Today is Father’s Day, and just last week, it was the 50th anniversary of the Loving decision. The anniversary gave me some time reflect on my mixed heritage. My dad is white and originally from Arkansas (he moved to CA in the 1970s), and my mom came to the U.S. from Mexico as a young adult. (My mom has been a citizen since the 1980s.) My parents got married in 1979. Here is one of their wedding photos.
Growing up, I didn’t know many mixed families, just mine, but that appears to be changing! It dawned on me recently that I have several friends raising children who are of mixed heritage. Here are some relevant articles on Loving, as well as the growing numbers of Americans who are mixed:
My sister and I started our school experience as Spanish-speakers; as the youngest, my brother didn’t have the same challenge. I didn’t realize we were “different” until elementary school, when kids didn’t believe some of my first cousins and I were related. Or worse, this woman who asked my mom if I was adopted. There is nothing wrong with adoption, but the question was to point out difference, and it was a terrible position to put her in, as well as for her child who was old enough to understand. I’ve seen and heard a lot from folks who are comfortable in addressing their fellow white person, as well as those who are comfortable speaking in Spanish as though I’m not there or can understand, not to mention the feeling that you don’t fit into neatly arranged categories. (This is just meant as a summary, and I’m also not going to get into my privilege as a very white and now graduate-educated Latina; I’m well aware.)
Books would have definitely helped with my identity issues, and, fortunately, times seem to be changing a bit. Prior to becoming an academic librarian, I worked as a bilingual (Spanish/English) library assistant in the children’s department of the Stanislaus County Library, and I about cried when I came across a picture called Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match. With the Loving anniversary, a friend of mine tagged all her friends in interracial marriages and partnerships, which prompted a very cool string of comments and photos. Our mutual friend made a special tribute about her marriage and family, and, from our exchange, I found out that she had shown photos of my family to her daughter who is also half-Latina and half-white. I mentioned the Marisol McDonald book, and I let my friend know I would do a search for some more kids’ books. Although there is a disparity in representing children from a variety of backgrounds in children’s books in general (see the #weneediversebooks campaign), The Washington Post‘s “Where Are All the Interracial Children’s Books? points out that there aren’t many picture books that feature mixed children. I started doing some searching for pictures books about mixed families and children, and I was surprised to find a small but growing body of books (note that the lists below often share titles).
Now, this is somewhat of a side note, but I think Mixed Remixed, which is “a film, book & performance festival celebrating stories of the mixed-race and multiracial experience,” is so interesting! I had never heard of it before. I took a peek at some resources, I found this really cool list of TED Talks linked on the Mixed Remixed website, “6 TED Talks, By, For, and About Biracial and Mixed-Race Folks.”
I’m also glad to have found an online community of librarians who identify as POC that I can reach out to thanks to a librarian friend. Some members of the group mentioned that I ought to listen to The Mash-Up Americans podcast and the Other: Mixed Race in America podcast. Code Switch also recently had an episode called “A Prescription for ‘Racial Imposter Syndrome,'” which another librarian mentioned that she really identified with as a mixed person who grew up with her white parent. It has been great to hear about the multicultural families some of these librarians are raising, as well.