I wrote this a few weeks ago and never posted it...don't remember why?
Here it is:
I grew up in a biracial house. Two of my grandparents were born in Hermosillo, Sonora and two were born in the US. I think that's neat. Always have.
You should be proud of accomplishments, not what you were given at birth. This is a logical idea. But, here's the problem with that logic. I DO feel proud. Both of my accomplishments AND of my ancestors, their accomplishments, and what obstacles they overcame. I don't think that I'm better than anyone else because of it. I just think that knowing how to make tamales, the ability to get darker than anyone I've ever met when I spend too much time in Greece, and the way my brilliant elders freely interchange "ch" and "sh" makes my life better...somehow. Much better. Maybe just because ALL of those things, plus a billion more, make me. It's part of my story. It's part of who I am. Through a combination of nurture or nature, these people, these places, helped me to define my life, helped me to understand my world.
So, my question is the same that's been asked a billion times. How do we teach our children WHO they are? Their complete story. It seems too simple just to tell them their story. Often. With pride.
My dad is Hispanic. But, I credit my white mother for instilling much of my Mexican pride*. Why? Because she had the conversations with me. SHE told me that my skin color was beautiful and that I was lucky to have it. I believed her and as a child I secretly felt bad for the poor white people who might burn if they spend time in the sun. Who am I kidding? I still feel badly for them. Can you imagine a worse lot? Not being able to freely go outside. Having to cover your body, even your toes, with a lotion before you play? Such a sad story**. And then, of course, there was the food. SHE taught me how to make Mexican food. Mmmm...Enchiladas, Menudo, Tamales, Caldo de queso, etc. Which was obviously the best food. To me.
I have also been told, more often than I would like, that I'm not Mexican enough. That I'm white. People have questioned my Latina for years. I would be lying if I said it never bothered me. But, I knew the truth. Because I was told.
I had a moment today when I thought that I was perhaps an inadequate mom. When someone said a racial slur in front of me (not about Judah's race, about mine) I didn't say anything. I couldn't. It's happened before. I've frozen. It becomes like an out of body experience. I just freeze. Today I gathered all my strength (I don't like non-family confrontations) and even went to find her after work (unfortunately she's a teacher) to tell her how I felt. I even got so far as to tell her that her conversational tone made me feel uncomfortable. When she started apologizing profusely, I couldn't go further. I just nodded and left. I didn't bring "race" into it. It's just too personal. I might tear (and obviously I couldn't do THAT in front of that much ignorance). Instead of feeling like I was going to cry for ME or any pain I felt, I felt like I was going to cry for Jude. How can I be even close to an adequate mom and be UNABLE to respond appropriately to racial slurs? But, protecting your children is fiercely different than sticking up for yourself. I would mama-bear-style stick up for his toe nails if I felt it was needed. Behind his back of course- to his face, anyone with those ideas is plain CRAZY and we treat them the same as our wonderful friend who sits on the corner every day, with all of her fancy makeup and fur, yelling obscenities at the clouds.
In the area of race, my plan is to remind Jude how beautiful his skin is, how lucky he is to have it (it helps that I truly covet his tone and it makes me grind my teeth because I can't physically take the power of his cute overabundance if I think about it too much), cook up some tibs and wat, and take him to Ethiopia often. On trips to help out where we can, but mostly to learn. I hope I do as good of a job facilitating pride as my mama did.
*This is not due to my father not teaching and sharing. He shares AND teaches. Always has. Fabulous Daddy-friend. Bonus: If you need to know anything about the Middle East or music, he's your guy... and he's Judah's favorite person.
**Although I do think that white skin is very pretty too. Just high maintenance.