“A Father’s Day message to all dads” was published by CNN today because Mabry works for CNN and therefore knows people. It’s usually not that easy to get an opinion piece published nationally, but I have a lot to say to Marcus Mabry, so I’m glad that it is in print.
His opinion piece is about the fact that he is the father of ten-year-old “mixed” twins. He is a Black gay man and his partner is White, but that’s not really what this is about. It’s more about language than anything else. He says, “With a Black father and a White father, our boys are mixed—Black and White.” His choice of wording is “mixed,” not mine. I have two multiracial children who are now adults. They were raised to refer to themselves as “biracial” or “multiracial.”
I never liked the term “mixed.” First, it usually lends itself to newspaper headlines like “All Mixed Up” and “Mixed Nuts.” When I stopped and really thought about why mixed offends me so much, I realized that mixed is the opposite of “pure,” and do we really want to define people as pure or mixed? I don’t like the groups that are already doing that.
The nomenclature of race has quite an interesting background. Colored, Negro, Black, then African American, this group should completely understand that terminology for races changes over time. Just like mulatto morphed into mixed. The U.S. Census Bureau calls us the “Two or more races” population and will sometimes actually slip and use the term multiracial. It only took 30 years to get them to recognize that people can actually count as more than one race.
Marcus Mabry states that a Stanford University professor advised him that children should know their racial roots, and I completely agree with that, which includes all of their races, not only Black. Many multiracial children have backgrounds in Asian, Hispanic, Native American and many other cultures. They should learn about all of them.
The opinion piece also touched on having “the talk.” That’s when fathers and mothers must talk to their Black and biracial children about how to act appropriately when interacting with police officers or people who might give them trouble for any reason. When his father and I had the talk with our young son and explained why it was called “driving while Black.” He said, “I think I’ll call it “driving while multiracial.”
Marcus Mabry sounds like a good father. He wrote that “We let them decide how they wanted to racially identify themselves. They usually say their ‘mixed.’” All I ask of them is that he introduce biracial and multiracial as important options as well.
Susan Graham is president to Project RACE, the national advocacy organization for multiracial children and adults. She is the author of Born Biracial: How One Mother Took on Race in America.