Only the White Crayon for me, thanks….

In an article in Newsweek, “Beyond Just Black and White,” Raina Kelley writes about wishing her biracial son looked black. Sound familiar? I’ve posted about it before. In a more recent NY Times article, “A Child of Two Worlds”, Nicole Sprinkle stresses in one lengthy rant that she would like her biracial child (half-Columbian/half-white) to identify as mostly white. It strikes me that while Kelley worries about being racist, Sprinkle beats stereotypes into her piece until the reader feels like a bloody pulp.

But you be the judge: is Sprinkle racist for wanting her child to identify as mostly white or is she being an over-protective mom in a dominate white society? And seriously, didn’t either of these ladies think about these issues BEFORE having kids (you know, like I’m doing).

I think you can already tell which way I’m leaning. This reminds me a friend who has his dark-skinned daughter check off white-only because he doesn’t want her playing that game. But who’s playing and who’s being played? My husband refused to even finish reading Sprinkle’s piece.

13 thoughts on “Only the White Crayon for me, thanks….

  1. Sprinkle’s wording sure is unfortunate–oh, is it unfortunate–but I can’t IMAGINE that many, many white parents of biracial children don’t have these same concerns, if you wake them up in the middle of the night and ask them when no one’s looking. She isn’t PC, but she’s honest.

    In a perfect world, she could send her kids to a neighborhood school and make sure they have a lot of learning at home to balance out some of the weaknesses of any urban public school. But, realistically, rich or poor, most parents don’t have time to create an immersive learning experience at home. She apparently doesn’t…whether it’s a lack of time, inclination, or both, I wouldn’t know.

    So, yeah, the article is pretty infuriating, but I am sure a lot of your, and my, white liberal friends who talk the white liberal talk would think exactly the same way in her shoes. Even if they couched it in nicer language.


  2. Thing is, Sprinkle never said that she even looked at the local urban school. She decided that because it had a lot of immigrants, it must be a poor school and the students must have poor English. This is stereotyping and really unnecessary.


  3. On a related note, I was an au pair for a brief, unfortunate time. Polish mother, U.S.-born father who spoke (I am told) native-caliber Polish. Part of my job was to speak English to the U.S.-born younger child, who was having a hard time adapting to kindergarten because his English just wasn’t good enough. (Like most Poles, the child was white as the day is long.) There aren’t easy answers…


  4. @Margaret: No, I agree 100%, Sprinkle is in outer space, “unnecessary” isn’t the word, BUT my point is that many, many white people think exactly this way, even if they SOUND different.


  5. I have now read both articles (I saw Raina Kelley’s a few weeks back). My opinion on this issue is that these women clearly did not think about their children prior to getting married to their husbands. In the nature of genetics we have no control over how our children our going to look, and the roll of the dice is definitely uncertain when you marry a person of another race. Case in point. I’m African-American with a bi-racial father (he’s half white) and a mother with very close Native American ancestry. My fiance is an Ashkenazi Jew with Hungarian, Russian and Irish roots. He’s very fair skinned and I’m considered “light skinned-ed” in the black community. Who knows what our children will look like. HE prefers that they’re my complexion which I highly doubt. I could care less. As long as their healthy and we teach them where they come from I’m OK.
    But the problem I see is that both of these mothers are setting up their children to forget one part of who they are because they wish their child looked like or identified with them. Perhaps I’ll understand what this feels like when I bare children one day, but the problem I see with this attitude is you’re setting your children up for even more problems and identity questions. There should be no tug of war in children identifying who they are. If anything these women will be to blame when one day their little ones wake up, look in the mirror, and realize their crisis in identity. Now that would be very unfortunate since there are enough confused bi-racial children in this world already.


  6. Sarah T,

    I’m in the same boat as you are. I’m multiracial, and given my dating proclivities, my kids will not necessarily be the most black looking in the bunch. That doesn’t bother my family, as long as I teach them about their Jewish and African-American ancestries.

    I do believe these women are going to give their kids complexes. I started wrestling with these issues a few years ago, and came out on the other side. In the end, all you can do is try to instill your kids with a sense of pride, and hope they will be a light unto the world.


  7. Then it bothered me further: white privilege is hard to recognize if you’re white. But _choosing_ to put one’s kids in a mediocre (at best) public school in order to support the system, or ensure that they’re in touch with their roots, is just about the ultimate expression of white privilege. It may very well be a good/constructive use of w.p.. But there it is.

    I don’t want to say, oh, I’m so down with the struggle, but I have worked closely with more than a few working-class or poor Latina moms in Washington Heights. A very few of them are struggling to pay Catholic school tuition, but the vast majority of them send their kids to public school because they HAVE TO. When I would, on occasion, mention that some of the Fort Wash. yuppies _choose_ to send their kids to the local schools on principle, many of these moms laugh. A valid choice, perhaps, but very much a rich (and often white) person’s choice.

    And many (not all) of us on this blog would/will send our kids to Jewish day school, just about the least populist place ever. This gives us an easy out on the public school choices, because we have “such good reasons,” I say dryly, for sending our kids to exclusionary institutions.

    To me, people like Sprinkle are the most important ones to reach. They have good intentions, but are just not seeing some major roadblocks. If their consciousness could be raised, then they could become valuable allies.


  8. Sarah, that is a very valid point. Right now, Sprinkle is part of the problem, not the situation for many of the reasons you named. I doubt she even realizes her white/class privilege when she talks about sending her children to private schools instead of those public schools filled with “immigrants.” My friend recently sad at the Shabbos table that Jewish day school tuition is becoming an effective brand of birth control.


  9. I certainly agree w/the birth control comment. I’ve lived in areas in California where when one has 7 or 8 children it must be a sign of wealth. Factor in tuition and activities some months we spend a mortgage payment worth on our girls activities and tuition.


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