Becky Lynn Washington,
New York, NY
I got pretty lucky I guess-grew up in the desert where there was little diversity. Our family was different for a lot of reasons-my father’s job took him out of town often, we didn’t go to church, my brother was a tortured genius so we were always switching schools, and no one in our family looked alike. My mother is white and my father is black. Against a vanilla backdrop, everything about us made us outliers, so the question of feeling different because of the race was somewhat muted. The heaviest-handed questions were about my mother because she was around so often, and people would question why I didn’t look like her. It could have been a child innocence on my end but she seemed so gracefully separated from any of these questions or comments she’s my daughter, he’s my husband, he’s my son. There was really no confusion, they were just my family. In my mind, it was almost a novelty to meet families that perfectly resembled each other, because that wasn’t my reality.
This doesn’t quiet thoughts or experiences I’ve had with race- my personal thoughts on which race box to check, my personal conflict with affirmative action, small frustrations with my hair and my appearance, the conflicted way I feel when people ask me “what I am” and the conflicted ways I feel about how they ask it, my own conflict in identifying with any specific ethnicity. My first thought in the “race card” was where to begin. That all pushed aside, I’m comfortable in my skin and where I stand with my identity and respecting other people’s as well.
What hit me lately was a Cheerios commercial. No, not even the cheerios commercial-because, well it’s cheerios. The headline for the cheerios commercial-“CHEERIOS AD INTERRACIAL FAMILY CONTROVERSY.” Cheerios-controversial? Interracial family-controversial? Nothing about the headline made sense to me or went together. Racism and race controversy exists, I know. I don’t live in a bubble, I’ve left the desert and moved between different populations, and as mentioned it’s a reality that discomfort with race is the norm. But a 30-second snip-it calls for mention because of the featured mixed-race couple. Not a television show that goes any further into their lives, just an image of a mixed-race family is confusing to people.
The thought crossed my mind for the first time that my kids aren’t going to be safe from this bullshit. 25-30 years removed from my family who was a novelty, regardless of who I procreate with someone is going to have all kinds of questions for them about why they are different because the odds are way heavy that they are going to have a slew of mixed features like I do. I guess it’s part of the job and the challenge to arm them with the kind of self that makes this a non-issue but the reality is I’d figured it was one place that was simple progress-that the questioning of mixed-race was something that my generation was going to have to deal with and wasn’t something I was going to have to pass on to my kids.