Came across an interesting article the other day about the President’s sister, Maya (I don’t believe in that half-sister or half-brother stuff). In the piece she talks about growing up never feeling like she belonged to any group and how that bothered her.
“Wherever I was, I felt somewhat inadequate in terms of the purest expression of culture,” said Soetoro-Ng, a Hawaii-based writer, educator and half sister of President Obama. “I wished I completely belonged somewhere.”
Soetoro-Ng was expressing something that so many people, even those who say they are against inter-ethnic marriages, claim is the problem – the children grow up not having any identity at all, and don’t fit in nor or they accepted by anyone. But people who believe this are also missing the wonderful counter to this, which even Obama’s sister mentioned later in the article.
“We can do much to help our communities loosen their boundaries and begin to welcome a multitude of ways of being … to make sure that individuals of mixed race, religion or ethnicities don’t feel the need to choose one or the other but see their layers as a gift, something that adds beauty.”
I remembered the article when my wife and I were discussing our Mixed kids and we were noting that they are not actually half of my African-American culture and half her Mexican-American culture, but in reality they were altogether something new and something different, in a sense a third culture! And yet at the same time they were fully both of our cultures but in a new way.
The conversation came up because we were talking about how they would never fully embrace the Mexican cultural things my wife grew up with no matter how much she wished they would. Nor would they ever fully get or experience the African-American culture I experienced growing up. But I don’t think this is a situation or problem unique to Mixed kids. The world is changing for everybody and all the kids are experiencing culture differently than their parents. And this is not altogether bad. What our kids see, especially in a place like Southern California, is wholly unlike what we did growing up in Texas. They are us and yet they are a new culture at the same time.
So does that mean they belong to neither? I don’t think so. At least with our kids, so far they seem to be happy and comfortable around both cultures and all cultures. And indeed I do think, as Maya pointed out, their bi-cultural viewpoint makes them greater than the sum of their parts, or halves. They seem comfortable with cultures in ways we couldn’t have even taught them. So whatever they may have lost in our cultural background despite our efforts to instill them, has surely been compensated for with all that they are prepared for in this brave new world that is forming out there.