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Old 03-17-2007, 10:19 PM   #31
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Originally posted by sulawesigirl4
I really appreciate your contributions to this discussion, trevster and redhotswami. I've been giving a lot of thought to the very real possibility that I will be raising children of mixed race. If my boyfriend and I ever do have kids, not only will they be half black-half white, but also from two completely different cultures (Malian and pseudo-American...more about that later), and speak three languages. I've been thinking about where I would want to raise them. In some ways, I think I'd prefer to bring them back to Africa because from what I've seen the people there are laid back about the whole thing. Even if we don't live in Mali, I could see myself working somewhere in the developing world as part of the expat community. A lot of the people I've met in that world have partners of various ethnicities...you see a lot of kids of different racial mixes. Still, I can't help but wonder how to be a good parent and to give one's child the support structure they would need to develop a really good sense of self and of belonging if you yourself can't really identify with them.

I myself was raised as a white kid in an Asian country and to this day I've never felt like I "fit" anywhere. Even when I am in the States and racially in the majority, I don't feel culturally like I really understand or accept what is going on around me. My parents are mono-cultural and as much as they understand the idea of "third-culture kids" (which is apparently what they call us these days), they can't really relate. I think that in the end, I've accepted that I'll never be truly at home anywhere, and therefore I'm free to travel and live anywhere.
My two cents about having your kids. I am envious of kids who learned two languages growing up in their multi-ethnic families. They have a link to both worlds. I only speak english and cannot even enter the world of the Chinese. I just sit there like an idiot during family gatherings on my father's side, it sucks.

I don't think you should force them or anything but immersion in both cultures would be a beautiful thing especially as little kids when they are still sponges.

Btw, yolland, it's not all bad. My life experiences have given me a unique perspective of the world. I would rather have lived in a larger centre where people had more exposure to people of different cultures and didn't stare at a Chinese man (my father) in the mall like he was a martian. Well, such is life. I don't think the discrimination I encountered most of my life is through malice but mostly ignorance. And yes some it is acquired through a negative experience with an individual too. Although, the effects of it for whatever reason are the same regardless.

Oh, I don't hang out with people of my "race". 95% of my friends in my life have been white. But that could be due to my environment. And it's not a rule that people of the same race are drawn to each other but we used to get treated pretty good at Chinese restaurants back home.
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Old 03-17-2007, 11:28 PM   #32
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Originally posted by sulawesigirl4
Still, I can't help but wonder how to be a good parent and to give one's child the support structure they would need to develop a really good sense of self and of belonging if you yourself can't really identify with them.
Eh. I probably don't know all the various things you might have in mind by "can't really identify", but I don't see that as a fundamental obstacle to being a great parent. Obviously blunt insensitivity to the fact that one's children inhabit a different social and cultural world than the one you grew up in is a bad thing, holding that world at a disdainful and suspicious remove and so on, but multicultural realities are what they are and ultimately we can only progress on those things if parents believe in each other enough to take these kinds of risks. Parenting is full of risks anyway. My parents often couldn't really relate to many of the formative social-identity experiences my siblings and I had either, and on the flip side there were plenty of things about their experiences that were an unbridgeable gulf to us. And yeah, sometimes that could be quite painful, with a kind of wistfulness (and occasionally, resentment) about how easily and naturally the acculturalization/socialization process seemed to transfer in so many other peoples' families compared to ours and so on. But ultimately the crucial things parents do to provide that "support structure to develop a really good sense of self and of belonging" aren't contingent on them being able to identify from personal experience with all the particular headaches and heartaches their children may encounter along the way.

I do agree with trevster that, if you foresee your children having ample occasion to 'move between both worlds' socially, then being multilingual is a wonderful gift to give them. Not nearly as important as conveying pride in and a sense of dignity about your own heritage (atypical and seemingly contradiction-filled though it may be), but important nonetheless. My parents often conversed amongst themselves in Ladino, which none of us kids learned other than a few scattered phrases, but other than the basically insignificant fact that for sentimental reasons (part of my heritage, etc.) it'd be cool to know it, it's really a nonissue for me. But we didn't have any other living relatives and there are hardly any Ladino speakers left anywhere nowadays, so it's not an issue for me in the way it was for trevster or many other mixed heritage people I know.
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Old 03-18-2007, 02:53 PM   #33
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Quote:
Originally posted by trevster2k
My two cents about having your kids. I am envious of kids who learned two languages growing up in their multi-ethnic families. They have a link to both worlds. I only speak english and cannot even enter the world of the Chinese. I just sit there like an idiot during family gatherings on my father's side, it sucks.

I don't think you should force them or anything but immersion in both cultures would be a beautiful thing especially as little kids when they are still sponges.
I agree with you that it's important to have them learn both languages if at all possible. I've had several friends who come from multi-ethnic backgrounds whose parents never taught them one of their languages because they (the parents) thought that they would be "helping" their kid by not confusing them. Kids are extremely talented in language learning and I can speak for myself in saying that it doesn't confuse you at all. I remember learning Indonesian when I was four years old and jabbering away with my playmates, but I don't have a clue HOW I learned it, I just did.

My boyfriend has a cousin whose family moved from Mali to Canada when he was a child and they only spoke English, even in the home, never Bambara (the mother tongue). The parents rationale was that they were helping their child get a leg up on his new social environment. When the cousin came back to Mali at age 17, he was unable to communicate with pretty much anyone in his extended family. My boyfriend told me that he watched his cousin actually sit down and weep because of the feeling of loss and disconnect that he had. I can't really imagine how frustrating this would be. So yes, any child of mine will speak all of the languages they need in order to be fully functional in their father's country and culture as well as mine. That's non-negotiable. My bf and I speak French, Bambara and English pretty much interchangeably while we're together, anyways, so I think it would happen naturally.

Quote:
Originally posted by yolland
Eh. I probably don't know all the various things you might have in mind by "can't really identify", but I don't see that as a fundamental obstacle to being a great parent. Obviously blunt insensitivity to the fact that one's children inhabit a different social and cultural world than the one you grew up in is a bad thing, holding that world at a disdainful and suspicious remove and so on, but multicultural realities are what they are and ultimately we can only progress on those things if parents believe in each other enough to take these kinds of risks. Parenting is full of risks anyway. ...

But ultimately the crucial things parents do to provide that "support structure to develop a really good sense of self and of belonging" aren't contingent on them being able to identify from personal experience with all the particular headaches and heartaches their children may encounter along the way.
I see what you mean, and maybe I should have rephrased what I was trying to say. I do realize that parenting is full of risks (probably one of the reasons I'm still childless, lol) and this would just be one of many. I guess when I think of raising my kids though, I wonder how I as a white woman will be able to give them the tools that they'll need to function in American society as black (because no matter how mixed they are, they'll be seen and treated as black by strangers). I know that this is probably a loaded question, but it's something I think about. Even right now, being with an African guy while living in America, there are a lot of things that I notice. My boyfriend is black but he shares little to nothing in common with the culture of black America. However, he is still seen and judged by outsiders through the lens that they use when seeing a black man. Actually, when we get into discussions here about Obama being a "real" black candidate, I think to myself that he's exactly what any child of mine will be. The product of an American/African union, multi-ethnic and multi-racial but not Black American as it's historically been defined.

Ultimately, I just hope that we'd be able to provide a stable and loving environment and to educate our kids about both of their heritages and cultures so that they can make up their own identity.
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Old 03-18-2007, 04:40 PM   #34
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I grew up multilingual (English is my third language) and only when I became an adult did I really begin to appreciate it. And it certainly looks good on a resume.

The one thing my parents insisted on, and I agree with fully, is that whatever school we were in, we needed to speak the local language. For example, they would not move us into neighbourhoods which were mostly populated with immigrant kids who spoke our mother tongue (or one of the other languages we spoke). This is because they felt we would not integrate as quickly into the new culture. I actually think this was a wonderful thing, because a lot of my friends who were Polish or Chinese only had Polish or Chinese friends, and really segregated themselves in the school yard.

You can be white and still not feel like you belong in a white country. I've lived in a number of different places and truth be told, I have no real deep connection to any of them. I appreciate them for different reasons, obviously, but I am not particularly patriotic nor set on staying in one place too long. I guess I'm a product of globalization, but this is also sometimes an issue, because not everyone is as flexible. I go to school with a guy who is so super patriotic it makes me uneasy, and he couldn't even understand why I wanted to study in the US, much less leave Canada permanently. So while globalization has permeated our social fabric, I think people who are multi-cultural or multi-lingual and have lived everywhere, like little hobos, are still in the minority.
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Old 03-18-2007, 05:09 PM   #35
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I'm white and in the US so I havrn't dealt with much segregation. I did go out with a Chinese girl who was in the middle of a very traditional Chinese community, though, and that didn't go over too well. Not to generalize the entire Chinese race, but these Chinese weren't too excepting of me and I found it pretty strange. It wasn't because I was white (well, that was a small part of the reason), but because I didn't have plans to be a doctor or lawyer or some other high paying job. They even went as far as to try and hook my ex up with other rich Chinese guys behind my back. Needless to say I wan't too happy about it.

I guess that's not too relevant, but it's the only real segregation I've experienced.
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Old 03-18-2007, 06:26 PM   #36
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Quote:
Originally posted by sulawesigirl4
I see what you mean, and maybe I should have rephrased what I was trying to say. I do realize that parenting is full of risks (probably one of the reasons I'm still childless, lol) and this would just be one of many. I guess when I think of raising my kids though, I wonder how I as a white woman will be able to give them the tools that they'll need to function in American society as black (because no matter how mixed they are, they'll be seen and treated as black by strangers). I know that this is probably a loaded question, but it's something I think about. Even right now, being with an African guy while living in America, there are a lot of things that I notice. My boyfriend is black but he shares little to nothing in common with the culture of black America. However, he is still seen and judged by outsiders through the lens that they use when seeing a black man. Actually, when we get into discussions here about Obama being a "real" black candidate, I think to myself that he's exactly what any child of mine will be. The product of an American/African union, multi-ethnic and multi-racial but not Black American as it's historically been defined.
Ah, I see. I was thinking more in terms of any kids you'd have being raised in Mali and coming to this country (if they did) first and foremost as acculturated Malians, not necessarily 'third culture kids.' (Or should I say in this case, 'fourth culture kids'? ...and it makes my head spin to imagine how a sociologist might label the children of a Malian and a 'third culture kid' themselves raised in multiple countries...) I was going to suggest this perhaps isn't really analogous to Barack Obama as he's nonetheless still inarguably some " - " type or another of born-and-raised American even if some folks want to quarrel the "black" label, but now that I think about it, perhaps he's in some small way a sort of 'third culture kid' himself, having spent several formative childhood years in Indonesia--plus growing up here (and raised by white family) in Hawaii, which is just so different from the mainland in many ways.

I dunno, really I'm not fit to address the above at all, because it's so far outside my own experience. (Although we've been talking off and on lately about the prospect of taking the kids along to India on my next sabbatical, and me possibly taking a 'residency' at a college there for a year after that--so maybe I'd better start thinking about it, lol.) But my gut feeling as a parent is it still doesn't really matter in the end, if that's not too flip a way to put it. On the one hand there are so frighteningly many things out there that could gnaw away at your kid's soul and leave them often vulnerable and alienated and confused, on the other hand children are incredibly resilient and and adaptable and resourceful, sometimes for the worse, but mostly for the better. You can only anticipate so much and can have only so much control over the array of social experiences they'll be exposed to, and if nothing else, they will be totally different personalities from you, with their own characteristic ways of reacting to and feeling and perceiving things that you couldn't possibly have imagined until you watch that all unfold in front of you. Which is a good reason for parents to have an agreed-upon set of primary obligations in advance, so that you've got that core there with you no matter what else happens. And to accept that there just will be times when you'll struggle to understand what it is your child is wanting from you, and vice versa.

It's a different situation, but I have known a couple white single mothers who were raising children of a different race in the wake of their father's departure, a black father in one case and a Mexican father in another, and they did seem to have pretty different approaches to it--the former mother was very concerned with informing herself and her daughters about black history and culture, getting them as much exposure to that as possible, networking with support groups for multiracial families and so on, while the latter had a much more come-what-may, my job is to teach her to be an American woman, period, kind of attitude. I think(?) perhaps her daughter's situation was a little 'easier,' though, in that that kid could've 'passed' as any one of several ethnic groups; in fact I used to hang around with them a lot, and numerous times strangers assumed she was my kid based on appearance, which became a standing joke between us. All three kids have gone on to struggle with identity issues in various ways, but all three of them have also grown up into wonderful, sensitive, thoughtful young women who do very well in multiple social environments, even if they tend towards their own preferences in that regard.

There must be several online forums out there though--for multiracial families, multicultural families, 'third culture' kids (and parents?) and so on--where you'd be able to find some folks who could speak probably better than anyone here could to some of your questions from personal experience. And maybe even existing 'real-life' networks near where you are right now. You're probably a ways from being ready for something like that right now I guess, but they've got to be out there.
Quote:
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You can be white and still not feel like you belong in a white country.
That was very much my father's experience of the US I think, even though he eventually grew into a social role that gave him some ownership of that. Living in Mississippi from '59 on, he came to understand very well what it meant to have white privilege and how he benefited from that in all kinds of ways, while at the same time finding that carpet often fell out beneath him--sometimes by people who begrudged Jews that status, more often by his own jumbled loyalties, teaching at a black college, often finding many aspects of both local white and local black culture and society utterly inscrutable, and so on. This was something that was rolling around in the back of my mind earlier I think, maybe kind of tangential to my point, but anyhow you put it a lot more concisely than I could've.
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Old 03-19-2007, 11:48 PM   #37
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sulawesigirl4 - i think bringing up future children in a multilingual household is an excellent idea! i didn't have that opportunity. actually, there was a stigma (for me) for most of my life towards my dad's heritage, only because his family shunned the interracial marriage. that's something to consider too. you can't help it if it does happen, but be prepared just in case.

as trevster said, it is probably a bit easier for multiracial kids now than it was back when we were growing up. i've certainly noticed more of them now than back when i was a child. so your children will probably find a community of other multiracial children, which i think would be great for their identity development.

as for you saying that according to strangers, they will be seen as black, i think you may be right about that...but it is more than just skin color i think. my mother always told my brother and i to mark Hispanic in the demographic questions. She said that since we assumed our father's last name we also assumed his race. Another friend of mine said she was told the same thing. So although she is light-skinned, she always marks that she is black because her father is.

i don't know if people still do that though.
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