Raising Confident Multi-Racial Children

Kids with funny glasses

This morning I tuned into my local NPR station in those rare moments where I’m alone in the car. I lucked upon this story of identity and being multiracial: Seeing Opportunity In A Question: ‘Where Are You Really From?’ In the story, Alex takes the question we all hate “Where are you from?” and turns it into a teaching opportunity. Alex, 27, is multiracial: his father is Japanese and his Jewish mother is of Eastern European descent.

You should take 8 minutes and listen to (or read) Alex Sugiura’s story. He shares that never felt like he had a “typical American face” and didn’t see his parents’ faces in his face. People often mistaken him as a Latino and would speak to him in Spanish.  So how does he self-identify? From the NPR story:

When Alex fills out the Census form, he checks the box for Japanese. But in more casual situations, he self-identifies as American but says he’s ethnically Jewish.

When I hear stories about multiracial people and how they self-identify, the first people I think about are my kids. While Sophia and Jaxson are still young, stories like Alex’s give faith that raising my kids to be strong, confident and proud of their race and cultural background will help them navigate society’s views on race and culture. I’m not naive enough to believe that it will be easier for them in 20 years.

That’s why it’s so important for me to talk to my children about their races and our family’s culture. We joke that my husband is an honorary Asian because he knows how to eat rice the “correct” way. He’s also very familiar with Vietnamese food and knows the names of his favorite dishes. We talk about my kids beautiful brown skin and their amazing bouncy curls. We talk about how some people are discriminated against because of their skin color, gender, or even sexual orientation.

While those topic sound too big and conceptual for 4 and 8-year-olds, we discuss them in ways they can understand. Even if your family isn’t multi-racial, talk to your children about race, culture and gender. Now is the time.

For a while Sophia self-identified as Vietnamese American. That’s when I realized that I was so focused on sharing my cultural background with my kids, that I forgot about my husband’s. This summer, Jaxson didn’t see himself as being Vietnamese. Sophia currently identifies as American. She’s only 8 so I know she will continue to explore the different parts of her culture and race. How she self-identifies will probably evolve and change. No matter what, I want her to decide for herself and not what I tell her or what society tells her.