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
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.
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
I spotted this at Fierce and Nerdy and just had to share it with Honeysmoke readers. This post reminded me of when Simone and Nadia were infants. (Yes, time goes by very fast.) For this mommy and her beautiful daughter, race hasn’t come up. Color, though, has been an issue. Take a look.
By Ernessa T. Carter
© Ernessa T. Carter
So by far one of my most popular posts has been “Raising Biracial Children,” which I wrote before I had any actual Biracial children living outside my womb or the gleam in my eye. I suspected as I was writing it that my perspective would change once I actually had said child, and I have to say that I was pretty much right about that.
I think what has been most surprising is how little I think about Betty being biracial. Beforehand, I thought this would be a subject that would stay on my mind 24/7, but in reality being a new mother eclipses all issues of race. For example:
Day 1: Oh my God, she turns red when she cries! Is that normal? (I am assured by my white husband and Betty’s doctor that it is).
At 1 week: I’m not thinking about the color of her skin, I’m thinking about the color of her poo. What’s up with the green tint? (Doctor says it’s the formula we’ve been supplementing her with for the jaundice.
At 2 weeks: Oh no, not diaper rash!
At 6 weeks: Yes, let’s talk about Betty’s skin. Seriously, what’s up with this baby acne all over her face, back, stomach, and neck? That can’t be normal. (Doctor once again assures us it is and it goes away in 2 weeks.)
3 months: Look at Betty’s gums. Do you think she’s teething early? Also, Betty seems to get a little confused when my sister comes to visit. (Though she doesn’t really like strangers at this point, Betty decides that she digs this Sorta-Looks-Like-Mommy. This will kick off a trend of her being extra smiley with dark-skinned black women. Funny.)
4 months: I love this baby fat! In fact, I just made up a crunk song called, “Do the Chubby Leg.” Do you think we should record it for YouTube? (CH just laughs and shakes his head. Not sure if that’s a yes or a no.)
As you can see, race hasn’t really come up with Betty yet, but let’s not sleep, we know it will eventually. So over the next week I want to explore these questions:
1. Special, Lucky, or Confused? Do we really need to spin biracial?
2. How responsible are you for your child’s views on race?
3. Protection vs. Prevention vs. Preparedness.
So do come back and weigh in on all of these topics. Til then, if you want to hear more of my thoughts on pregnancy and new motherhood, the kind folks over at Mommie2Be have made me their October Mommie of the Month, and I answered a bunch of questions on both topics.
Oh, and one more announcement. I decided to dedicate the last week of our Month of Minefields to Feminism. Like Religion, this isn’t a topic people asked me to write on, but I’ve been having so many discussions about it lately, I thought it would be a good one to bring to the table. Hit me up in the comments if you have any thoughts on subtopics for this one. I’m open.
Ernessa T. Carter is the author of 32 Candles.
Do you have a story to tell? Send it to Honeysmoke@Honeysmoke.com
© Karyn Langhorne Folan
I spent an hour or so yesterday completing the forms necessary for my family to travel on our Mediterranean cruise next week. The cruise line asks that you send in your passport information— as well as certain details like your travel plans, your emergency contact and of course, your credit card number for on-ship spending. What I hadn’t expected them to ask was for the primary racial identification of all of our travellers.
It’s funny, I had completed that section for my husband, myself and my older daughter without really thinking about it. White, black, black… and then I came to my baby, who is bi-racial. I couldn’t call her primarily white any more than I could call her primarily black. If she were old enough to ask, I would have written whatever she said. Experts on the subject say that it’s normal for bi-racial children to bounce between racial choices: black at one stage of their growth, white at others. They may also insist on both– or neither, claiming themselves to transcend classification. I’ve read enough literature to be prepared for Sommer’s choices as she grows older.
But right now, Sommer’s a little shy of 4 years old. At this moment, the choice was mine. We’ve never come across this before: she goes to a private preschool where the question was never asked. Perhaps in a year or so, we may confront the issue again on some public school form. But this was my first time– my virgin moment– with racial classifications in my own family– and I was surprised my the conflicting emotions it brought up.
I re-read the form. This section was optional– the cruise line was only interested for marketing and consumer information purposes– but I hadn’t hesitated or even questioned the use of their data for the rest of my family. Sommer’s status made me re-think whether that was information that I cared to share– or at least whether the cruise lines marketing database was a good enough reason to provide it. But righteous indignation aside, there will be other forms, more crucial ones. Medical forms, for example. What is the appropriate response for a child whose parents are of different races?
Organizations like ProjectRace.org have been focusing on this issue for years. They have lobbied against boxes like “other” and argue that, in our increasingly multiracial society, forms should allows to “check all that apply” instead of being forced into a single category box. The wisdom of this approach seems obvious to me: it allows a person of mixed heritage to honor all of his or her cultural influences.
But the larger questions remain about why any of this matters so much outside of the medical context (where certain genetic markers may affect compatibility of treatments). What does it say about our society when a cruise line collects racial information “for marketing purposes”? What does it say about our school system if racial heritage is important information to tracking the performance of a student?
The truth is, if I knew more about my own racial heritage, I could probably check every box on any form you give me— most of us probably could. I know for certain there is white/Dutch ancestry in family, as well as English/Anglo Saxon blood. But I’m certain there is a far more rich story that I don’t know and that that rich heritage is present for us all.
Perhaps the ProjectRace.org approach is the beginning: we check as many boxes as apply… until science and geneology make it possible for all of us to check all of the boxes. Only then will the necessity for racial categorization become unnecessary.
For today, I left Sommer’s form blank … and when back and erased the categories for the rest of my family. We’re a family travelling together and that’s really all the cruise line needs to know.
Karyn Langhorne Folan is the author of Don’t Bring Home A White Boy (And Other Notions That Keep Black Women Single).
Do you have a story to tell? Send it to Honeysmoke@Honeysmoke.com
Here is a Honeysmoke favorite that first appeared in 2009. Enjoy!
The dynamics of our household changed dramatically the day Simone realized she could tell on Nadia. Since then, our youngest has been accused, slandered, and blasphemed.
Simone learned the finer art of tattling in preschool. She spent a year in a class filled mostly with boys who apparently started their young lives by pushing, shoving, and stomping anyone who got in their way. As a result, Simone began all of her tattles on her sister with the word, “he.” She was so excited with this new power she could sometimes barely unleash the offense, sputtering “he, he, he” before letting us know who had played in the milk, or wrote on the wall, or whatever seemed to be going wrong in our home at the time.
It took a while, but Simone discovered her sister is indeed a she. We, meanwhile, found a way to describe her dispatches. We are the proud parents of the Simone News Network: The Most Trusted Name in Tattling.
SNN’s updates, if you want to call them that, come without notice and spare no one.
“Daddy forgot to put a swim Pull-up on Nadia.”
“Mommy passed the McDonald’s, and we had to turn around.”
“Nadia is stinky.”
Simone even marched up to her preschool teacher and said, “I need medicine because there’s something wrong with my pee.”
I can only imagine what else she is reporting to her preschool teachers.
Mommy says Daddy doesn’t listen to her.
Daddy says Mommy talks too much.
Nadia and I play with our toys when we’re supposed to be sleeping.
Simone, it turns out, is pretty accurate. When I heard about the Swim Pull-up Debacle, I asked Ken about it and he got defensive.
“Yes,” he said, “I forgot the Pull-up. She didn’t have it on for a whole 12 seconds.”
Yes, I thought to myself, but it was 12 seconds I wouldn’t have known about had I not received a report from the Simone News Network: The Most Trusted Name in Tattling.
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?
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?
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.”
We’ll do a mock test before the big day, because I want to show her teacher this big kid student listened well.
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.