being BOTH

hello friends.  you are friends right?  i am hoping so because this is a hard post for me to write. i am worried about writing this post for so many reasons.  i am worried that what i say will offend people.  i am worried because this idea, like so many, is in the process of being developed.  i am nervous because any attempt at talking about race is going to fall short of perfectly dealing with the issues at hand.  so please read with grace.  and if you disagree, please tell me...with grace.  i am confident that i am often wrong, and might be here.  but this issue is close to my heart, so please, be gentle.  

i have, over the last few years, encountered many people who are a mix of black and white and seem identify as black or white.  in rwanda (where my husband is from) mixed children are often considered white. in america i find that often they are considered (or consider themselves) black.  for example barack obama has always been referred to as our first black president.  and i know that it is vastly significant that a man of color reached the white house.  it has a huge historical importance.  and it means alot.  hear me, i can appreciate that and i am not belittling it.   and i know that for the black community it had huge implications and offered so much hope.  but i can't help but think, what about his mother?  did she ever feel like she and her side of his family were being entirely overlooked?  did she think, like i am sure i would, 'what about our story?  what about our legacy?'.  do we not get to be part of your story?  

and this has always sat poorly with me, though i have only recently tried to flesh out why. and i think ultimately its because i pretty much hate the idea of my girls needing to chose which of their families or people with which to identify.  the idea seems to imply that one race is better, or one is worse, or one is more important, or perhaps less important.  i am not sure how i can teach them to be strong, confident young women if i also teach them that they have to pick which part of themselves to foster and which part to try and diminish or at least neglect. (and again, i can not identify with the feelings that many of you might feel, growing up in mixed families or being a person of color.  so again, please understand that this is me trying to wrap my head around something that is much bigger than me.)  

and maybe i am wrong.  i have never been a mixed child growing up, trying to figure out which ethnicity i am supposed to identify with.  but it seems to me that our good and perfect creator intended our daughters to be a mix of both robert and me.  it seems to me he intended them to be BOTH, not one or the other.  it seems to me there are beautiful things they can take from both their caucasian american ethnicity AND their rwandan ethnicity.  it seems to me that there are also things from each culture that are broken and corrupt.  

and i think what i feel ultimately is that the idea of choosing one springs from the idea that there must be one that is better. or perhaps that this world is too 'black and white' to be BOTH black and white.  and i guess i dont want to accept that.  i don't want to believe it. and i guess i don't have to, at least in our home.  in our home i can teach eden and etta mae that their beautiful brown is a mix of daddy and mommy.  and that their culture is a mix of all the history and culture and vibrancy that come out of each.  AND that they inherit sin from the actions of both their rwandan and caucasian american ancestors.  AND that ultimately they are born in sin in a world of sin where the beauty God created will never be seen as it should.  it will never be viewed as He views it with His perfect eyes.

so no, my daughters are not black.  and they are not white either.  they are black AND they are white.  both are important and the neglect of either one will leave them feeling less than whole.  and this means me learning about how to introduce them to elements of their rwandan heritage and the african ameircan culture that are foreign to me.  and it means me showing them that are a part of my heritage and upbringing as well.  and it means trusting that our good and perfect father can and will weave those two colors and cultures and stories beautifully together.  and that BOTH is who they are.  and that BOTH is beautiful.  



  1. i really appreciate this laura! i think the fact that you are already thinking this through in this way will be invaluable for your girls and all the conversations you will have with them in the future.

  2. Your daughters do not have to choose. I think the choosing dates back to the times in our history when biracial children were rejected by their white (usually) fathers and extended white family. So, they went where they were loved and embraced--the black side. On the flip side, some biracial children who may have been light enough to "pass" chose the white side, ultimately to ensure their survival and the survival of their children and future generations. I don't think "passing" would have been an easy decision to make, as it ultimately meant severing ties with your entire family, so as not to have your true identity exposed. Honestly, it must have been gut-wrenching. (Read "The Hemingses of Monticello" for some thoughts on that.) But, back to your point, you are right in that your girls should not feel compelled to deny any part of their heritage. There's no need for it. They are beautiful, made in God's image, and every bit of them can be celebrated.

    1. thank you for your feedback. since writing this post several friends have suggested some things for me to read to understand the origins of the practice of passing or the one drop rule. i appreciate the comments.


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