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106 & Park

Taye Diggs is set to release a second children’s book, Mixed Me, to teach young biracial children how to embrace their multicultural, multi-hued identities. But before it hits shelves, it needs a few edits… from a multiracial person.

In an interview with The Grio, the actor shared that he wants his son, Walker Nathaniel Diggs, to be identified as mixed and not Black. The most troubling part of the admission is that he “fears” people will see his son as Black. With the best of intentions I’m sure, his remarks were more fixated on Walker’s outer shell, and what other people will think about his son, than instilling a sense of identity at Walker’s core.

As a millennial of mixed heritage, I learned quite early that my skin color and “otherness” would raise questions about who I am, and what I should “identify” with, throughout my life. The first major hit came in preschool, when my Latino father showed up to parent-teacher night with my African-American mother. Usually, my mom would handle picking me up from school, so my classmates – and most importantly, their parents – had never met Juan Gomez before. The night was as normal as any four-year-old’s night, as we watched Sesame Street while our parents met with teachers. All in all, pretty harmless.

The next day rocked the tectonic plates of my memory when it comes to dealing with race for the first time. I had already internalized the looks of old women when my family would go grocery shopping with me, staring and shaking their heads as my parents collected me into my car seat. Or the points and stares I’d get on the bus, and the oohs and ahhs from cousins who wanted me to be their “play daughter” because I had curly hair. But that day was different. I had established that I was different, a kind of cool reflection of my parents and their tolerant, new age love. I never thought they were at fault, simply because they made me.

My classmate, also four years old, told me, “My mother said your mother is bad.” And I asked her, “Why?”

She said, “Your mother is bad because she doesn’t like Black men.”

When I got home and explained what happened to my mom, she gathered me onto her lap. And as we sat on the couch, she looked at my dad and said, “It starts.”

From that time in a pre-school classroom in extremely liberal New York City, my parents have taught me to embrace the fullness of my culture. And more importantly, they taught me to fully embrace the cultures of others and see them as equally beautiful. My family and my friend circle is as diverse as the United Nations – and as you can imagine, Thanksgiving is bomb thanks to all of the diverse dishes we can bring to the table.

My concern – although I do see where Taye is trying to go – is the quelling of his son’s African-American heritage, just as much as his mother Idina Menzel’s Jewish heritage. They are not mutually exclusive, because Walker is whole, and every bit of his DNA pays homage to the people before him, who even made Taye and Idina possible. That’s the only part that as parents, they can control.

Truth is, Taye’s son will face more cruelty by not accepting his Blackness. In an unfortunate situation with police, he will be a Black man. No one will wait for an explanation of his biracial identity to stop the cuffs. And there will certainly be times when he will be considered “not Black enough.” The worst advice for a young multiracial person is to encourage them not to understand this, and stand strong in who they are anyway.

In The Grio sit-down, Taye also brings up President Barack Obama’s identity, who is largely seen as African-American in the public. Taye finds this problematic, but the truth is that Obama has personally identified himself as African-American. He was raised by a White mom and grandparents in Kansas, who taught him from the very start of his life to embrace his African heritage. His incredible White family raised him to embrace his biracial identity, while at the same time not downplaying his Blackness. That’s how to encourage biracial children, as he’s become one of the coolest, most tolerant leaders of the free world.

I’m African-American and Latino, not an ambiguous, watered down version of both. My grandparents have lineage in Caguas, Puerto Rico and Ibiza, Spain. In the Caribbean waters of the Bahamas, and in the Harlem speakeasies frequented by James Baldwin and Langston Hughes. That richness makes me, and without shunning any of them, I embrace them all. My only hope is that little Walker will be taught to do the same.

SOURCE: TheGrio | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty 

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