Stalked by the Stork...a diary of raising twelve kids

Having twelve children is an amazing blessing and one heck of a crazy ride. Join us through all the joys, smiles, tribulations and trials as we navigate this fabulous journey!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Thoughts on Race...

So the question finally came up the other day. The same question that comes out of at least one of our little ones' mouths whenever we are expecting a new baby (which, it turns out, if almost always). This time it was Brandon. Okay, so many times it's Brandon and this was no exception.

"Hey, Mom?" he asked. "Is this baby going to be dark like Jackson, Sydney and Kambree, or light like Me and Isaiah?"

Well, there it is. The question that arises each and every time I'm pregnant. To give a bit of perspective, I should tell you all that we teach our children very specifically that they are a beautiful, amazing mixture of races and cultures, all of which will help strengthen who they are, but none of which will ever define who they are. We teach them that race is a physical characteristic, much like brown hair or blond hair, blue eyes or green. We teach them that while no one can deny that race indeed plays a role in one's life experience, it is not the defining role and need not even be a leading role. And that as far as we (meaning the 12 of us) are concerned, it's largely unimportant, and usually not very worth of much conversation. We know that society will feel differently and we prepare them for that. However, they are also taught that what society says and what the reality is, are two different things. And so, if you ask our children what their race is, you will get different answers from different kids- but not one single kid will give you a single race. They will all answer with some variation of the fact that they are a mix of colors, races, cultures and heritages. And they will not weigh one more heavily than another. They know that to do so, would be an insult to the parent that provided them with one half of their DNA. And yes, we do use lessons in DNA to explain. We tell them that who you are physically, comes down to the fact that you get half your genes from Mom, and half from Dad. So regardless of what society may tell you is important or unimportant, you are quite literally half of your mom and half of your dad. It's really quite simple. Besides, since when has what "society" says ever necessarily been the truth anyhow? Neither of us will ever endorse the idea that our kids shut out a whole HALF of who they are, for the convienence of society. And think, if we left it to society's view to judge what our kids are, would "society" even judge them all the same? If it's all based on looks, then would Brice have a separate racial identity from say, Drew? I'm not saying we don't prepare our kids for the whole "society" argument (and you'd be surprised how many people fall into that trap, which is one reason I have recently become quite careful of where I let my kids spend time without us).

Every now and then, we are treated with a glimpse into the fact that our teachings have paid off and our children have indeed adopted the views and attitudes we hoped they would. One of those moments occurred earlier in the school year when Brice brought home an advertisement for class pictures. On the flyer was a sample "class picture" which featured children of different races and nationalities. Brice examined it carefully for a moment and then asked me "Mom? Who's family is this?" I must say, my heart filled with joy at the fact that he not only recognized but NATURALLY recognized, that families need not look alike, to be families.

When I was pregnant with Brice, Brandon asked me if I thought it would be possible to put in a request to God, that the "new baby" be Chinese, because, well, he thought that would be cool. Our family needed a Chinese member, he reasoned, since we had black, white and mixed pretty well covered! I explained to him then, the basics of DNA and told him that while our family makes beautiful, unique combinations of complexions, we are unfortunately going to be limited to what can naturally occur given Daddy's genes and Mommy's genes and this meant that a Chinese baby, would not be forthcoming. Albert and I loved the implications and assumptions behind his thoughts though.

But back to the most recent question at hand. Will the baby be dark or light? In our family, this is sort of like the fun of finding out if the baby is going to be a boy or a girl. It's something we must wait to find out, and like sports teams, the kids tend to "root" for a baby that will match themselves. It's something that I find amusing and I realize that it can be a bit confusing to some of the younger ones, until they develop a firm grasp on color, complexion and race. Sometimes the littler ones will not understand that though they vary drastically in complexion, they are all the same "race", and have the same genes. Brice for example, who is probably the palest one of the bunch, didn't realize until recently that he was bi-racial. He thought he was just white, like me, because to him, judging based purely on skin color, that made the most sense. Meanwhile, he felt Jackson was "black like Daddy" for the same reason. I'm not sure he gets it 100% even still...even after Albert and I both tried explaining, but he does now know that "I'm half of Mommy and half of Daddy."

Obviously, neither Albert or I give much of a hoot one way or the other if our baby comes into the world relatively light and pale like Brice, or quite brown, like Bree. Whichever the case, she'll fit into the family color spectrum somewhere. We both consider it a merit, an incredible blessing and not a burden for our children that they are born different races. We think that they grow up with a perspective that neither of us were able to. A unique perspective that allows for a unique understanding of more than one "side of the coin" so to speak. We hope that understanding different cultures will come more easily and more naturally to them because of it. We work hard at instilling our specific values regarding race into the kids, while at the same time not making race much of an issue at all (and that is a challenge my friends) and we are so thrilled when we see little glimmers of the fact that we are becoming successful at that.

What we are further excited about, and its a long, long way off, is the fact that one day, far into the future, we are going to be the origin of the most amazingly beautiful color spectrum ever. Because we have 9 (okay almost ten) children, it just makes sense that when they grow up they will marry spouses of different colors. I mean, it isn't too likely that ALL TEN would marry white spouses, or black spouses. There will more than likely, be some of both, and hopefully maybe even some new ethnicities blended in (wouldn't that be nice?) So we often talk about, when we have grandchildren, and then have our own family get togethers with all our children and their children, what a beautiful array it will make. And then, if we are blessed to see the generation after that, well, it just gets better and better. That's what we hope for. In the meantime, we'll have to wait a few more weeks to find out the place this baby girl will occupy on our color wheel. Brandon is sure eager to find out!


Anonymous said...

My oldest married a half Mexican, half Nicaraguan...another daughter married a half Nicaraguan half black...going to be interesting to see what they're kids look like! One's due end of April, the other the middle of May. Can't wait to meet those grandbabies!
Lifting up prayers!
Psalms 28:8-9 The LORD is their strength, and he is the saving strength of his anointed. Save thy people, and bless thine inheritance: feed them also, and lift them up for ever.
Prayer Bears
My email address

Anonymous said...

The Lord will always be there with you! And I'm here praying!
Romans 8:31-32 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
Prayer Bears
My email address

Perezosita said...

angela that was such a great post- you and your fam are amazing. love you lots! ALI

Eos Mom said...

I just stumbled over here, but your last paragraph struck me. My husband is one of 9 kids, his mom is Mexican and his dad is "white." Among the spouses of my husband and his siblings are a rainbow of colors and ethnicities including white, black, Middle Eastern, and Japanese, making my kids' generation very diverse!

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