I ran across a very interesting column on The Root about racial etiquette and ethics. The first installment addresses whether it’s insulting to tell a family that their biracial child is adorable and maybe even the cutest. Here’s the question and part of the explanation. (I wish I could pull more but check out the full column at the link
“I’m a Caucasian woman with a biracial child (her father is black). I live in a predominantly white community. Why is it that whenever people discover that I have a ‘mixed’ child, they always say things like, ‘Oh, he/she must be so cute/gorgeous/adorable, those kids are always the best looking. You are so lucky.’ …
“You’re right to be bothered by the remarks from the Biracial Babies Fan Club. Here’s why: These people aren’t pulling an arbitrary appreciation for almond-colored skin and curls from the ether. Instead — even if they are not aware of this — they’re both reflecting and perpetuating troubling beliefs that are bigger than their individual tastes. Specifically, while “mixed kids are the cutest” is evenhanded on its face, treating both black and white (and all other ethnic groups) as inferior to your daughter, I hear it as anti-black.”
“As Marcia Dawkins, the author of Clearly Invisible: Racial Passing and the Color of Cultural Identity, told me, “The myth that mixed-race offspring are somehow better than nonmixed offspring is an example of ‘hybrid vigor,’ an evolutionary theory which states that the progeny of diverse varieties within a species tend to exhibit better physical and psychological characteristics than either one or both of the parents.”
“And just take a wild guess how this idea has popped up for black people. You got it: In order to demean and oppress African Americans, thought leaders throughout history, including the likes of Thomas Jefferson, have said that black-white mixed offspring are better, more attractive, smarter, etc., than “real” blacks and not as good or attractive or smart as “real” whites, Dawkins explains.”
I would never have thought about this in this way. I don’t feel like I am insulting the parents’ race to say the mixed-race child is beautiful.
As a mother of biracial children (My husband is Asian and I am white.), I am never offended when someone comments on their skin-tone or mixed features. I have many friends with mixed-race kids and have never heard anyone object or take offense to someone saying their kids are lovely.
I do think I would be much more conscious of giving that type of compliment now.
What do you think? Does this objection surprise you? Have you ever heard anyone object to this type of compliment?
Are you a parent to mixed child? Do those types of compliments bother you?
Would you be less likely to offer that type of compliment after reading this explanation?