Yesterday at church, I introduced myself to one of Jaren’s Sunday school friends. He gave me this surprised look and said to Jaren, “I didn’t know you were mixed.” Jaren said, “Yeah.” Now this doesn’t bother Jaren or me at all. I appreciate someone’s honesty, as long as it is respectful. And this isn’t the first time that someone looked surprise when they learned that I was Jaren’s mother. Jaren has told me on a number of occasions that he has had kids respond this way at school when his classmates find out he is bi-racial. He said they will often say, “I thought you were straight up black.”
When Jaren was an infant, he was neutral looking and could pass for Latino, Asian, and bi-racial and he seemed to spark a lot of curiosity. I had people stop me often to ask me about his ethnicity, like the time I was in the hospital recovering from giving birth for the second time. My mother and a friend brought Jaren to the hospital so he could meet his new baby brother. One of the nurses came over to me and said she was wondering about the race/ethnicity of my newborn. She informed me that once she saw my toddler, she knew he was of a mixed race. She commented how beautiful Jaren was and asked me what his ethnic background was and I told her. She said, “Makes me want to have a baby with a black man.”
I remember one time, when Jaren was about three years old. His father hadn’t been over to see him in a long time. I don’t remember how the conversation started but somehow the subject of race came up. Jaren’s father asked him, “What are you?” Jaren proudly said, “I’m black and white!”
Jaren often referred to himself as tan. And when he saw someone else similar to his skin color, he would say, “They’re tan like me.” As he got a little older and he noticed in his pictures that his skin tone changed as he aged, he told people, “I was born white but turned black.” This always made me laugh. I think others weren’t sure how to respond or react, but we would make light of it.
I let Jaren express himself anyway he wanted, as long as it wasn’t derogatory. And yes, there were times when I needed to step in and say, “That isn’t appropriate,” just like any other parent of a one-race family/child. I, like most of you, have heard time and again that prejudice is taught. And people assume that it always derives from home but I can tell you from experience that my son learned more about prejudices from classmates at school then he did at home.
Recently, we sent in for DNA testing to see how diverse my son really is. He is mostly of African, European, with some Asian and American Indian and even some Neanderthal. How about that? Yes, my son is rich in diversity. But he is also rich in love.
In the end, we are of ONE race….the human race.