Last year I asked readers if they considered President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama to be an interracial couple. I think they fall into that category, because President Obama brings a biracial experience into the relationship, much like Halle Berry does in her relationship with Gabriel Aubrey. Now I want to extend that question to kids. I’m not talking about the the children from either of those couples, but my 17-month-old daughter, and her cousin Walter.
You might remember that Walter is the 4-year-old son of my cousin Melinda, who married an awesome guy named Jeff, who is French Canadian. They adopted Walter when he was tiny, just 11 months old, and in my mind, the adoption is a moot point. That little boy is the perfect amalgamation of madcap Melinda and Jeff.
Baby and her cousin Walter will have very similar experiences growing up: a black mom and a white dad. They will both hear foreign languages at home—Italian for Baby and French for Walter; travel abroad almost certainly to the Caribbean, Europe, Mexico, and wherever else their insatiably curious parents want to explore; sample cuisines from all over the world and have all of the other experiences that come with a multicultural upbringing. The one difference between them is I’m not sure if Walter has racially mixed biological parents. Actually, I never think about his biological lineage. But the fact remains that his upbringing will be very similar to Baby’s. So can they both be considered biracial kids?
It is an interesting question, and one that I hope will flex people’s minds and get them to stretch their perceptions a little bit about race, culture and all the things that make up our identities. Walter cannot be considered biracial. Even if he had interracial parents, the world would take one look at him and pronounce him black. He loves Jeff, his white dad, to bits and his relationship with Melinda is strong, too. I predict right now (you all are witnesses) that he will be Melinda’s partner in crime. With such strong attachments to each parent, I think he will share experiences with other kids who come from interracial parents, especially when the families remain intact. More often, I see famous biracial adults asserting that they are more than just black. It doesn’t matter if they look more white (like Mariah Carey), black (like Frederick Douglas) or even Pacific Islander (like Tiger Woods), they have insisted that people recognize the parent whose physical traits are more recessive. Otherwise it might seem like they are slighting the less visible parent and subverting an important part of their identity.
Walter will love his parents equally. Similar to famous biracial people, he probably will not want strangers to take one look at him and slap on a label that diminishes the influences that his Canadian-born dad will have had on his life. And like other biracial kids, I can see him diplomatically—but firmly—telling people that ‘Hey, my mom is black, and my dad is white. This is who I am.’