Two good essays from The Root on multiracial identity. The Root is consistently a great read, if you're not on it already.
Monique Fields, "Black Like Mommy, White Like Me":
Simone snuggled up beside me and pointed to my face. "Mommy," she said, "is a black girl."David Swerdlick, "The Audacity of Taupe":
How observant, I thought, for a 3-year-old to make such a distinction. "Yes," I said, "Mommy is a black girl."
"Simone," she continued, "is a white girl." In all the time I had dreamed about being a mother and teaching my daughter about her African and European heritage, nothing had prepared me for a statement like this.
I demanded to know who had told her such a thing, but my question was met with silence.
"Well, you're a black girl," I said, knowing that I wasn't being any more accurate than she had been a few moments earlier.
Simone repeated her newfound knowledge to her father and added, "Daddy is a white boy."
He told her she was neither white nor black. "You have the best of both worlds," he said.
His explanation wasn't perfect, but it was certainly better than mine...
Back inside our Alabama home, I was uncomfortable, as if someone was watching our every move. I knew, by the way Ken and I reacted, that our latest dilemma was significant. If we flubbed this one, the one we had known was coming, how could we possibly be counted on to find the right things to say about boys, drugs, choosing the best college or any of those other tough parenting subjects?
It's a word that makes a lot of people cringe—particularly those new-age parents that you see around town with light-brown children sporting fluffy, misshapen halfros. But it's also a lot catchier than the very clinical sounding "biracial," and a lot shorter than "blessed with a dual heritage," as my mother used to say. Don't blame us for turning a one-time insult into a three-syllable declaration of interdependence. After all, Spanish words frequently sound better than English words: "Señorita" is sexier than "Miss" and "huevos rancheros" flows easier than "Grand Slam Breakfast," so it stands to reason that "Mulatto" rolls off the tongue a lot smoother than "half breed" or "Strom Thurmond, Jr." If the lovely Rihanna and her island nation hadn't already laid claim to "Bajan," we might have gone with "Beige-an."
This is all about empowerment. My people have taken a word that originally marginalized us as plantation butlers and Huxtable daughters and turned it into a term of endearment. Sometimes, in passing, I query one of my brethren with, "What's up, M-word?" Or occasionally I chastise my sistren by saying, "M-word, please." They understand. They feel me. In a certain patois that some have called "Mubonics," they know that all I'm really saying is something like "Guten morgen, meine freunde!" or "Bitte, baby." And when people ask me why it's OK for us to use the M-word when they can't, I have to tell them that it's a biracial thing...they wouldn't understand...
The other day I pulled up to the Starbucks drive-through window, ordered an iced coffee, and naturally I asked the barista to add half-and-half. When she asked how much I wanted, I couldn't resist telling her to "make it 'Obama,'" and I'm happy to report that she got it just right. With any luck, a craze for venti, half-caff, low-fat Obama coffees will sweep the nation. This could be the breakthrough we've been waiting for. It's a nice, safe way for everybody, regardless of race, creed, color or roast to show their solidarity with Generation M.For readers who don't know, my son is a light-skinned, red-headed, curly-haired, blue-eyed multi-culti cutie, with a brown-skinned mom and a translucently white dad. So this is something that we think about -- or more often encounter -- a lot.