The Puerto-Rican, Chinese Baby

Perhaps I live in a bubble, readers. The type of sanitized, hermetically sealed environment where no one bats an eye at my mixed-race family. As a matter of fact, women usually coo at my curly-haired, rosy-cheeked daughter, with her impish smile and cherubic build, still a little rounded out by baby chub. Even grown men who could otherwise be disposed to be brusque and surly are known to throw their voices up an octave or two, hand her a lollipop and address her as ‘cutie.’

I only remember two occasions when people’s assumptions and off-color remarks about Baby’s looks had offended me. The most pungent offense, as it was, came from teenage girls. They were classmates of Little Sister’s, who were probably being their usual high-spirited selves when they looked at the latest picture of Baby that Little Sister had brought to school and declared: “It’s the Puerto-Rican, Chinese baby.”   I wanted to box their ears for that, because it seemed to impertinent, at least through Little Sister’s retelling.  When I thought about it, though, she did look vaguely Asian with her fatty, droopy eyelids and round face. Her mop of curly hair and light-mocha complexion lend themselves to a Puerto Rican look. OK, so the cheeky teenage girls got a pass.

But readers, I was straight up offended by what I read in The New York Times, from its October 12, 2011 edition. It’s about how a mixed-race family in New Jersey deals with its multi-racial makeup.  The nerve of that twit in the story’s opening! I won’t drop too many spoilers, but if a ninny questions me aggressively about how such a light-skinned child like mine could descend from a woman like me, with such a dark complexion, she will get a dose of something! Doesn’t she know anything about mixed kids?

One has to exercise patience with strangers when they fail to use discretion. Like the woman congregant I met at a church cookout. This was, still is, Aunt Mary’s church and I went there to see her and my cousins (as a bonus, I packed a plate of some wicked jerk chicken for Hubby). I showed up with Baby on my hip and at the time her eyelids were still a bit droopy. She still looked a touch Asian. When the woman saw us, she looked at the light-skinned, black-haired, round-faced child in my arms and blurted out: “She Chinese?!”

“Uh, no, ” I forced a cheerful grin, then told her that Baby’ father was white, not Chinese. I could tell that she didn’t mean any harm, wasn’t trying to be rude or aggressive, like that woman in the Times article. She quickly moved on to the real business at hand, which was cooing and playing with Baby just like all the other women who come under my daughter’s spell. In any case, she was almost as light as Baby. You want to tell me that she doesn’t have a white ancestor somewhere in her family tree? Wouldn’t it be a touch crazy for her to come at me about where such a light-skinned child came from? Thought so.

It sounds like the mixed couple in that story encounter a lot of foolishness from strangers, and I feel for them. People in the Northeast, especially, can come across as aggressive, callous and disdainful of others’ feelings in their drive to find something out or make a point. That’s the way over-achievers and big-city types can be at times, and you’ll run into plenty of people who make you think they should be under close supervision, with drugs, by a clinical psychologist. Add racial dynamics to the mix, and run-ins can be emotionally explosive.

Still, the people in that article are a family, not a side-show exhibit. They should be able to enjoy the beaches, parks and run errands without any hassles from undisciplined people and their unguarded remarks. Hopefully, people will learn to give them the respect and courtesy they deserve, as they learn the basics of how  genes and melanin are passed from a black mom to a biracial child.


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