Living Life as an American Biracial Family

I am a white woman. I am married to a black man. I have a white daughter from my first marriage, and two biracial sons from my second marriage. We are a biracial family.

My grandparents would not have approved. My mother would not have approved, at first, but I like to believe that given time, she would have come around – somewhat. My stepfather did not approve. While there are extenuating circumstances to his disapproval of my relationship, he did at least try to be cordial on the telephone with my husband, even if he told me privately that “he” was not welcome in his home.

I grew up with the belief that people are people, no matter the color of their skin. Unfortunately, like my family members, the United States took a bit longer to recognize something I feel that I was born knowing in my heart.

life as a biracial family

My husband and I have been together since 1994 – off and on. My eldest son was born in 1999, my youngest son was born in 2003. We have been a biracial family since 1999, although we rarely think of ourselves as anything other than just “a family.”

Encounters with Others

Some may say that I just had my head in the clouds or buried in the sand not to have noticed, but quite honestly, I have never had a violent or unpleasant encounter with another member of either race when the boys’ father and I have been out in public together. In the early stages of our relationship, living in Richmond, he seemed almost paranoid about an encounter of such nature happening. He was raised around strong, black women who did not take kindly to white women “taking” their African-American men and were apparently extremely vocal about it when a biracial couple was encountered.

Yes, there were times when our presence caused a few raised eyebrows, hushed conversations and glances in our direction, but I have never been personally confronted by another woman or man, except once. We were at a gas station, and my husband was about to go inside and pay for the gas we needed and pick up a few items. He leaned over the seat to kiss me, in full view of another vehicle parked on the same side of the pump and facing us. I do not remember the entire conversation, except for the fact that this African-American woman was in her late 20s or early 30s, and became extremely incensed at the fact that “that white trash” was with “her brother” and I had no business being with him and should “stick to my kind.” She was not speaking directly to me, but to her friends in the vehicle, but she made sure that her voice was loud and clear and that I was able to hear every word.

I quietly hit the lock switch on the door and averted my gaze across the street and tried my best to ignore her. When my husband returned and I told him what happened. He just shook his head with that, “I told you so” look on his face and we left.

It was the one and only time that I was faced with such hostility and animosity because of the color of my skin and whom I choose to fall in love with. The incident faded from my mind over the years, but it made me more aware of my surroundings when we were out in public, and mindful of the emotional atmosphere of the other people there.

Finding Out Your Pregnant

I won’t lie to you, and I am going to tell you something that I have never admitted to another living soul. When I found out that I was pregnant with my first son – it scared the hell out of me. Not because I was pregnant – I’d been through a pregnancy and delivery before with my daughter. It scared me because I didn’t know what this baby would look like. What if  the baby came out black?  What if the baby was born with a head full of curly hair? How was I going to take care of him or her? I didn’t know the first thing about what kind of care “black babies” would need. I only had experience with “white babies.”

Now who was being the racist, right?

I spent hour upon hour on the internet while I was pregnant, trying to understand how to take care of my black baby when he or she was born. Trying to learn how to take care of his or her hair properly, trying to learn whether their skin required any ‘different’ kind of care and treatment. I ran a brush through my hair, used the curling iron to add a little curl and fluff, and I was done.

In my defense, my husband was borderline OCD about making sure that his hair was ‘done’ every evening before bed and wrapped, applying lotion to his skin three times more than I ever did on a regular basis, and lip balm? Don’t even get me started on that. To this day he can go through an entire container of lip balm in two weeks. No lie. I think he applies it like every 30 minutes, but he does have the softest, most deliciously kissable lips I’ve ever seen.

All of the pregnancy books that I checked out of the library were no help. I could not find one single piece of literature anywhere that told me how to raise a biracial child. None. We were on our own – not somewhere we needed to be. A little late in the game, my husband and I realized that we had very different opinions and thoughts on how to raise children – especially a biracial child.

I don’t know who was more surprised in the delivery room – my husband or me. My eldest son was born a healthy, strapping young man – and white. Several days later, I saw my husband just staring at him and I asked him what was wrong. He said, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but is he mine?”

So began our foray into the biracial world and learning to deal with issues such as these. I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that he was, indeed, my husband’s child – but I knew what he was thinking. Why doesn’t he look more like me? Why doesn’t he look black like me? I told him that it was perfectly fine with me if he wanted to have a paternity test done to be sure. I think, had I been in his shoes, I would have wondered the same thing myself. He never did go through with the paternity test, at least to my knowledge.

While I was still pregnant, another woman with biracial children told me, “When your baby is born, look at the tips of his ears. It will tell you how dark he or she will be when they grow up. The darker the tips, the darker their skin color.” I’m ashamed to say that was the first thing I checked when he was born. Not how many fingers and toes he had like I did with my daughter. I checked to see what color his ears were.

Our second son was a bit different. Slightly darker (yes the tips of his ears were darker than his brother’s were), he still looked white. Over the years, however, I have noticed that his complexion is darker than that of his older brother. In the summertime, he becomes much darker, almost the same coloring as his father. My oldest son; however, does not change in appearance that much. He says that he has more white in him than he has black in him.

Which leads us to our next point of discussion, how the law sees my children.

Anti-Miscegenation Laws in America

Anti-miscegenation laws were a part of American law since before the United States was established and remained so until ruled unconstitutional in 1967 by the U.S. Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia. The term miscegenation was first used in 1863, during the American Civil War, by American journalists to discredit the abolitionist movement by stirring up debate over the prospect of black–white intermarriage after the abolition of slavery. In those of the original Thirteen Colonies that became states and enacted such laws, they were enacted as state law in the early 18th century; a century or more after the complete racialization of slavery.

 In 1965, Virginia trial court Judge Leon Bazile, who heard their original case, refused to reconsider his decision. Instead, he defended racial segregation, writing:

Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, Malay, and red, and placed them on separate continents, and but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend the races to mix.

It just completely boggles my mind that in 1965, 100 years after the 13th amendment was ratified that abolished slavery in the United States, people still had these deep-seated beliefs that races were not intended to mix.

May 2011 - Fictional ban on interracial unions and abortion in America 2049 becoming all too real today
Fictional ban on interracial unions and abortion in America 2049 becoming all too real today. Post published 5/2011

The Lovings then took their case to the Supreme Court of Virginia, which invalidated the original sentence but upheld the state’s Racial Integrity Act. Finally, the Lovings turned to the U.S Supreme Court. The court, which had previously avoided taking miscegenation cases, agreed to hear an appeal. In 1967, 84 years after Pace v. Alabama in 1883, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Loving v. Virginia that:

Marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man,’ fundamental to our very existence and survival…. To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not to marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.

The Supreme Court condemned Virginia’s anti-miscegenation law as “designed to maintain White supremacy.”

I’ve never seen people as black or white – I’ve just seen people. I guess the racial prejudice that my parents and grandparents grew up with skipped over me. I don’t hold to their beliefs, and I am thankful that my biological father, sister, and brother accept my family and my children for who we are.

My Children Are Biracial.

I cringe when I see a news story where a young black man was killed or beaten for no apparent reason other than the color of his skin or how he was dressed … or that he just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I have taught my children to see people for who they are on the inside, not make judgments about an individual based purely on superficial thoughts and opinions. In order to truly know someone you need to see the person who resides inside the body, past the color, beyond any imperfections or disabilities.

My two beautiful boys

The law does not always see past those however. They see a young black man or a young white man and automatically apply preconceived stereotypes based on appearance. Truth be told, we have all done it at one time or another – whether you wish to admit it to yourself or not.

I have one son who considers himself white, and another son who considers himself black. This is of their choosing, and nothing that their father or I have influenced. We have treated them both equally, raised them the same, that is just how they choose to show themselves to the world, and that is fine with us. We want them to feel comfortable in their own skin, to be the unique, talented people that God created them to be.

Will they always show themselves in this way? Only time will tell. Will the stereotypes and prejudices of the world alter their view of themselves, on how they should present themselves to the world? Sometimes I think that it already has, but based on my own stereotypes and preconceived views of the world.

I worry about their future. I worry about the day when they are on their own and find themselves in a situation based solely upon their appearance. I pray that it will never happen, but realistically … I’m almost certain that it will. They have never dealt with the ugly truth of racism – yet. It is my most earnest prayer that they never will. Times have changed since I was their age, and attitudes have changed also – in some localities. There are still those towns throughout America where the majority of the townspeople believe that segregation should still be a law. There are also people, right here in the city that I live in, who still feel as though all white people look down on all African-Americans.

A few weeks ago, I was attending our local food bank ministry on a Tuesday morning, as I do almost every week. We had our service and closed with a prayer, and then waited for our numbers to be called. I happened to have my phone with me and was having a conversation with my sister when my turn came to go through the line. I told her that I needed to go, and ended my call with her, but not before one of the assistants saw that I had an iPhone 6 Plus and asked me what I thought of it. I showed it to her, and she took her phone (an iPhone 6) and held it up to mine to see the size difference. We had a brief conversation about the phone and I continued ahead so that I would not hold up the line.

Apparently the woman directly behind me became upset with the fact that (a) I was white, (b) I had an iPhone 6 Plus, (c) that the line was moving slowly because I was chatting or (d) all the above. As I was moving through the line and choosing my items, she continuously kept pushing up against me as though she was attempting to rush me through the line.

The first several times that it happened, I did not say anything. I just simply moved a little farther away from her and continued about my business. The next time it happened; however, I could no longer hold my tongue or my patience and I turned to her and asked her to please back up just a bit and stop bumping into me, that she was invading my personal space and constantly kept pushing me and I did not appreciate it. She automatically went on the defensive and began making a scene loudly stating, “Do you have a problem? You have a problem with me touching you?” I just simply said, “Stop pushing into me and let me make my selections like you need to make yours.” She continued to harass me, and the assistant at that station told her that she needed to calm down, that she was the only one making a scene as I had quietly moved on and ignored what she was saying.

I don’t like confrontations. I avoid them at all costs. However, when we rounded the corner of the table and this woman again started in with me, I could no longer hold my tongue.

She stated that, “You did not have to be so rude to me (which I most definitely was not) and that just because you’re white with your fancy phone and I’m black doesn’t mean that you can talk down to me and treat me like dirt because I need to come to the food ministry for help.”

Honestly, all reasoning and etiquette and respect for my surroundings flew out the door at that precise moment. I had ignored her up to this point, but I just couldn’t any longer.

“Are you seriously playing the race card with me? Bitch I’ve been nice to this point and ignored you but let me tell you something. I’ve been married to a black man for the past 20 years and have two beautiful biracial children. DON’T YOU DARE TRY AND PLAY THE RACE CARD WITH ME!” I yelled at her. “Furthermore, that woman right there (I pointed to my neighbor who was assisting on a station that day) can tell you that I am the least racist judgmental person you will EVER have the fortune of meeting. I suggest you not say one more word to me before I forget I’m a woman and smack the hell out of you right here in church!”

I was so shaken, so angry, that I could barely see. She didn’t say another word to me, her eyes going wild when I yelled at her that I am married to a black man with two biracial children. She could tell that she’d picked the wrong person to play the race card with. I didn’t even bother to finish going through the line. I was so angry, I knew that if I did not get out of there I quite possibly would have said or done something I would regret.

I’ve seen this woman once since our argument, she has not said a word to me. As a matter of fact, she has gone out of her way to avoid me.

I worry that my children – both hotheaded young men – will be faced with similar situations as they grow up. I can only hope that they will remember what I have taught them and try to stay calm to defuse the situation. I cannot protect them forever, there will come a time when they are faced with animosity and hatred for the color of their skin. As a parent, I can only pray that they will have an angel watching over them to protect them and that they will handle the situation as the young men that I’ve raised them to be.

Americans themselves, need to stand up against injustice, racial profiling and hate crimes when they see them. If you stand idly by, watching and not intervening, that makes you no better than the person or organization doing the injustice.

This is not a black or white problem, this is a problem for every one who is perceived as different. If we sit back and do not hold our elected officials accountable to uphold the law, if we do not continue to fight for our rights, we will find ourselves in an era that will endanger the lives of everyone perceived as different.

2020 Kimberly Signature

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