Mixed-race step-families


by Rumbold
22nd August, 2009 at 12:21 pm    

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown has a thought-provoking article on the difficulties of racial identity that some feel when in a mixed-race step-family, and the racism experienced from all sides:

“Back in 1988, my Ugandan Asian husband unexpectedly went off with a young blonde, and her blondness made the betrayal all the harder to bear. It felt as if he was rejecting our cultural and inherited DNA. Our son was only 10 and still in shock when a blue-eyed Englishman came into my own life – came, in effect, to stay. Suddenly race didn’t matter. How self-serving we humans are. I was, at the time, a race-equality warrior of the GLC sort and my comrades were unforgiving. The personal had to be the political. “How you let your boy be raised by the enemy, eh? What you teachin’ him bout his self,” asked an Afro-Caribbean activist.”…

As racial self-identification becomes more important to a child – one way of expressing feelings of loss of the “real” parent perhaps – there can be a period of self-imposed distance from the step-parent even if that relationship has been sound and nurturing.


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Filed in: British Identity,Culture,EDL






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  1. Joseph Edwards

    RT @pickledpolitics New blog post: Mixed-race step-families http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/5615


  2. pickles

    New blog post: Mixed-race step-families http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/5615




  1. Hantsboy — on 22nd August, 2009 at 12:45 pm  

    As racial self-identification becomes more important to a child

    Yes

    Something we at BNP Central understand all too well.

  2. Dalbir — on 22nd August, 2009 at 1:07 pm  

    Yes

    Something we at BNP Central understand all too well.

    Only if you confuse this with rabid hatred of others.

  3. Sunny — on 22nd August, 2009 at 1:30 pm  

    Nice one Rumbold – I saw that earlier and was going to post it too. Agree, it’s quite a thought provoking article

  4. Dalbir — on 22nd August, 2009 at 1:31 pm  

    Yesterday I had a meal with some family members that included two mixed race nephews. One a teenager another just turned 10.

    They both seemed happy and we are confident enough amongst ourselves to broach the issue of identity with the older one.

    I think a problem oocurs when mixed families try to totally ignore differences, usually out of some misdirected notion of political correctness. I’ve often noticed that some English people are extremely uncomfortable about talking about race/culture to the point that an act ensues where we almost pretend that no such things exist or are important. This has the consequence of negating a whole part of a child’s identity. Openess and honesty are always a better option than this.

    I know from my own somewhat turbulent childhood that what really gets through to a child is consistent warmth, support and explanation. Mixed race families must be careful not to try and stifle the child and forever tiptoe around the issue. I see this frequently when some mixed race couples try and raise their children exactly like a white child. This is essentially denying them a part of their heritage. Such highly Anglicised children sometimes end up living in a strange denial. Their identity is delicately constructed and sometimes they avoid excessive contact with the suppressed culture to avoid dissonance. This isn’t psycologically healthy.

    I am not sure of the internal mechanics of identity formation. However I do know that parental divorce can be quite traumatic to children in itself. I can imagine having to adopt a person who is clearly different to you as a parent on top of this would be very difficult for some. Parents in such positions should (in my opinion) gently facilitate exposure to the child’s full heritage. Which may not be an easy journey.

    Ultimately, the child (possibly when grown) will make a decision regarding self identification. People should concentrate on providing them with the full range of knowledge to do this in a positive, informed fashion.

  5. Shatterface — on 22nd August, 2009 at 1:31 pm  

    ‘– there can be a period of self-imposed distance from the step-parent even if that relationship has been sound and nurturing.’

    That’s called ‘being a teenager’.

    It’s hardly exclusive to mixed adoptions.

  6. Shatterface — on 22nd August, 2009 at 1:43 pm  

    ‘Their identity is delicately constructed and sometimes they avoid excessive contact with the suppressed culture to avoid dissonance. This isn’t psycologically healthy’

    Unless you think culture is inherited through DNA, that’s gibberish. There isn’t a gene predisposing children to reggae reggae sauce, and if there is, I have serious questions to ask my parents.

    We’ve got Laurie Pennie arguing sex is domething you can pick and chose over on LibCon and here we have people arguing culture is innate and immutable.

    You guys want to have a chat with each other.

  7. Dalbir — on 22nd August, 2009 at 2:05 pm  

    and here we have people arguing culture is innate and immutable.

    And who is doing this? I hope you are not implying I am. Did you read this bit or did it escape you?

    “Ultimately, the child (possibly when grown) will make a decision regarding self identification. People should concentrate on providing them with the full range of knowledge to do this in a positive, informed fashion.”

    A person’s culture (in my opinion) is usually heavily influenced by osmosis but also through active self definition, which could reject parts or all of what was gained through the osmosis. So deciding what culture(s) you belong to (or not) involves conscious and subconscious elements.

  8. Shatterface — on 22nd August, 2009 at 2:32 pm  

    You’ve argued that the child’s culture is ‘supressed’: how can this be if the child is not brought up in that culture?

    If culture comes through socialisation – what you call ‘osmosis’ – and the child is raised outside their parents culture, then they are not part of their parents’s culture. There is nothing to suppress.

    If I had been raised by French adoptive parents and had no contact with English people, I’d be French: I wouldn’t be a ‘supressed’ English man.

    The only difference here is that the original article is based on the experience of kids with a different colour skin than their adoptive parents – but surely ‘culture’ is not defined by skin tone?

  9. Dalbir — on 22nd August, 2009 at 3:06 pm  

    You’ve argued that the child’s culture is ’supressed’: how can this be if the child is not brought up in that culture? If culture comes through socialisation – what you call ‘osmosis’ – and the child is raised outside their parents culture, then they are not part of their parents’s culture. There is nothing to suppress.

    You are totally denying the importance placed by many on what is commonly referred to as their “roots” here. Acting like people do not frequently identify with the biological or even historical aspects of these roots is foolish. Some don’t, many do. Just because BNP type morons do this in the most negative way imaginable doesn’t detract from this.

    The only difference here is that the original article is based on the experience of kids with a different colour skin than their adoptive parents – but surely ‘culture’ is not defined by skin tone?

    Culture itself is a complex mosaic, difficult to define at times. Colour can play some part in the subjective experience of belonging to a particular culture. To act as if, for example, an asian child adopted by a white family in predominatly white town at a young age, will never experience anything dissimilar to the majority of children around them is naive. Even if they did, to negate the fact that they have links to other cultures/communities biologically or historically is plain denial. This can easily send the subtle message that there is something undesirable to avoid from those communities.

    People positively exploring their “roots” often find the experience rich and rewarding. This shouldn’t be denied to anyone. Just because some idiots turn this into an ego fueling exercise leading to feelings of innate superiority over others, doesn’t mean we should should all avoid this.

  10. douglas clark — on 22nd August, 2009 at 3:20 pm  

    Dalbir,

    Is that not, more or less, what Barack Obama did?

    Didn’t seem to do him any harm. I could imagine Shatterface coming back to England when he was eighteen or nineteen and getting down on his knees and thanking God that these nice French people had adopted him ;-)

  11. Dalbir — on 22nd August, 2009 at 3:31 pm  

    Douglas

    I haven’t read any of Obama’s autobiographical pieces but I wouldn’t be surprised if he did that.

    An interest in and identification with your roots doesn’t automatically lead to people becoming areseholes such as the BNP. It all depends on how you interpret what you encounter.

    The journey doesn’t entail blindly accepting all you encounter without a critical eye. Ultimately the aim is to find a positive self identity, which may well involve learning from mistakes of the past and acting in a way that counters them. This is so simple I find it difficult to understand that people cannot grasp this? Or maybe it is me being simple?

  12. douglas clark — on 22nd August, 2009 at 3:51 pm  

    Dalbir,

    No, I agree with you.

    I think what Shatterface is saying, and he’ll correct me if I am wrong, is that in a Nature / Nurture debate most of the evidence seems to stack up for the nurture side of the arguement. And, on the basis of other things being equal, I’d agree with that. But I do think that would be harder to accept as a conclusive arguement where the child were not the offspring of one or both of the parents. There is always the possibility of that question mark in ones mind, and investigating ones roots, perhaps changing along the way, should be seen as a useful journey.

  13. damon — on 22nd August, 2009 at 9:41 pm  

    …when in a mixed-race step-family, and the racism experienced from all sides:

    Can I just ask where all this racism is coming from please?
    I live in London and understand that things might be different in places like Burnley

    But I was just at a football match (Crystal Palace v Newcastle) and saw that there were many (several) Newccastle supporters, who had travelled hundreds of miles to the match, that seemed to be of mixed race.
    No one batted an eyelid.

    Can we stop going on about how racist white people are?

    I like Yasmin AB. And remember how she said, that back in Uganda where she grew up, her Asian community was very racist toward black Africans.

    I don’t believe that mixed race British people are getting it in the neck.
    I think that talk like this is being made up.
    My niece goes to a high school in Lambeth in South London and there’s no way that mixed race students there get picked on because of their mixed heritage.

    The sdudents there wouldn’t tolerate racism.

  14. Sunny — on 22nd August, 2009 at 10:28 pm  

    I agree with damon in that while they may have some issues with cultural identity (who doesn’t?) but they’re unlikely to face more racism as damon says.

  15. MixTogether — on 23rd August, 2009 at 2:15 am  

    I agree with Sunny and Damon.

    YAB is a has-been, still living off her glory days as part of the nutter GLC clique she tries to disparage in her article.

    What gets me is that nobody bats an eyelid about her Carribean colleague describing white people (specifically YAB’s own husband) as ‘the enemy’. That attitude still persists in some places, and it tells me all I need to know about that clique and their ideology.

    They have contributed more than their fair share to the problems faced by mixed race couples and children today.

  16. halima — on 23rd August, 2009 at 9:37 am  

    Interesting article from Yasmin AB. Interesting, not for the politics but because it’s quite honest and quite brave to put yourself out there and discuss feelings towards your divorced husband and his new partner.

    I thought maybe the difficulties of growing up and trying to deal with step-parents was under-played, at the expense of being ‘different’. It’s hard being in anything other than a two-parent family these days. Period. In my limited experience, step parents tend to be quite supportive and open-minded, having taken the decision to be involved with someone who has children from a previous relationship. But that doesn’t seem to be the experience presented in films and books where step parents are the imposters in a tight-knit family.

    I also thought it was nice she achnowledges along the way the personal being the political .. however we look at it, this old feminist slogan always made sense to me.

    And yeah, I thought it was archaic to refer to people in such essentialist ways, ‘white people .. being .. the enemy..’Sorry, archaic is wrong, the description is just plain rude.

  17. Dalbir — on 23rd August, 2009 at 2:02 pm  

    They have contributed more than their fair share to the problems faced by mixed race couples and children today.

    In which way?

  18. MaidMarian — on 23rd August, 2009 at 4:09 pm  

    I wonder what YAB would think of families where one person is ‘white British’ and the other person is ‘white other.’ I have nagging suspicion that she would reganrd them as relatively less important.

    Just a personal thing, but if the race relations industry has failed any group of people over the past 12 years it is white immigrants.

  19. Dalbir — on 23rd August, 2009 at 7:20 pm  

    This bit made me laugh.

    My son and I are third-world rowdy, open and fiery – how that scared the gentle Colin, brought up in a home where polite English discourse prevailed and high drama was only allowed on telly.

    The repressed versus the unstable.

  20. halima — on 27th August, 2009 at 6:14 am  

    Third world, rowdy and fiery?

    Colin just sounds like he comes from a posh white family. I know plenty of white friends and families who have rowdy rows – open and fiery. Right on Bethnal Green Road, most evenings. Like the South Asian families on the street next door on Bethnal Green Road (for those not familiar with London geography, this is taken to exemplify typical inner city high street).

    And don’t we all get told Italians are loud, full of drama and epic battles going on in the family. Much like Bollywood families. Again a sweeping stereotype as stereotypes go…

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