s beautiful!” she said.

I’ve gotten used to the coos. I think my girl is beautiful, and regular comments from strangers just reinforce my bias and warm my heart. Then the woman said one of the most ignorant things I’ve ever heard.

“Have you had her since birth?” she asked.

I paused for a second, my brain trying to find a word. “Um … yes,” I responded. I found myself, for reasons I still don’t understand, not wanting to lecture or embarrass a stranger.

Adoption has a nobility to it. Taking responsibility for a child where the parent could or would not ranks among the more selfless actions I can think off. But obviously this woman, a nice white lady of about 65, reads too much People, and thinks brown babies must come from Malawi.

But beyond my daughter’s provenance, this woman questioned the idea that people of different races might marry or have children. In 2010, with a black president in the White House, I kinda thought this question was settled. The Supreme Court ruled onLoving v. Virginia in 1967, a generation and a half ago.

I fairness, I don’t know this woman’s background. Still, while Oakland County, where she at least works if not lives, has a population about 80 percent white, it’s hardly homogeneous.  One in five residents counts as non-white. Surely she’s met whites who married blacks or Asians or Hispanics. Mrs. Blocletters and I enjoy the friendships of several interracial couples. It’s not rare by far.

And notice I said ignorant, not stupid. She doesn’t know my family. But, while ignorance isn’t its own excuse, I can’t wish it away either. I can wish, however, that ignorant people think for a moment before they speak. Even if you suspected a child was adopted, why would you ask a stranger such a question?

Clearly, ignorance is here to stay and I need to come up with a better response than a dumbfounded “yes” next time I get this question. How about: “No, I won her in a card game a few days ago. Cute, isn’t she?” I’m interested to hear other snappy responses.

Jeremy Verdusco lives in Michigan.

Do you have a story to tell? Send it to Honeysmoke@Honeysmoke.com

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Impact of Race

On February 9, 2012, in Biracial, by Honeysmoke

 

 

Wannabeathlete, a newlywed, writes about the questions she and her husband tackle. I am glad the author, who doesn’t usually write about race on her blog, penned this essay. It has one of the best comeback lines I’ve read for those times when strangers ask ignorant questions. Full Disclosure: I used to be her husband’s college professor. (Yes, writing that sentence just made me feel very old.) Enjoy.

By Wannabeathlete

© Wannabeathlete

People always wonder how being a mixed race couple impacts our lives. I’m happy to say that the impact is negligible – at least in my opinion. But there are a few zingers that stick out in my mind.

1. “Together or Separate?”

This bothers me to no end. Far too often when we go out to eat, we get this question when the waiter/cashier gives us our bill. HELLO. We are MARRIED. Is that so hard to believe? Now, I have been a server and I understand that this is sometimes hard to distinguish – it could be a client, a co-worker, etc. But there are some times that the question seems unwarranted. Very unwarranted in my opinion. Drives me crazy. Maybe I’m overreacting. My husband thinks I am. Oh well.

2. Our Godson

We are so lucky to have this little boy in our life. But bringing him places often raises eyebrows. People often look at me with disdain, and their look says, ‘So you got knocked up by some white guy and now this guy is taking care of your kid. Tsk tsk.” Or they see my husband running after this cute little white boy and freak out. It’s okay. He’s with us. I think it is so precious how our godson has attached himself to my husband. He calls him “Uncle Nate” and the two are inseparable. Our godson even had my husband come to his school recently for their “Father’s Day Breakfast”. Cutest thing ever.

3. “Is He Yours?”

We are not the only mixed race marriage in the family. Nate’s brother and sister-in-law are mixed as well. And they have a precious little boy. Isn’t he the cutest?

I was talking with my sister-in-law today about the blog I found and she told me about an incident she had in Target:

Just like the lady in target who asked if Malachi was mine.
I said, “He is now, I found him back there in the toys.”

This made me laugh so hard. I think the bottom line is usually ignorance – not malice. Did you know that 1 in 7 marriages are now interracial? Even though he identifies as black, the president of our country is the product of an interracial relationship. The world is changing. Slowly. But it is changing.

Is your marriage interracial? Do you have any stories to share on this topic?

Do you have a story to tell? Send it to Honeysmoke@Honeysmoke.com

 

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Ladder to the Moon

On September 1, 2011, in Biracial, by Honeysmoke

Ladder to the Moon

Written By Maya Soetoro-Ng

Illustrated by Yuyi Morales

Ladder to the Moon rests on a bookshelf, in my bedroom, where I can keep an eye on it. I bought it for Simone and Nadia, but it is all mine. Mine, I say.

I am in love with the writing. It is, in a word, gorgeous. The book is longer than the average picture book, and the words paint dreamy pictures. As for the illustrations, they are the most intricate I’ve ever seen in a picture book and evoke the imagination of a child. When I find a publisher for my picture book, I’d be happy for Yuyi Morales to illustrate it.

I’m drawn to the story as well. My mother passed before Simone and Nadia were born. In Ladder to the Moon Suhaila wishes she could have known her grandma. One night, Suhaila realizes her wish when a ladder appears at her window. In lush prose, Grandma Annie invites her granddaughter to come along with her on a magical journey. Together they explore a mother’s love, empathy for others, and the value of civic engagement.

The book has given me an idea about how I can make my mother real to Simone and Nadia. There has been a long-running debate about whether picture books are written for children or for parents. They are written for both. This one resonates with me, and I hope one day Simone and Nadia will embrace it as much as I do.

Have you read this book? What did you think of the writing and illustrations?

Argan Oil

On August 31, 2011, in Biracial, by Honeysmoke

The beauty aisles are lined with products touting the benefits of Argan oil. The oil has been added to skincare, nail, and hair potions.  If the law of supply and demand is in effect, then a lot of people are demanding a relatively low supply of this oil. I’ve seen it online for as much as $96 for four ounces. Ouch! There are less expensive versions, which also have less Argan oil in them, and others have been cut with coconut, jojoba or some other oil that is listed in fine print on the back of the bottle.

Women love this product for its hydrating properties. It is a light oil, and it produces an intense shine. Of course, it can only be found in one place on the planet: Morocco. The oil is extracted from the nuts of the fruit the tree produces and is harvested from the tree by women who work in co-operatives.

Like many women, I wanted to try out this Argan oil. I love shea butter, and I have an ongoing love affair with henna. It took me a few weeks to zero in on some pure oil at an acceptable price. I found it at Mountainroseherbs.com, where a four-ounce bottle for $17.

I’ve been using it for a few weeks now. I use a dropper to take the oil from the bottle and to put a few drops in my hand. I rub my hands together and then spread the oil over my hair. (I haven’t been bold enough to use it on my face, though folks swear it helps fight off all those bad things in the atmosphere.) The oil is expeller pressed, which means no solvents or anything else that could change or weaken its properties were used to extract it.

I love the shine and the non-oily feeling Argan oil produces, but the real test will come this winter when the air has been stripped of all its moisture. I’ll keep you posted.

Have you experimented with Argan oil?

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Good Read — Multicultural Education

On August 26, 2011, in Biracial, by Honeysmoke

Over a Multiculturalfamilia.com there is a post about how best to provide a multicultural education to children. Check it out.

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Mommy First-Grader

On August 25, 2011, in Biracial, by Honeysmoke

There I was, sitting in the tiny blue chair, parked at the miniature desk. My knees were hiked up to my chest as I listened to the teacher explain all the rules, procedures and expectations.

I looked up to her, Simone’s first grade teacher. I had no choice. She stood during the talk while we parents sat in little seats. I took a few notes and asked a couple of questions. I don’t know about any of the other 20 or so parents packed into the classroom that day, summoned there by the teacher, but I definitely feel like I am going to first grade again.

There is math homework and reading homework and spelling homework. Real homework. There are grades. No more of that wimpy smiley face and check mark stuff from kindergarten. It’s my duty, I learned, to explain a 99 is still an A.

My mom had it so easy. I went to school, and she did whatever came naturally. She didn’t have to check and sign first grade homework, at least I don’t remember her doing so. She didn’t read to me every night and then write down the books in my reading log. There were no classroom blogs or constant emails.

First grade is going to be a lot of work, not only for Simone, but for me. Her teacher was whipping the parents into shape, telling us the dos and donts. I tried to be a good student, but I thought it would never end. My mind wandered, my knees ached. Finally, first grade boot camp for parents ended. I extricated myself from the tiny chair, unfolded my legs, and graduated back into adulthood.

Simone’s first spelling test is on the horizon. I quizzed her on the first list of 10 words, and she asked me what I was doing.

“Helping you study for your spelling test.”

“Oh.”

We’ll do a mock test before the big day, because I want to show her teacher this big kid student listened well.

 

 

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Overheard On The Playground

On August 22, 2011, in Biracial, by Honeysmoke

Beautiful Little Girl: Do y’all speak Spanish?

Nadia: No, we don’t speak Spanish.

Beautiful Little Girl: You look like you do.

Simone: Do you speak Spanish?

Beautiful Little Girl: Yes.

I cannot place a value on overhearing such conversations. While the rest of the world is debating the validity of a fictional book and movie, I’m sitting front row and center, watching our future navigate this thing called race.

I could not have imagined how many ways people would ask, “What are you?” We have been asked whether our daughters are Brazilian and Asian. A few weeks ago, someone asked Simone whether her father is Chinese, and someone else asked if she was mixed with black and white.

I had worried — Sometimes I still do — about the questions. A part of me feared people would make assumptions and taunt my girls. I try to arm Simone and Nadia with answers. After witnessing how my daughters handle these situations, I am not sure I need to intervene.

The conversation above was so mature. The Beautiful Little Girl spied two little girls who didn’t look one way or another. She checked her hunch and was skeptical when it was not validated. She was certainly on to something. Nadia, who can be a bit blunt and sassy, answered her question without judgment. Even when the Beautiful Little Girl told Simone and Nadia she was doubtful about the answer, there was no back and forth. Simone, a reporter-in-training, figured there had to be a reason why the little girl asked and turned the question around. Then I heard giggles and squeals and laughter.

With all the mature stuff out of the way, they got down to the business of playing with each other. I think we adults can learn a thing or two from the children.

 

 

 

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The Tanning of America

On August 18, 2011, in Biracial, by Honeysmoke

In THE TANNING OF AMERICA: How the Culture of Hip-Hop Rewrote the Rules of the New Economy (Gotham Books; On-Sale 9-8-11), Stoute draws from his diverse background in the music industry and brand marketing to chronicle how an upstart art form – street poetry set to beats – came to define urban culture as the embodiment of cool. Steve Stoute’s understanding of how hip-hop morphed into mainstream culture enabled him to relate to a new generation of thinking, which catapulted him to the forefront of pop culture – where he still remains today.

In THE TANNING OF AMERICA Steve Stoute shows how a company can connect with the youth market without seeming inauthentic and staying true to their core brands. This ‘tanning’ phenomenon – the positive, powerful potential of urban youth culture that, when harnessed properly, can bring disparate groups of people together – raised the generation of black, Hispanic, white and Asian consumers who have the same ‘mental complexion’ based on shared experiences and values. Today’s consumer is a mindset, not a race – and when businesses get it right, and have a proper understanding of tanning, success is imminent.

Steve Stoute’s knowledge and observations will allow readers to find success in a new generation’s bold reinterpretation of the American Dream.

I am intrigued by this conversation and the book. What do you think?

Mixed Marrow

On August 18, 2011, in Biracial, by Honeysmoke
Athena Asklipiadis is the director Mixed Marrow, and I met her at the Mixed Roots Film and Literary Festival. I wanted to know more about Mixed Marrow and asked her to answer a few questions. Enjoy!
1. What is Mixed Marrow?
Mixed Marrow is an outreach program affiliated with A3M that recruits for the Be The Match, national US registry.  It concentrates on this specific demographic to help bring awareness to the lack of minority and mixed race donors.  Due to ethnicity playing a large role in matching, it is necessary that ethnic communities come together to help this cause.  Mixed Marrow is the only outreach currently dedicated to multiethnic donors.
2. Why is it important for people of mixed race to register?
It is important for all people to register as a donor, but especially for minorities and mixed race.  The number of donors are severely lacking in those areas and with a rise in those communities in the coming years, this issue will only worsen.  Multiracials are the fastest growing demographic in the US, UK and many other countries so this is a world issue we need to work together on mending. Matching depends on patients and donors having similar tissue typing and ethnicity plays a large role in that since the matching is based on inherited cell markers.  When a person is of two or more races, the probability of finding a match is more difficult because of the low numbers of diverse donors in the registry.  30% of the registry are minorities and 3% of that are mixed race.  But the 3% represents ALL mixture combinations.
3. What happens during registration?
During registration the potential donor completes an application including a general health questionnaire and personal information.  Then we take saliva samples with cheek swabs.  And just like that a person can now be a future life saver!  The information and samples are then sent to a laboratory for testing and the information gets imputed into a database.  If a patient needing a match at that time or some time in the future matches the information of the donor, they will be contacted and will be further tested to see if it is a perfect match.
4. Has the number of mixed donors grown since Mixed Marrow started its campaign?
Yes.  In 2007, more than 30,000 – or 7 percent – of potential donors who joined the Be The Match Registry identified themselves as multiple race. In 2010, more than 65,000 – or 9 percent – of potential donors who joined the Be The Match Registry identified themselves as multiple race.
5. What else would you like to tell Honeysmoke readers about Mixed Marrow?
It is so simple to save a life.  We have all at one time known someone who has been affected by cancer or other life-threatening diseases.  To know there are some that can be completely cured with the help of a stranger is nothing short of a miracle.  The challenge is getting that idea across to people and convincing the public to overcome their fears and be a little selfless for another human being.  I always tell people who seem unsure, “imagine if it were your mom/brother/cousin/friend who was dying, wouldn’t you hope that their match (wherever they may be) were signed up and willing to save their life?”  Sometimes we need to imagine the sick people awaiting donors are our own loved ones because they are somebody’s.
Mixed Marrow has concentrated on awareness as the first tool to solving the problem.  We have worked hard to try and partner with many multiracial orgs and gain their support on this issue.  We have also been present at most of the large multiracial/multicultural events across the country and hosted drives sharing our cause with our community and registering more donors.
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The Marriage Ref

On August 16, 2011, in Biracial, by Honeysmoke

Really? An interracial couple couldn’t agree on what to do with their daughter’s hair, so they went on national television to have entertainers tell them who is right and who is wrong. I’ve watched The Marriage Ref once or twice, and I don’t find it all that funny or enlightening. In this episode, which aired Monday, Aug. 14, the white father  wants his little girl to express herself, while the black mom wants her to look presentable.

If I had to take the matter seriously, I’d side with the mother. There’s nothing wrong with a child expressing herself, as long as that’s something she wants to do. Nothing in the clip leaves that impression. All the viewer learns is that the father simply doesn’t want to do hair, and that’s too bad.

Here’s the thing. These people aren’t serious. There is way too much acting and exaggerating in the clip, and the viewer later learns the father wants his daughter to be “discovered.” I think he and his wife are using the show to get their daughter on television. They got the exposure they wanted. I just wish it had not been at the expense of a child and her beautiful, natural hair.