My Kids Don’t Know They’re Black

Family - Christmas 2012

I’m a White man married to a Black woman. Actually, she’s only 65% Black. She wanted a DNA test for our anniversary and, being the romantic that I am, I got it for her. So we know that 65% of her DNA traces itself to Sub-Saharan Africa.

But the DNA test also shows that 29.8% of her DNA traces back to European descent. It was a shock for her. She sat looking at the test results for minutes with her mouth agape, processing the information. When I asked her a question she stopped me and said, “Give me a minute – I’m having revelations here!” Nowhere in her personal sense of identity and self did she imagine that such a large chunk of her DNA was European. But the world in which we live doesn’t give a hoot. You see – she’ll always be Black here in America.

So here we are; a White man and a (partially) Black woman. And we had the audacity to bring children into the world. So what are they? Seriously – how would you classify them? They’re 65% European and 33% Black. Do you classify them as White kids or Black kids? That’s not a rhetorical question. I’m asking You, the reader. How do you label them?

We choose not to label them. They’re just our kids. To them, skin color is merely a description of their outward appearance – right now it plays no part in their sense of ethnicity and heritage. They only know that Daddy’s side of the family is “peach” and Momma’s side of the family is (mostly) “Brown.” Descriptively, they see themselves more on the peach side than the brown side. If you were to listen in on my daughter talking about family you would hear her describe herself as “peach.” They don’t have any vested interest or history in skin tone and identity. But the rest of the world does.

I find it odd that parts of the world, even parts of our community in the good ol’ U.S. of A., label my kids based on their parents rather than on themselves. For a Thanksgiving project my daughter’s class colored paper Pilgrims. Everyone in the class got a peach pilgrim to color. Not my daughter. She was given a brown Pilgrim. There was no malice involved. There was an assumption made because my child has a brown parent. She was classified as brown. It tore her up, not because she has an aversion to brown skin but because she wanted a Pilgrim that she thought reflected herself – one that matched her own sense of identity. Even well-meaning people in our church have described our kids as brown, not realizing that they have a different self-image.

I will pause here to admit that I’m getting angry and choked up as I write this. These are my kids we’re talking about – my babies – and the idea of people making them feel “other than” tears my heart out and makes the protective parent in me LIVID.

I’m not writing this because I have a problem with brown-skinned people. I don’t have a problem if my kids decide they want to identify with my wife’s side of the family and their “brown” heritage. It’s part of who they are. One day they’ll understand that better and we can have open discussions about identity and ethnicity. I think that would be wonderful.

No, I’m writing this because it seems that our country recently has lost its ever-loving-mind when it comes to race relations. The Zimmerman/Martin incident in Florida only highlights already existing tensions.

The original incident, the trial & verdict, and the national response show that there is still a racial rift in this country. Recently, President Obama made a statement that was, in my opinion, an attempt show solidarity with a grieving Black community and to help enlighten an unknowing White community.

I have seen and heard a lot of outrage at the President’s remarks. I have seen some ugly behavior and some terrible words thrown around. In my opinion (and that’s what you get – remember…my blog) the President was not making any statement as to the guilt or innocence of Martin or Zimmerman. The heart of his message, as a Black man, was:

“I think it’s important to recognize that the African American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away.”

Years of slavery and abuse, yielding to discrimination and abuse, yielding to a façade of equality, have given the Black community a unique filter through which it interprets events. It’s a filter that lends it a sense of identity and purpose. When White America waves a dismissive hand and says, “It’s not about race” we are saying that our interpretation of who you are and what things mean matters more than your interpretation of who you are and what things mean. It’s an exaggerated scale of what happened with my daughter’s Pilgrim. My lens is better than your lens.

It does no good to tell someone that the lens through which they see and interpret events is wrong. It’s their lens. You have your own. A better conversation is to say, “I want to understand your lens and paradigm and then want to share with you about my lens and paradigm.” It’s hard to do – we all believe that our own lens is the best lens, the only correct lens. But sometimes our lenses get smudged and dirty and could stand being wiped off. It’s the only way to move forward.

As it stands there is too much of an Us vs. Them attitude when it comes to race relations. We focus on the “other than” instead of focusing on the unifying and uniting elements. Here’s the thing – In God’s Kingdom, there is no such thing as “Us and Them.” We’re all part of the community of faith. It doesn’t matter what your ethnic background is, for our faith transcends ethnicity. This isn’t a concept limited to the New Testament. It’s also found in the Old Testament. God tells Israel:

You must regard the foreigner who lives with you as the native-born among you. You are to love him as yourself, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt; I am Yahweh your God. (Leviticus 19:34)

In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul tells a story of how the Apostle Peter acted differently towards Gentile Christians than he did towards Jewish Christians. Paul called him out and Peter repented.

We’re in a situation today where many people seem to prefer to exercise their politics before their faith. White and Black alike play the “race card” on each other. Neither side is exempt or immune. We certainly fail to treat each other like equals with the same privileges. We certainly don’t love the “other” like we love ourselves.

It’s time to change. We don’t have to continue down this path. We can turn around. We can work to see things through the lens of the other and help the other to see through our lens. We can work on finding common ground. We can work on true equality – which really only seems to come from God (humanity has a grand ability to botch things up). We can love others the same as we love ourselves.

So be careful how you talk to people. Be careful how you talk about people. Words have power, and you can use them to build or destroy. I firmly believe that God would prefer us to build. So watch what you say. When you speak, say it in love. And whatever you do, watch how you treat my kids.

They don’t know they’re black.

Related Posts:
~ Reflections on Race from a Mixed-Race Couple

49 Replies to “My Kids Don’t Know They’re Black”

  1. I am really liking this blog! so glad I stumbled upon it! My kids are probably about the exact same makeup as yours and it is so funny that you got the DNA testing. I plan to do the same for my husband whom I found out had 3 mulatto grandparents. My 3 kids are about the same skin tone as yours. My kids didn’t understand that they have black blood until we realized they didn’t seem to know even though dad is brown.

    Like

  2. I believe are all a mix of everything. We first came from lineage of Adam and Even. Then you have to remember the Great Flood, it was only Noah and his family. So then they started the human race over. WE are all created equal in God’s eyes. God bless you and your Blog. (www.CourageousChristianFather.com)

    Like

  3. Here’s my rant: I’m so tired of hearing people say that we need to ignore race, and know that it’s what’s on the inside that counts. No! It’s a big part of what makes life great! We should not be ignoring race differences; we should embrace and love them! Ask someone about there’s! There is a black woman at our church- who, by the way, is one of the coolest people you’ve ever met- I asked her one time where she was originally from. The obvious answer was Africa. Wrong! She’s an island native. Come to find out, she and her husband were church planters in the Caribbean for years. When I asked her where she was originally from, she laughed. “I’ve never been asked that by a white girl.” What? All because people are so afraid of “race” that they run from it. Get over it, people! If God wanted us all one race, we would have been! End rant. 😀

    Like

  4. We adopted 2 American children with brown skin. We distance them from their ‘heritage’ because it is all drugs and abuse, not because it is a different color than us. We hope to give them a new heritage in Christ where there is no male or female, rich or poor, white or black.

    Like

  5. Your cousin Linzey shared this on Facebook, and I’m so glad she did. As someone who is German, Armenian and Native American, I can relate. I have had hurtful things said to me about the Armenian part of my ancestry, and I’ve gotten looks from people when I describe myself as ethnically “mixed.” Words are indeed hurtful, and we need to be careful what we say to people in all areas, but particularly when it comes to their ethnic identity. I had to read a book in a seminary class about cultural edgewalkers. I cried many times as I read the book because I could relate. Three out of four of my grandparents were non-native English speakers although they were born here. I grew up having to walk a cultural edge, and navigate through very different cultures. It is not always easy, but I thank God that I can identify with different ethnic groups. It makes me realize that my most important identity is as a child of God, and all cultures are beautiful because all people are created by God.

    Like

    1. Thanks for sharing your story. While try to pretend that words don’t hurt the truth is that they can have a lasting impact on us and how we behave. Thank God for a new identity in Him!

      Thanks for reading!

      Like

  6. Very wise words well written. I have tried many times to just be identified as an American,but our wise Government will not accept American it must be “——— American”. Maybe some day. Our last meeting was your wedding, Your wife is beautiful.

    Like

    1. Thanks for the kind words. One day we’ll be able to be identified without any labels, but I’m guessing that day will be the day we see Jesus face to face 😉

      Thanks for reading!

      Like

      1. When the black race identifies it as American and not African American things will change. That perpetuates the differences. Am I a European American or a white American? No I love this country and am an American. I love my cultural background as should those of color. Most whites don’t give a darn about color, but it seems that the blacks are trying to divide the country. Give it a rest. Work towards good and being the best citizen one can be.

        Like

        1. I disagree that most whites “don’t give a darn about color.” They’ve never HAD to think about it. Music, tv, movies, magazines…they are slanted towards white perspective. Of course we don’t think about color.

          As to your initial comment, it is inherently racist. There are various ethnic backgrounds but one human race. Your type of language perpetuates the “other than” mentality that keeps people divided.

          Finally, this country has always been divided. You seem to believe that things use to be good but are getting worse. Things were not unified when Blacks were considered less than fully human. things were not unified when Blacks were dealt justice at the hands of lynch mobs. Things were not unified when Blacks were refused the ability to vote. What we’re seeing is tension that has built up from centuries of abuse and ill-treatment. The goal is to move forward towards unity. Blacks aren’t trying to divide things – they’re asking for an equal seat at the table.

          Like

  7. Thank you for your openness. As a “peach” father of a “brown” son, I am faced with many questions and challenges about the future. My son knows he is black and that his parents are white, mainly for obvious, observational reasons. However, with each year that he gets older he is reminded of his colour in less than affirming way. Being a black male will bring many assumptions from others and their treatment of him, both explicit and subtle, will communicate those assumptions.

    So we celebrate that our son is black. We are building an arsenal of affirmation that we hope will counter the negatives messages he will receive. However, we also realize that we will have to help him make sense of those experiences, even prepare him as he approaches maturity.

    For your family, while it makes sense now, do you think “not knowing” they are black is sustainable or wise in the long term? Genuinely curious.

    Like

    1. My kids are all under 7, so identity issues have not yet surfaced for us. We do approach the subject if the kids have questions, but they’re still little kids and we want them to be little kids as long as naturally possible.

      Thanks for sharing about your life and situation. The more sharing we do the more the world will see and accept various perspectives.

      And thanks for reading. 🙂

      Like

      1. Pastor Chris, I intentionally put my children in a small private school when they were young because we lived in a small rural community. I was afraid to send them to public school knowing they would be the only children of color in that school. I mean it, the.only.ones. However, I should not have doubted God in this respect. They are now in public school in a much larger town but are still some of the few persons of color there–that said, they have had a much different experience than I expected. I think Dr. King would be impressed at how my children are treated by their friends. They have never felt different even though they look different from many of their friends. I thank God for showing me that fear of rejection should not make us hide…

        Like

  8. Interesting article through your lens, which is not identical but very similar to my lens. I would be interested in reading a similar article written by your wife through her lens. 🙂

    Like

  9. The word of the Lord says …… For God so loved the WORLD…… John 3:16 … The WORLD includes ALL mankind …….. oh !! please, God Created us just as He wanted us to be … we are all so wonderful creation of God …..what’s it about the colour of the skin ? no way please , no way ….. Lets move on ….. thanks for the marvellous post , gives me the sense of God’s amazing Love on us …..

    Like

  10. Great work here Chris. I enjoyed this so much. As a foreigner in a country, I wonder who the foreigner is in your analogy. I guess you would feel between ‘black’ and ‘white’ there is not one more foreign to the USA than the other, yet they are both equally misplaced?

    Like

    1. The foreigner would be any one who is not part of the in group. Cultural in-groups should be replaced with spiritual groups. Our various ethnicities are not as important as our common faith.

      Thx for reading! 🙂

      Like

  11. Chris,
    Very well written Chris! I think the last paragraph is something others should read to change mind sets. There is so much evil in this world today. I think the media attempts to persuade each of us to be negative and aggressive. I agree that each of us should watch what we say and say it in love. So true. God does want us to build people up. There is plenty of sin in this world tearing us down. If only a few more people could build up others with love.

    Like

  12. Very nicely put, sir. Unfortunately, in our world that is supposedly so accepting, race is still a major issue. Perhaps it always will be. However, I like to hope for Star Trek’s vision of the future that includes no more racial prejudice.

    Like

      1. As a juror, one needs to be as objective as possible. Do you think people whose lenses keep them from being objective should be disqualified from jury duty?

        Like

        1. Is it ever possible to fully disengage from our lenses/paradigms? It’s how we process and make sense of the world. Genuine understanding comes when we are able to recognize our lenses – recognition allows us to work around them…

          Like

      2. Wouldn’t it have been great to have some kind of a lens test of racism for jury duty back in the Civil Rights era. I think a goodly amount of white jury members would have been disqualified in the South…freeing innocent blacks. There are still racists today.

        Like

  13. This is truly a beautiful commentary on your paradigm and filter lens as a father. Your wife and children are fortunate to have a husband and father with such a sensitive spirit on this subject. I was amazed at what you shared Chris.

    Like

So...whatcha think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s