Thursday, July 27, 2006

Beyond FAMILY: “My White Father” by Anne Branigin

Tolerance.org has reprinted an insightful column by Asian American writer Anne Branigin. Originally published in Philippine News, “My White Father” reveals Branigin’s direct approach to her mixed-race heritage, and much more. She discusses the pang of guilt she feels when she checks a box that fails to indicate the hidden half of her heritage, the curious questions she gets from friends after they’ve met her father. And she expresses her appreciation for the challenges her father must have faced as he helped raise “two Asian American children—who must see a society much different from the one he grew up in, through entirely different sets of eyes.”

Branigin doesn’t mention childhood stories of times when the fact that she was brown and her father was white raised eyebrows, but I’m fairly certain she has a few. My husband still tells the story of carrying our blue-eyed, blond-curled three-year-old son out of a furniture store, waiting for someone to stop him. The fact that my biracial husband has brown skin and my son has white skin (and was kicking and screaming because he wanted to play some more on the bunk beds in the store) probably did raise a few eyebrows, but luckily no one called the police.

On the flip side, I still get questions about my daughters, who look nothing like me. I’ve been asked a few times if my middle child (who strongly resembles her daddy) was adopted, and where in the world my youngest got her glorious head of black curls. Like Anne Branigin, I understand people’s curiosity and know raising children of mixed-race heritage does not necessarily involve tragic identity crises. And I appreciate, too, that a child who may not resemble one parent still inherits mannerisms from both sides of the family. As Branigin writes: “From my mother I get the loud laughter and the ability to function in the limelight. From my father, the downward gaze when recalling memories, and the desire to return back to a safe place, alone.”

We are our parents’ children and our children’s parents, regardless of what the world sees—and fails to see.

Photo © Tolerance.org

8 Comments:

Anonymous Susie said...

Thank you for this. Fortunately, us 3 girls look enough like both parents that the question of parentage wasn't an issue. But I can certainly understand where the ethnic differences are greater between the parents that issues might arise with the children. I do appreciate you unique perceptive to this situation.

2:21 PM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

You're welcome, Susie! Thanks for stopping by. How wonderful that you and your sisters took after both your parents despite their different backgrounds. Genetics are amazing; my youngest actually looks most like her French-Canadian grandmother with her dark eyes and hair and fair skin. I'm just glad she doesn't freckle up as much as I do!

2:54 PM  
Anonymous Susie said...

We are fair skinned also like the Irish on my father's side, although what I tell people is all that's left of the Irish is the freckles. lol I bet you have beautiful children.

2:59 PM  
Blogger Patry Francis said...

My second son looks very much like his Native American father. When he was smaller, I too was often asked if he was adopted. I know people probably don't realize they're being insensitive but they are.

And p.s. All 3 of your children are gorgeous!

9:17 PM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

Thanks, Patry! They're certainly a lot of fun. Never a dull moment, that's for sure!

7:16 PM  
Blogger Elle said...

I noticed your website and wanted to share one with you that you may find interesting. Sunflower Mom On A Mission has just launched and will have some cool information about parenting for multi-ethnic families...especially how self-image and self-esteem is tied to hair care. This mom is the spokesperson for a breakthrough in multi-ethnic children's hair care called Texture Softener. Check it out!

5:22 PM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

Hi, Elle! I'll certainly check it out. Thanks for the link.

11:56 AM  
Anonymous naeha Breeland said...

Hello. I really appreciated this insight to the topic of multiracial identity. I am one of four children with a Hawaiian mother and a white father. My siblings and I cover a wide range of the color spectrum with me almost as white as my father and my brother sometimes (depending on the season) darker than my mother; my two sisters are somewhere in between. Because I was raised by my mother, I identify as a woman of color, however with my blond hair and hazel eyes, I am automatically given more privilege from society than my brother. I am currently writing a paper on this topic of biracial or multiracial identity, specifically when the children are different colors. I was wondering if you might know of any articles or research material that I might be able to look at? Thank you again for sharing your experience!

11:22 AM  

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