FYI: You’re Still White, Even If You Married Outside Your Race
In a clever bit of trolling from the New York Times’ Parenting blog, Jack Cheng, an Asian man, throws his wife — a white woman — under the bus by telling the world that she no longer considers herself 100 percent white. Weird. How can someone’s race change over time? By having and raising two biracial children, that’s how. Sure. Take it away, Jack.
A few years ago, in fact, my wife casually mentioned that she doesn’t consider herself 100 percent white any more. She has blond hair, blue eyes and fair skin, and as far back as anyone can remember, all of her ancestors have been Irish.
Okay, still seeing whiteness here, but hey, what do I know?
She became less white when our son, and then our daughter, were born.
I don’t know about that, Jack. My rudimentary understanding of both childbirth and genetics would lead me to believe that the only person that becomes less white in this situation is the child you gave birth to, because they have a white mother and an Asian father. That’s literally the only way this works. There is no magic procedure that happens to you, the white person, in an interracial marriage or when you raise your children who are not white. It’s as simple as that.
The sentiment here is buried under poor framing and a clickbait-y headline, intended to provoke. I admit by getting riled, I am part of the problem. But there are better ways to talk about this. The point of this poorly-executed piece, to me, is that parents care for their children very deeply. If you are a white parent raising a biracial child, there will certainly be many things that affect your child in a way that you can’t quite understand. Microaggressions that white people are not privy to will affect their small children, and it will hurt, because those little babies are yours, dammit, and you want the world for them. That colors your experience, because you get a glimpse of how shitty life can be.
Cheng’s wife, however, is somewhat of an expert. He says:
Part of her job is to lead discussions on diversity in her workplace. She usually begins by explaining why she makes an appropriate leader for such discussions and points out the stereotypes that come with being blond. Now, however, she could probably just put up a PowerPoint slide of her children and many people would accept that she understands at least some of the issues of being nonwhite.
The issues of being nonwhite are nuanced and unique to every person, and therefore very difficult to explain to someone that doesn’t share at least some of the same experience. Having two children who experience these issues will surely give you a bird’s eye view of the problems, but it’s impossible to actually understand the problems unless you’re directly experiencing them yourselves.
There’s a difference between co-opting someone’s very personal experience and standing in solidarity as an ally. You can recognize the struggles, and empathize, but the important thing to understand is that their struggles are not yours to take. A good ally is someone that stands beside you without inserting themselves in the conversation, someone that listens instead of diving headfirst into a struggle that isn’t theirs to own.