I could also title this article “How to Feel Like an Inadequate Parent in 100 Pages or Less.”
I am the white mother of two children who are black and white. What I’ve learned since becoming a multiracial family is this: I have a lot to learn. Race shouldn’t matter, but it does. As white parents of children of color, we must ensure that our children know we are ready and able to talk about any questions or problems they may have with being not-entirely-white in a color-aware society. To that end, I have an extensive reading list of books for parents of children of color. I just finished reading Does Anybody Else Look Like Me?: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Multiracial Children, by Donna Jackson Nakazawa.
Nakazawa is a white woman married to a Japanese man, and the mother of two Caucasian/Japanese children. When her son began to experience issues because he is of mixed race, she realized that there weren’t a lot of resources (at the time) to help White parents understand specifically what bi- or multiracial children experience. She wanted to know how to raise a biracial child to be proud of who he is and comfortable with his racial heritages. Clearly a motivated individual, Nakazawa decided to write a book, which was published in 2003.
This book was not a particularly engaging read. Frankly, it was boring. It really could have been condensed into a long essay, or a feature in a magazine. Instead, Nakazawa wrote an entire book, and repeated the same points over and over again throughout its 200 pages. I felt like I was being hit over the head, and, after awhile (100 pages or so), I began to feel like an inadequate parent. As I said, Nakazawa is the biological mother of two children. While she tries, especially at the beginning, to speak to adoptive parents, she’s really focusing on her own people – white biological parents in committed relationships with their children’s other non-white parents. She makes rather a big deal about how having that other parent present is so important, not only for a child’s well-being, but for the white parent’s edification as well. Most transracial adoptions involve white parents of children of color, where there are not any non-white parents available. That emphasis made me feel inadequate simply because neither my husband nor I is black.
That said, I do feel that my time reading Does Anybody Else Look Like Me? was fruitful. The interviews with multiracial individuals in their late teens through early 30s were quite illuminating. They were the best part of the book. I think of these people as my kids grown up— what they could be if we do things the way their parents did. If the book contained more of these interview gems, as opposed to Nakazawa’s interpretations of them, I think the text would have been more accessible and fun to read.
Nakazawa’s purpose in writing the book was to explore how white parents can “best prepare multiracial children of all ages to confidently make their way in our color-conscious world.” The goal is to ensure that our children feel “authentic, confident, and comfortable in their multiracial” identities. The book does provide some great advice. Perhaps it was a novel idea for its time. However, 12 years later, I feel that I can get most of the information in the book from blogs and online magazines.
Nakazawa comes to the conclusion that the multiracial children who thrive have “parents who willingly accepted and met the challenge of carefully, thoughtfully preparing their multiracial children to grow up emotionally healthy in a world that all-too-often projects its confusion and awkward feelings about mixed-race individuals onto them.”
So maybe, I am adequate after all. I mean, I did read the book. I am trying. But that’s all angst for another post.