I’ve noticed over the years that bloggers with transracial families often write about race on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It’s an appropriate day to do so, and the issue has been on my mind lately…
Since the girls came home, I’ve become painfully aware of the images that surround me every day and how they might affect my girls. Over Christmas, I noticed that most of the religious images we have at home — or receive on cards, or see elsewhere — depict Jesus, Mary, angels, and saints as northern Europeans. The girls began to insist that angels had straight, blonde hair “like mommy.” So we pulled up some images online from Ethiopian religious art and showed them angels with curly dark hair like theirs. It was hard to convince them, but they eventually seemed to get it.
All of my favorite catalogues that arrive by mail — such as Boden, Sundance, Garnet Hill — show white models with blonde or light brown hair, with almost no exceptions. The girls love to look through these catalogues because they love clothes and jewelry and pretty things.
Well-meaning, wonderful friends have given the girls items with white, blonde princesses on them. Even at the pediatrician’s office, while sitting in the the waiting room and then the examination room, the wall decals that surrounded us were of white princess characters. And this is a practice with Indian and Chinese physicians, with a patient population that is largely non-white: Hispanic, African American, etc.
I can see very clearly now how easy it is for my daughters to begin to internalize the idea, based on what they see, that fair skin and light-colored, straight hair is better — more desirable, more attractive.
How do I counter this? I don’t know exactly. I’m giving it a lot of thought. It doesn’t help that I, their mother — whom they think is the cat’s meow — fits the stereotype. All the more important, in my opinion, to be aware of how I can help my daughters to know that they are fabulous and beautiful the way they are.
I’m grateful we currently live in a place with diversity. One good thing about living in an East-coast city: When the girls are out, they see all kinds of people with different skin tones, facial features, and hair. Meanwhile, I’m on the hunt for a nativity set that does not depict the figures as caucasian. I’m also interested in collecting more culturally diverse art and images — and I’m considering canceling my subscriptions to most of my current magazines and viewing the products online instead. At the very least, I may look for a few magazines that feature a greater range of models. (O magazine does, for one.) We’re careful about the books, toys, and dolls we give the girls.
Whether it’s the churches we attend or the neighborhoods we move into, this issue is going to factor into our decision-making in different ways as we go along. I’m sure it will be hard to know where to find the balance, since I don’t want to create artificial environments or contrived relationships. At the same time, I want my girls to be surrounded by enough “difference” so that they can find their own place and feel okay about being in a family that looks a little different.
Image found here