Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Multiracial, Multicultural Family Life: A Conversation with Diedre Anthony

"Are they all yours?" asked the stranger standing behind me in the checkout line.  She gestured toward the four children with me:  two arguing, one attempting to smell all the gum packets, and the other squealing loudly (just for the fun of it).

I wanted to say, "What do you think? I don't bring four random kids to the store to have a good time."   But I don't, even though I'm tired and irritated.  Instead I just say, "Yes they are!" and then turn my attention back to reminding my son to put the gum packets back where they belong. 

We attract attention and always have, since the day our very first child joined our family.   With the addition of each child, the attention increased:  second glances, questions, smiles.  Not all attention is bad, but it's not something we crave.  We really are just a normal family who does normal things and lives a normal life.  And taking four kids anywhere is an adventure, so I'm mainly focused on making sure we stay together as a group and maintain some sort of sanity. 

Diedre Anthony, author of the blog Are Those Your Kids?, is in a similar situation.  As a mom of two (soon-to-be three!) and a Black woman married to a white man, she's no stranger to questions and comments.  Yet this mama has been rockin' it, taking her passion and knowledge and channeling them into a Facebook group, e-book, and, of course, her blog.  And today, she's offering us some insight on caring for Black hair and navigating multiracial family life.

Rachel:  Earlier this year, you started a Facebook group for moms in multiracial families.  Why did you think this was important?  What do you love about your group?  What do you hope members gain by participating?  

Diedre:  Being in a multiracial family brings unique challenges that monoracial families can't relate to. We often face criticism or have questions about life happenings that can be difficult to find the answers to. I wanted to create a space that was safe to share these challenges and a place to provide answers and additional resources for multiracial families.

I think what makes my group different from many others is the fact that I screen members and spend a lot of time moderating conversations.  I love that everyone comes to the table with unique ideas, opinions, and experiences, but I allow everyone to express their opinions without being offensive or pushy with other members. I have been known to turn off commenting on a post if I felt like the conversation was taking a negative turn. 

I like for my group to be a positive and supportive place. The word is filled with so much negativity. My group will not add to that.  

Rachel:  You are Black, your husband is white, your girls (and baby-on-the-way) are bi-racial.   What's the best thing about being a multiracial family?  What's the most challenging?  

Diedre:  I love that we are truly a melting pot. My husband was born and raised in South Georgia. His family has traditions that he shares with me, and I share the traditions and food of my Jamaican family with him. We've been lucky because our families love us and get along. We've spent many holidays together and we are raising our children in a beautifully blended multiracial/multicultural family.  

Rachel:  Tell me about your new e-book!   Why did you write it?  What will readers get from it? Where can we buy it? 

Diedre:  In my Facebook group and on the blog, I get a lot of questions about curly hair care. As a naturally curly girl myself, I understand the struggle! There are so many products on the market that it's difficult to know which one to choose, and can be frustrating when you've spent a significant amount of money on products and none of them work. 

You can purchase the e-book here.  

Rachel:  You grew up as a military child.  How did your childhood experiences shape you in terms of diversity, acceptance, and racial-confidence? 

Diedre:  I absolutely loved my upbringing! My friends were a mixture of races and cultures and that was my normal. When someone new moved into town, it was almost a battle to see who could be friends with them first. I was always intrigued by their latest travels and where they had been in the world. I loved when my neighbors came back from overseas and brought candy and food from wherever they were. It was always an adventure!

My parents both came from Jamaica as teens, so they faced some discrimination when they came to the States. They taught me to be polite to others and eat at least a little of what you are offered, even if it doesn't look appetizing. I learned to appreciate other cultures based on my upbringing. 

Rachel:  For fellow multiracial families, whether built by biology or adoption, when we encounter someone who is condescending, judgmental, nosy, or critical, what is the BEST way to respond when our kids are watching our every move and listening to our every word?  

Diedre:  To me, it's sad that people still expect everyone in the family to look alike. Even in monoracial families, there will be kids that just don't look like their parents. We are in 2018 and things have changed so dramatically in our world, that it really surprises me when people are shocked by my family dynamics. As my children age, I think I will tell them (if they ask) that people ask about our family dynamics because maybe they don't get out much :)

While they are little, I will just respond with yes they are my children. When you are out in public with your children, sometimes the questions don't come at the most convenient time. I know some of my more sarcastic responses come when I'm already frustrated with my children. But it is important to me to remain calm and in control. I want my kids to see that ignorance does not control my response and that I am ultimately in control of my emotions.

I think the best response is going to vary by comfort level. I definitely would not encourage being rude, especially because your children are watching.I would answer that yes, they are my children and then change the subject or walk away. I think that sends a pretty clear message that the conversation is over and inappropriate. Walking away is perfect when you are in a store (which is where this typically happens to me). You don't owe this stranger anything. 

Rachel:  How do you build your children's racial confidence?  How do affirm them racially?   

Diedre:  We read A LOT. I surround them with diversity through books in our home, and even with toys. They have dolls in just about every race available. It's also important to me that we break gender and cultural stereotypes. They have toys like microscopes, trucks, and cars. We eat at ethnic restaurants. Growing up on an Air Force Base taught me that this was normal. So this is how I raise my kids. 

Diedre's daughters reading our book: POEMS FOR THE SMART, SPUNKY, AND SENSATIONAL BLACK GIRL

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