This is a very delicate and difficult subject matter, because there is a child involved– your child. Before I begin, I want you to know and understand that I only express these words with sincerity; they are not meant to be a personal attack. However, after reading your personal essay published on Ebony.com, I fear that your genuine ignorance of what your child will face as a biracial child in the United States of America is harmful to his well-being and undermines his struggle.
As a White man bestowed the utmost privileges for both your race and your gender, it can be quite confusing to navigate the difficult landscape of America’s racial affairs. With little to no first hand experience of such matters, you must rely on outside sources and the media for your understanding of what it means to be Black or a minority. With that superficial knowledge you wrote that piece where you expressed a quasi-understanding of what the “darkening” of your child’s skin may signal to the broader society that often targets, fears and brutalizes “Black” men; White women may cross the street to avoid his path, police could possibly murder him without consequence. You also went so far as to plainly state that you hope your child remains the couple of shades darker than you that he is, but does not get as dark as his Haitian mother, so he can avoid that hardship.
With the constant and necessary media attention given to the issue of police brutality, usually with dark brown, male faces plastered to headlines that scream “shot dead” or “killed” by police, it cannot be denied that you should have fear of his skin color resembling that of those young men. However, a less told reality awaits your child, even if his skin does not darken. One which you unwittingly hinted at, but have no real understanding of.
In your essay you said this statement about your son in relation to his “blackness” or, his mother, “He’s still light enough that, when my wife takes him out alone, people sometimes think she’s his nanny and ask how much she charges.” This was said to reinforce the myth you hold in your mind that your son, who is a few shades lighter than his mother, is somehow “less Black” than she is, positioned hierarchically above her in society. And for this reason, you believe, he is safer. That notion is not only oddly misguided, but also subtly reinforces a system of colorism that dates back to the country’s inception. It also undermines the struggle of biracial individuals– like your son.
According to the Bureau of Justice Victimization report that releases demographic information regarding both violent and nonviolent crimes, biracial individuals are victimized at a rate 3 times that of Whites and 2 times that of Blacks. That means, your son is 2-3 times more likely to be assaulted, have something stolen from his person and to be threatened with violence than his White or Black peers. He is also more than 2-3 times more likely to be victimized by someone with whom he is well acquainted. Your son wears a complexion that carries its own implications and struggles, that you should make yourself aware of, promptly.
The staggeringly high victimization rate of biracial individuals speaks to the country’s longstanding racial hierarchy that, through the system of White supremacy, enforced both colorism and racism. Your son, who does not fit easily into this country’s “White/Black” dichotomy, will have to experience both. In order to better understand this , you must delve into this nation’s history.
During the time of slavery, Whites used a color system to distinguish between field working Blacks and house working Blacks. Typically, those with lighter skin worked inside of the house because, more than likely, they were descendants of the slave master who was White (slave masters often had sexual relations with their Black slaves). Darker-skinned slaves typically did more rigorous, outdoor labor. This instilled a color social hierarchy– later called “colorism”– and generated resentment among Blacks that remains pervasive in contemporary America.
Though biracial individuals were allowed access to certain privileges, they were never “White” (unless there were able to completely pass) and thus never given freedom or access into “White” society. This created the position in which biracial individuals exist today; vulnerable to hostility from Whites and Blacks, alike, in a fragile emotional, psychological and physical space. You said, “He’s light enough that, from a distance, he can pass as white.” If only from a distance he can pass, how do Whites perceive him in close proximity? If not Black, like his mother, or White, like you, what is your son? If not dark enough or light enough, who will accept him? Such are the questions he will have to come to grip with.
These social dynamics, rooted in the country’s history, have huge implications that will endanger the life and well-being of not only your son, but also your family as a whole. Households with two or more races are 2-3 times more likely to be carjacked or burglarized than households with only one race. As I am certain you probably have already experienced, interracial couples are also more likely to experience hostility while in public and within their own extended families. Your child will bare witness to varying degrees of racism that will be inescapable as both the Black and White world constantly collide and war around him.
Whether your son’s skin shade more closely resembles his mother’s or remains a lighter hue of brown, an immutable fact remains: his life will be rife with hardship because our society is currently in battle with racism and colorism created by White supremacy. Your hope that some aspect of his physical being will save him from that reality, only speaks to your lack of awareness of the depths of this issue. My best advice; read and become better acquainted with the struggles of Black and Brown people. And do not compare your “lighter son’s” struggles to those of his darker peers. In a world ruled by White supremacy, no brown man wins.