one of the first articles of it’s kind

This article is a little long, but I find it very interesting.  I especially love the statistics on white mom/black dad vs black mom/white dad births.  The very first story told by a mother reminds me of the summer when I was 7 or 8 and my new “best friend” told me she couldn’t play with me anymore because I’m black.  I also like the letter to the editor included at the end.  I think this story often gets told today in a needlessly somber tone.  The picture at the end is just cute (you know I like to include a picture with every post), it isn’t related to the article. I couldn’t resist a munchkin mixie and a cavalier king charles spaniel. The stuff my dreams are made of!

For Mothers of Biracial Children, Prejudice Mars the Pride

Meredith Higgins remembers the first time she crossed the color line for the sake of her daughter, Anna – the child of a black father and a white mother. Higgins asked a neighbor, a white woman like herself, if the woman’s daughter could play with her 5-year-old. The neighbor said it wasn’t possible just then but promised to call to get the two girls together.

She didn’t call, and when Higgins ran into the woman at a supermarket, she was shunned. Higgins later saw the woman’s daughter playing with other children – all of them white.

“I guess I would say this is one of those kinds of experiences that I predicted was possible,” Higgins said. “I did not explain {to my daughter} that it might be racial . . . . It was more like a disappointment.”

On Mother’s Day 1991, an increasing number of women in the Washington area and across the country are mothers to biracial children, and many of them are forced to grapple with discrimination and racism to protect their sons and daughters. These mothers say they suffer stares in shopping malls and restaurants, snide comments, the coolness of relatives who first don’t understand why they would marry outside their race and then reject the children.

And after all of that, they say, they ultimately must face the questions from their children: “Who am I? What am I? Where do I fit?”

The children “do have problems explaining to friends who they are,” said Janice Lorenz, of Prince George’s County, the black mother of two children whose father is white. “I tell them, `You know you are an interracial child, and for some people that may be a problem, but you are who you are.’ The natural instinct is for mothers to protect. The bottom line is we can’t always protect, so we have to equip.”

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the number of births to interracial couples has increased dramatically since 1968, when such figures were first recorded. Twenty-three years ago, 7,244 babies were born to white mothers and black fathers. By 1988, the latest figures available, that number had jumped to 33,875.

The increase was as sharp for births to black mothers and white fathers. In 1968, there were 2,375 of these babies; by 1988, the number had grown to 17,070. There have been similar increases in the number of births to Asians, Hispanics and American Indians who had children with whites. Most of the interracial children, according to the statistics, are born to black and white couples.

The latest census figures documenting the number of interracial families in the Washington area are not yet available, but officials say the number of interracial families here is rising steadily. Many parents of biracial children say they have moved to this area because of its ethnic diversity and because it seems more tolerant.

During the past few years, several organizations have sprung up across the country to provide support for the swell of interracial families. Many mothers use them so that their children can see there are others like them.

“The mother has a lot of responsibility trying to help the child deal” with being biracial, said Godfrey Franklin, a psychologist at the University of West Florida who counsels interracial couples. “She is the one who usually must deal with all the emotions and the pain and agony from Day One.”

Several mothers of biracial children in the Washington area say they have become bridges between races at a time when race relations seem to be deteriorating. “Under this roof,” says Lorenz, “there is a loving coexistence of two races.”

In interviews, four women talked about their special kind of mothering.

One morning out of the blue, Lori Darden’s 3-year-old daughter announced she wanted her toast black like her daddy. Darden, who is white, was startled but then explained to her daughter her uniqueness.

Darden, 30, took a cup of black coffee and a cup of cream and then poured them together. The liquid became brown like her daughter, Leandra, who could see why she is not exactly the color of her parents.

Darden, who lives in Springfield, says people often stare at her, Leandra and a 10-month-old son, Jay Spenser, and some “ignorant” people tell her how nice it is for her to have adopted black babies.

“It makes me so angry,” she says. “I carried these children for nine months. The point is they are my children.”

Darden, editor of the Fairfax County employees newsletter, says something as simple as buying toys is a challenge.

“I would love to go into a Toys R Us. But you go in those stores and you see black dolls and white dolls,” she says. “My daughter is not really either of those. She is both.” Darden has found catalogues that provide toys for multiracial children. In some cases, parents can send in samples of the color for the toys.

Having biracial children, says Darden, has made her more sensitive to race issues. “As a white woman, I encounter very little prejudice. Every day of my life is easy. You can go through life with blinders on and think the world is hunky-dory. But when you have a biracial child, you see how people react to blacks.”

Sometimes, she says, it hurts.

Carol Anderson, 47, a tiny white woman with cropped hair, has two daughters. One is the color of ivory and has curly brown hair. She has Anderson’s facial features. The other is bronze, the color of caramel. She looks nothing like her mother.

Hilary, 17, and her sister, Caroline, 15, call themselves black. Caroline, the darker daughter, says she likes to shock people. “When I walk in someplace with my mother, I like to say, `Mom,’ and people say, `Huh?’ “

Anderson says it doesn’t matter what her daughters want to be; if they want to be black, she says, that is their choice. Most important, she has tried to teach them to be comfortable with themselves.

A lawyer and development consultant who directs Capitol Hill Group Ministries, Anderson says she has always been a political person, a rebel, a woman who was not “enamored” of her white culture.

“You have a handful of mothers here who have chosen to make a positive statement across race lines,” says Anderson, who lives in Northeast Washington. “As W.E.B. Du Bois said, the issue of the 21st century is the issue of the color line. And I believe that wholeheartedly.”

Over the years, Anderson recalls, there have been a few poignant times when the color line issue was raised between Caroline and Hilary.

Once, she says, she and her daughters were driving across the Mexican border into the United States when a customs official singled out Caroline. As Anderson and Hilary, the fair-skinned daughter, waited in the car, the agent interrogated Caroline about her nationality. Anderson remained silent.

When the family pulled away, Anderson said she discussed what happened and her daughter knew she had been targeted because she was the only visibly black person in the car.

Meredith Higgins has made sure her daughter, Anna, 10, knows the strong roots of both her cultures.

Of the grandmother who came from Germany as an orphan. Of her father’s ancestors, who were slaves and who graduated from universities in the late 1800s, when that was unusual for blacks.

“The challenges are simply to make sure that you are not completely immersed in your own ethnic background to the detriment of the child,” says Higgins, a senior manager of a health association.

Higgins, 48, says she feels blessed to be living in the Washington area because of its diversity. Her family attends All Souls Church in the District, where there are a large number of families with biracial children.

At home, Higgins says, her family doesn’t concentrate on being different. Anna, who is the color of honey, skips across the living room of the Silver Spring home. With both arms, she squeezes her mother. “She’s a wonderful mother,” she announces. She turns to her black father and kisses him on the cheek. “We’re normal. We’re happy,” she says.

“Years ago,” says Higgins, “people would say if you are in an interracial marriage, your children would suffer.”

Anna chimes in: “I don’t see me suffering. We’re normal. We really are.”

Janice Lorenz, 42, sat across from her son recently and tried to get to the bottom of why the 14-year-old said he sometimes feels self-conscious about being in certain public situations with his white father.

He talked of how when he stands in line with his father at McDonald’s the cashier assumes they are not together, and how people stare when he calls to his father across a store.

“I feel proud of who I am, but I have difficulty explaining,” he says to his mother. “You know how you say I should feel proud when people ask if he’s my dad? I feel it’s hard to explain.”

Lorenz, a transportation planner in Northern Virginia, listens patiently and encourages her son to dig deeper into his feelings.

“You are assuming the worst,” she tells him. “That’s not healthy . . . . You don’t have to defend who you and your dad are.”

DeNeen L. Brown. “For Mothers of Biracial Children, Prejudice Mars the Pride.” The Washington Post

This was posted a week later…

– Theresa Stringfellow How About the Upside? When we participated in an interview for your Mother’s Day story on mothers of biracial children {May 12}, we didn’t deny the few negative experiences. But while your story did have some high notes, we thought this would be a Mother’s Day piece about special mothers of dynamic children. Instead, the article perpetuated the misconception that interracial relationships are always fraught with problems. Also, contrary to your headline, mothers of biracial children would never let racism or prejudice lessen their pride. These mothers deserve praise, and they find their rewards in the wonderful children they raise.


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