Christina Simon's Blog

Beyond The Brochure

Christina Simon

Christina Simon
Location
Los Angeles, California, USA
Birthday
March 22
Title
Mom Blogger
Company
Fat Envelope Publishing
Bio
Christina Simon is the co-author of “Beyond The Brochure: An Insider’s Guide To Private Elementary Schools In Los Angeles.” She also writes the blog, www.beyondthebrochurela.com about applying to private elementary schools in Los Angeles and the ups and downs as life as a private school mom. Christina is a former vice president at Fleishman-Hillard, a global public relations firm. She has a 9-year-old son and a 12-year-old daughter. Christina lives in Los Angeles with her husband and kids. She has a B.A. from UC Berkeley and an M.A. from UCLA. Christina has written recent guest blog pieces for The Huffington Post, Salon.Com, Mamapedia, BlogHer Syndication,The Mother Company, The Well Mom and numerous other blogs.

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Editor’s Pick
MAY 16, 2011 12:26AM

Oh, Those Blue Eyes: Raising Mixed-Race Kids

Rate: 11 Flag

The New York Times is running a series, “Race Remixed: A New Sense Of Identity” about the growing number of mixed-race Americans. It’s great to see news coverage of America’s racial barriers being shattered, as evidenced by the growing number of mixed-race people. My parents were a mixed-race couple before it was common. My late mother was African- American and my dad is white. They married in 1963. Let's not forget, it was 1967 when the Supreme Court struck down the last of the laws preventing interracial marriage in Virginia. 

Sometimes, strangers will ask me if my son is mine. I’m always stunned when this happens. It’s painful and makes me question people’s awareness of race. I wonder if they realize how insensitive it is to ask that question in front of my children. Or, they try to be more diplomatic and ask me where my son got his blue eyes. It’s the same question, just phrased differently. I politely explain that my husband is white and has blue eyes. Even if my son wasn’t my biological child and he was adopted, he’d still be mine. I’d prefer they keep questions about my son to themselves because it feels like an intrusion into our privacy. These questions only come from white people. Black people can instantly tell if someone is mixed. White people are often unsure. My kids haven’t said anything about it, probably because they know my son has the exact same eyes as my husband, so they don’t need an explanation.

I was born in 1964. Growing up in Los Angeles had it’s own challenges. It was uncommon to see mixed-race kids during the 60s and 70s. Strangers always stared at our family and ignorance sometimes prevailed in the form of rude and racist comments.  The hardest part was that I always felt different. Once I got old enough to get past the middle school years, I began to understand what my parents had always told me: that I was unique and should value both sides of my heritage.

Today, the issues for mixed race individuals are as much about our self-identity as they are about the way we are defined by others. Deciding which boxes to check on the Census form is empowering for me. Knowing that people understand mixed-race individuals are a growing part of our culture is significant. Still, as in the past, we are defined by our skin color. President Obama is mixed-race, but he self-identifies—and is identified by others-- as a black man based on the color of his skin.

My kids are part of a generation of mixed kids who will grow up surrounded by others like them. It’s not always easy to explain race to them. My son has dark skin and blue eyes. My daughter has light skin and hazel eyes. At ages 7 and 10, they know they are mixed, like Halle Berry, President Obama and others. I’m thrilled to have mixed race role models they can look to as examples of people like them. I don’t remember having many high profile public figures to look to as examples of people like me. 

As a mother of mixed-race kids, I know I have two important tasks. First I want my kids to understand both sides of their heritage, African American and white (Jewish). Secondly, perhaps my most complicated challenge is to help foster a strong sense of self-esteem in my kids. Yes, they are different than non-mixed kids. But, I want them to know that they are unique and special, in part, because of their mixed heritage, not in spite of it. My hope for them is that they grow up being able to comfortably navigate both of their worlds, embracing who they are as exquisite individuals.

It’s not always easy to explain race to children. I’ve struggled over the right words to use more than a few times.  Do I say “black” or “African American?” I tend to use both terms. However, I don’t like the term “bi-racial”.  It sounds too clinical.  The New York Times reports that “mulatto” is making a comeback among college students. I find the term offensive. Like  the “N” word, it won’t be used in my family.

When my kids were younger, they often identified themselves as different races. My daughter would say that my son was African American, but she was white. I’ve explained the concept of being mixed to them in the same way it was explained to me by my parents. I was always told I was an incredibly lucky person to have parents from two different races and cultures. I often tell my kids the same thing.

Talking to kids about race inevitably brings up my own struggles with being mixed, making these conversations more difficult. When I talk to my kids about being mixed, I emphasize the positive attributes that come with belonging to two races. I’m also honest about the fact that some people may not like them because they are mixed. These people, I tell them, are ignorant. It’s always eye-opening to explain racism to a child. I tend to draw on inspiring references from history like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights movement to tell my kids about African Americans struggles for equality. I smile when my son tells me it doesn’t matter what color somebody is, that what matters is their character. I couldn’t have said it better!

For us, being a mixed-race family isn’t without difficult family drama. My husband’s family doesn’t accept the fact that he married me, both because I’m not Jewish and I’m African American. My dad is Jewish, but not my mom. I’ve never met my husband’s parents and they’ve never met my kids. He is estranged from his parents and siblings, most likely permanently.

For us, with rejection came acceptance. When my husband’s parents stopped speaking to him, his aunt and uncle stepped in and became my kids’ grandparents.  They provide us with unconditional love and support. We are extremely close to them.

One of my all-time favorite moments is when my kids draw picture of our family. They always depict each of us with very different skin tones and eye colors. It’s incredibly sweet and endearing to see our mixed-race family through their eyes. I hope they will always be proud of who they are, as I am incredibly proud to be their mom.

I recently asked my kids if they could name any famous people who are mixed, African American and white. “President Obama and Lenny Kravitz,” said my daughter without hesitation. Not bad, I thought. Not bad!

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My husband and I joyfully raised a mixed race child with no problems except from my own biological family. They disowned me and never met my husband or my child. I am grateful that my daughter feels comfortable with her Jewish identity as well as her African American identity. Had she not grown up in a very diverse area of the country, the outcome may have been different. ~r
I am so sick and tired of the US's obsession with mixed-race people who have populated the earth since time immemorial. So what if someone doesn't accept you as white? Get on with it. There are so many more vitally important events happening in this world than navel-gazing. I am proud to be black and mixed-race. That's where the story begins and ends.
It's a goofy world. My Grandaughter sees Barack Obama whenever She sees a black skinned man wearing a tie, and looking Lost. I say that no...
...
He trapped in a rat cage, and probably going to meet ego's, and he'll be DC bored,
and repulsed,
attending a meeting.
in the DC's rat area.
What rat maze trap!
I say no not B.O. tho.
It's just Sammy Davis.
Sam sing to Sam Kass.
Howdy. Behave. Oho!
I must wash my clothes!
I ain't fretting nothing!
What many Americans don't realize is that being American automatically makes us a mixed race. In my family, I have Spanish, Welsh, French, Indian, Mexican, Irish, German, and the list goes on and on. The people who question the identity of your children, are obviously not in tune with their own origins. Great post!
What a wonderfully thoughtful post. I love your honesty in explaining things to her children. It is important to arm them with the fact that some people may not like them because of their background, but that it is also a wonderful thing to have both cultures to celebrate. I also think it's great to acknowledge your own conflicts with your own mixed-race background as it gives your kids permission to do the same.

People are generally afraid of things they are ignorant about. The more people who come to see races mixing as a normal every day thing, the better. It's just not always fun to be the ground breaker.

Wonderful post! Thank you!
I grew up a mixed race kid in the '70s, boy was that a hoot! Strangers always asked my white mom if I was hers, while other little kids always asked me if I was adopted. It was terribly confusing, yet at the same time, surreal - as a kid, you can't imagine why someone would wonder if your own mother is yours.

On one hand, I'm surprised to hear people would still be rude enough to question you in front of your kids. At the same time, I'm sooooooo glad to know how far we've come as a culture.

I just wrote about this, too, by the way! Stop by my blog and see what you think!
I am Gramma to two incredibly handsome mixed race boys. Although they are not my grandchildren by blood, I couldn't love those two rascals more if they were, and when someone tells me my coffee-and-cream skinned, long black-eyelashed, curly-haired grandmonsters look JUST like me, I agree with them absolutely.
My kids will learn to know that there is no such thing as race. Oh, sure, people will still assume things based on skin color and other attributes. Race, as an attribute, has no way of being determined scientifically. There is no one feature that identifies a "race". Skin color, of course, shows up in a rainbow of flavors in humans. I've seen very dark-skinned people from South Africa, India and Brazil. All would be considered "black". None would be related in any way. And sub-classes of race make you realize what a joke the concept of race is. My father is culturally Metis. He has an "indian" grandmother. My mother was born in Germany. Her father was "jewish". So then that makes me... what? Caucasian? Metis? Indian? Caucmetisian? And my kids? And their kids? Are one of them going to be 16 hyphenated races? Or perhaps the term "race" is ill-defined, inappropriate, and out-dated. We are all the same genetically. All other physical differences are superficial at best.
So, why do people think racially? They learned it. Thinking in terms of race is just a backwards way of thinking. It is a holdover from our long, tortured history of tribalism. It is something that people have always done. Well, it serves no use. It only divides us. It is of no benefit to anyone. So why do it?
People who think race is valid need to stop. Please educate friends and family. What race am I? I am human. That is all that matters.
Great post, Christina. I have an Asian mixed-race family, so I can relate to many of the things you've described. I'm so sad to hear that -- like Joan's family -- your husband's family would cut him (and their grandchildren) off simply because of race. It's a reminder of how far we have yet to go.
I am about to be married to my Love of four years, whom my Portuguese parents also refuse to meet. He's Black. The irony is that due to my own coloring, super curly hair, and overall look, I've been asked my whole life if I'm mixed-race. (I'm not). My own family called me a slew of racist names "in jest" growing up because of my different look. It was a strange way to grow up, and a very cruel thing to do to a child. I plan to tell my own mixed-race children every day how beautiful they are and all the rest of the things I should have heard from my family, but did not. Thank you for writing this piece, I'm taking notes!
Great piece. I don't know what's more astonishing...that people would be so thoughtless as to ask you in front of your son if he's yours, or the fact that your in-laws disinherited your husband--and severed ties with their own granchildren!!--because he married someone of a different race. Hard to believe either of these things could happen in this day and age...but maybe some day differences won't be so threatening--they'll just be differences.
I love seeing the extended version of your post here. What's interesting is also the amount of comments and what diversity comes with it. I always love to hear about mixed race people succeeding over the bullying. I don't agree with all the comments, but it's an important topic to cover. Racial bullying is bullying and needs to be talked about. Since mixed race people are relatively new and growing in numbers, it's no wonder we're talking more about it. That kind of thing should be encouraged. It's not like we're saying we're better. We just don't want to be treated with the same respect and equality, not as if we're some experiment or foreign animal to be questioned and stared at.

Christina, my sisters and I love your insight. Keep going!
Yay, for your husband's aunt and uncle! What a tragedy for his parents to miss out on the joy of seeing their grown son and grandchildren.
In this modern developed world such things looks like a scar.
Horns ---
I think kids pick up very subtle mannerisms and expressions from their parents. I knew a mixed race kid and her mother. They looked so much alike, I had zero doubts that they shared a genetic parent-child relationship. Later, I found out the child was born in and adopted from Africa.
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This reminds me of the discrimination my husband's parents faced. His father came from a Ukrainian family and his mother is a Mayflower descendant. His father's parent's were outraged that he would bring home "that English girl" let alone marry her. When I was engaged to my husband his aunt called him to let him know there was a nice Ukrainian girl in his town he could meet.

I always tell my children that there are all shades of brown in humans and although my husband and I are both of European ancestry we are both just lighter shades of brown and not even the same shade.
Yes actually "white people can tell" if a child is mixed race

Most just don't want the accusation of racism, blacks don't care

Also Jews aren't white they're Jews.
CrisC99 I could not disagree with you more! If I had a dollar for ever time a white person asked me, "what are you", well you know the saying.

I'm half Jewish and my dad is definitely white. Not exactly sure what you mean.

Your comment that Blacks don't care about being accused of racism is completely misguided.