“The next time you see a multiracial family and feel compelled to ask a question about their composition, stop.”
We are a multiracial family. My wife is Black. I’m White. Our 3-year-old son is Biracial (we’re also a Jewish family for anyone who wants to keep a complete scorecard).
Interestingly, despite the multiplicity of races in our family, race doesn’t exist in our house. I mean, yes, of course, it does. But, at the same time, it doesn’t. When we come home every day, the last thing we see is color. We see dried up Play-Doh crumbs everywhere. We see laundry that has to be cleaned (or folded and put away). We see bills that have to be paid. We see our tiny little shoebox of an apartment. But, one thing we don’t really see is race.
We see color, of course. I have eyes. I see that my wife’s skin is Brown, and she sees that my skin is the color of some undefined off-White/Peach/Ivory color, just as we see the color of each other’s hair and eyes and clothing. But, we don’t then make value judgments about each other based on race.
Instead, like most married couples, we make judgments about each other based on far more important things, like who didn’t take out the trash, and why is there no juice left, and weren’t you the one who was supposed to get more coffee, and you said you would pick up the baby at daycare tomorrow. In other words, like every other married couple around the globe, we’re just irritated with and annoyed at each other most of the time, except when someone else outside our family steps out of line, in which case we quickly unite and strike out in a tandem force that would make tag-team WWE wrestlers both jealous and proud.
However, outside the home, we’re not just any other married couple. Outside the home, given that we’re an interracial couple with a Biracial child, we’re still unique and the cause for looks and questions. I understand, and I’m okay with that. We’re still not the norm, so people are curious. Or, perhaps they’re considering entering into an interracial relationship, and they’re looking for information or support. In either case, I’m happy to oblige their questions.
But, the one thing I can’t abide is small-mindedness. Whether it’s racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia or merely just jumping to asinine conclusions about people based on how they look and on one’s own ignorance, that is something that really sets me off. And, from my experiences interviewing people on my podcast – The Multiracial Family Man Podcast (which you can find here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/multiracial-family-man/id969793342?mt=2), I can tell you that all too often these types of questions do nothing but make the people of whom the questions are asked feel defensive, ashamed, embarrassed, angry, offended, insulted or all of the above.
So, the next time you see a multiracial family and feel compelled to ask a question about their composition, stop. Ask yourself why you need or want to know the information for which you’re about to inquire. And, if turns out there’s a genuine reason to ask, remember that you’re asking people a question about their private lives. Ask yourself this: “How would I feel if someone made assumptions about me and probed into my private life this way?” And, if, after all that, you still feel like you need to ask , go ahead, but please ask with sensitivity.
Because if the question you ask me is whether my son’s adopted or what race is he, or whether my wife is the nanny, just know that the answer you get from me is not going to be one that you expected. I am a comic after all, and you may have just become the basis for a new bit I’m doing called “Ignorance.”
Photo: Elvert Barnes/Flickr