I’m still just pondering this issue right now, but I recently read two great books about growing up bi-racial.
Mixed: My Life in Black and White by Angela Nissel, and The Skin Between Us by Kym Ragusa. Both women were born to African-American women and white men. Both come from fractured homes, as well. Both really struggled with racial and cultural identity.
Both books were extremely interesting (although Mixed includes a chapter about how Ms. Nissel tried to find her “identity” by being a stripper, which wasn’t interesting, but was very, very sad). And I learned a lot.
The Skin Between Us talks a lot about an area near us–Homewood–and how it used to be a mixed German/African-American neighborhood, with the races mixing. That sounds pretty incredible now, because today’s Homewood is really “da ‘hood” now, complete with gangs, drug trafficking, and a weekly shooting, and not somewhere a white person would want their car to break down at night. I did take issue with part of Kym Ragusa’s story.
In describing her heritage, she mentioned a great-grandmother who was a slave, and who bore two children to her master’s son. Ms. Ragusa (and her mother and grandmother) presented the story as a rape, and of course, white man is evil. What was interesting though, is that young man refused to marry a white woman, and eventually picked up and ran off with his father’s slave and his two children, moving his little family to Homewood, PA.
He gave up wealth, privelage and his father’s blessing, when he could have had all of that and still kept the slave as a mistress. It seems to me he did the honorable and, dare I say it, loving thing. For an alleged rapist, he certainly sacrificed an awful lot to take care of his “victim”. It’s difficult to know about such things, so far removed from our experience by years. Maybe my being white gives me a bias towards the white man. Or maybe Kym Ragusa’s experiences influenced her to believe that it couldn’t possibly have been a mutually loving relationship.
Anyway, other than that little rant, I enjoyed both books. I do wonder though, if our children’s experiences will be different, for many reasons. We are an intact family, to begin with, and have loving, supportive relatives on both sides. We care very little for what culture says we should be, and I don’t expect my children will feel the need to choose between a “gangsta” identity or a “preppy” one. We’re so different from others in so many ways that I can’t see being bi-racial being as huge an issue as it was for the authors of the books above.
If anything, their mixed heritage will be just one among many, many things that make them “odd” in the eyes of others. I do hope that my children will not get caught up in what color they are or if they have “good” hair or what clique they should identify with among their peers. I hope that they will find wholeness and identity in Christ alone. We are fortunate to attend a church that is well-integrated and filled with beautiful mixed families of all types.
One family we know came to that church after a black Pentecosal female preacher refused to marry them because they were not of the same race. They figured they’d be safe at our church because the bishop’s children all married across racial lines, and they were right.