I was checking out at the thrift store, so excited that I had finally found the last items I needed for my little girl, due in just 10 weeks. The Cashier, bless her heart, looked at my boys and asked me “So what are your kids mixed with?”
I am not going to take this as a reflection of the quality of staff at that particular thrift store, so I won’t mention the chain. Needless to say, I paused. Noticeably. And if a pause could have been audible, it would have been audibly as well.
My first thought was one of sarcasm
I wanted to say “A mohair rug.” Instead, I collected whatever patience was left with my 30 week pregnant body, and stated “Oh, you mean my husband? He’s Asian.”
To my relief, my wonderful oldest child piped up, with the biggest smile you can imagine, and proudly stated “I’m Asian-Caucasian!” I had prepared him for just such a moment long ago after he started asking me what race he was.
Since becoming pregnant, I haven’t gotten out much, so I actually forgot for a second that such people and comments existed, which is why it took me by surprise. And in spite of my attempts not to be irritated, I found myself leaving the store a little more than upset.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind that people notice Asian characteristics in my kids. The first one is usually “where did those eyes come from?” followed by “oh, that explains the nose!” After all, what did I expect? I’m a white woman with children whose eyes are just a tiny bit slanted, and whose nose is decidedly “not white”. When my oldest son was born he looked so Asian, the NICU nurses did a double take when I came in to breastfeed.
No, what I mind is the use of words like “part,” “mixed,” “percent”, or “half.” My kids aren’t “half” of anything-they are whole persons, 100% human, with certain racial characteristics being more prominent than others. The only race I really want them to embrace is the human race. But I don’t want them to despise their racial heritage, either.
And then there are my in-laws, with their inappropriate comments describing my children, such as “This one is more Asian, and this one is more White.” What a way to divide siblings! How can I gracefully explain to my youngest son that his grandmother’s favoritism toward his brother is wrong, that just because he doesn’t look “as Asian,” doesn’t mean he is less worthy of her love, or anyone else’s?
I hate it that his self-esteem has the potential to be so strongly influenced by something so decidedly external as race. For that matter, I hate that his brother has the same dilemma. I can only hope that my approach in raising them (that is, to emphasize character traits over physical traits) saturates their personal development and worldview more than their racial heritage.
What do you think? Am I over-reacting? Are any of these comments actually offensive, or am I just being extremely hormonal? And keep in mind, whether I’m offended or not, I would actually like to hear your honest remarks. It’s only through honest discussions that any of these racial dilemnas can even begin to be resolved. And maybe then I won’t have to hear my babies ask me what race is, and why people keep asking about it.