Parenting Biracial Children:
Issues for Black/White Biracial Child- Rearing
Frank A. Jones & Gibbs Staff
Raising a biracial son who is Black and White can be difficult for some parents and the child; it can be even more difficult for a single White female raising a Black son alone.
There are many concerns that all parents should have as they raise their children, especially Black male children. This is because of the rigors the Black male will have to face in his life, and the influences that will pull on him.
After administering two treatment centers for delinquent males, and having worked closely with Black, White, Hispanic, and biracial children, I think I may know some of the difficulties of parenting these young men. In spite of the psychologists, social workers, staff, sophisticated tests, etc., what we were doing most of all in those treatment centers was providing parental guidance to children who had not received much of that.
One day we had to move a biracial youth from our Fairfield facility, predominately White, to our Oakland facility, predominantly Black. The youth was terrified to go to Oakland. He kept saying, "I can't go to Oakland, Frank; look at me, I can't go there. I won't fit in." He was a biracial youth.
More was going on inside of him than being biracial; he was afraid of other Black males. But unless someone would have told us this child was biracial, we would not have noticed it in his looks--he looked like a million other brown-skinned Blacks in our society who think nothing of their complexion, other than knowing they are brown-skinned. This child, however, had something placed in him that made him feel he was different from other Blacks, and that something is a problem in raising Black, biracial children.
For years, Blacks and Whites have had sexual liaisons, whether legal or illegal, and those liaisons have bred biracial children--the Black descendants of Thomas Jefferson in the news represent just one famous case among many long-standing liaisons. Consequently, And as a result, Blacks have accepted anyone as Black who claims to be Black. That is part of the reason for the vast diversity of hues among those who are considered African Americans.
The term biracial is new, but the type of child is not new among Blacks. The new aspect of biracial children is that they are being raised by their White parents, whereas in a past, especially in the south, they would have been aborted or put up for adoption.
The problem today is that White parents are raising their Black offspring using White paradigms of parenting, which are often antithetical to Black manhood, and when embedded in Black children, that paradigm, with all its assumptions of White Privilege usually not experienced by people of non-white hue, may cause them to behave as the young biracial ward of my center behaved when told that he would be moved to Oakland: he saw himself as different and the other Black males (without biracial parenting or lineage) as dangerous and threatening. When this notion is put into a children, it alienates them from the Black part of their heritage and harms their socialization.
A child needs more than love to be raised successfully. The idea that, "I just want to give my child love," is nice, but it is an insufficient parenting methodology. Children need more than love because that which is defined as love is usually not love at all, but affection and often parent ego-gratification. Black children need guidance, discipline, self perception, and a survival perspective to function in this society. A white person can deny the presence of White Privilege and other forms of white discrimination, but when parenting a biracial child, reality dispenses with those imaginations and failures to seek reality--their eyes become open to the fuller spectrum of American society.
Children at a very young age tend to love unconditionally; they show affection and demonstrate no criticism of their parents. That behavior changes when they enter their teens and other influences begin to enter their lives. It is at this period that they need guidance more than ever. That guidance must be stout and sure to navigate them through the confusing influences of peers who have great influence on them, but no greater knowledge than they.*
This period is where true love, tough love, is needed and where the definition of love confronts a parent. There is less need for affection, and more need for insightful, careful parenting. This is not a time to be friends to your children; that period has passed. They need the benefits of your greater knowledge of life, its pitfalls, and how to prepare for a productive adult life.** This is a more taxing demand of parenting because children will pose new and more demanding questions.
For the biracial child being guided by White parents, whether male or female, the parenting process of guidance about life starts much earlier than at the teenage period. The male child in our treatment center had a notion placed within him at a very early age by his White mother, and she was probably unaware of her placing it in him; the notion of White Privilege--certain rights the child has that exist for him by virtue of his being White in America. Again, I repeat for emphasis, if a white American has not understood white privilege, try parenting a Black male child and watch that child grow up in this society. No amount of the traditional White rationalization will obscure the ubiquity of White Privilege not experienced by that Black biracial child.***
White privilege in the head of a Black male is not a part of Black consciousness and is not placed in a Black child by Black parents. White parents raising Black or their own biracial children raise them from a perspective that is not Black but White. They see their biracial children as White and assume that they will have all of the bias privileges and experiences that Whites confer upon each other, but deny to nonwhites. Understandably, they don't want their children to suffer the pains of discrimination, low self-esteem, and the lack of privileges that most Blacks experience in this nation. No parent wants that for his/her child.
The White parent's desire is laudable, and it is the desire of every parent; it's a universal concept of parenting and love. But the problem is, many White parents of biracial children do not see what this society has done to Black children, especially Black males, and what it continues to do. The White parents of biracial children see their children as their White offspring; the outside world sees them only as Black kids with light skin; so the system that Whites have perfected to disadvantage Blacks and privilege themselves will be at work on these biracial children in spite of how their parents see them. And if these children have not learned to handle the systems of aggression that have been set up against the Black male, they will be made to confront it brutishly by the still predominately white police departments.**** And that system may throw them into disarray, depression, and even death.
Even today, White police in many instances "see a wallet as a gun in the hands of a Black male." This is the culture for many, a culture that even finds its way into some Black and Asian police, as the recent incident of Asian police brutality of a Black retired college counselor in San Mateo County indicates. This is a problem that White parents must grapple with in raising their biracial sons.
A parent can only protect a child when that child is in his/her house and under that house's tutelage. Once that child is outside of that house, he/she is prey to the world's contortions, and that child needs to be prepared to function wisely--he needs to be able to, as Gwendolyn Brooks wrote, "Go down the street." And it is not only the role, but also the obligation of parents to prepare their children for the world they must live in, not for a world they want to exist or that exists for them.
White parents cannot help their children by infusing them with the idea of White Privilege; other Whites do not respect it because they see these children as Black. Therefore, the White parent raising a biracial child, one who is Black/White, or the nonwhite parent raising a child who is Black/any-other-race should understand that Blacks normally dominate the color gene pool so that the child is perceptibly Black and not White. This is usually true with other races as well. And since this is true, the child should be raised as a Black child. Yes, he should respect all of his parentage, but as concerning his worldview, for that child to be successful, he needs to be raised to see himself as Black and have a Black perspective.
Do not misconstrue what a Black perspective or Black culture is; it is not what is shown on rap videos and classic Black stereo White media--those videos and media usually project the 27% underclass of Blacks, not the 73% of Blacks who are doing well and have no sense of the gansta rap mentality. Somehow, to the American mass, hideous stereotypes and caricatures of Blacks have greater fluency than real (the majority) Black life. A biracial child's perception of Black life and Black people should not be confused with the warped stereotypes most Americans have taken from inner city and poor Black youths and placed on the majority of Blacks.
To suggest that a biracial child should be raised Black is to say that the child must be pushed to excel to the potential that is peculiar to Black people both here in America and before here in America. He must understand that no White Privileges will go to him; everything that he gets will be worked for, and his work will be harder than his White counterpart (Ain't no angel gonna greet him.... (Philadelphia--the movie's theme song)); many of the things he rightly deserves will not come to him; he will face struggle--it is his way of the world; he must prepare himself in school to excel in life; he must persevere in this American life; he must understand that those Blacks who stand atop their fields are not there because anyone gave them a chance--they made their chances, and so must he; he must be made to understand that in spite of unjust weights against him, nothing is beyond his reach because he is from a line of those who have risen above those weights and other shackles that bind--it is a part of his long, Black history. This is the value that a biracial child must have, and his parents must give to him.
If a biracial child (Black/White/other) is not equipped with this worldview, he is crippled by his loving parents; it takes this stout worldview for a Black man in America to achieve to his potential. And potential is nothing unless it is achieved. And if this child fails to achieve, those who deplore mixed marriages or liaisons will tout the child's failure as evidence of the failure of these types of relations. And Blacks, on the other hand, may well accuse the White parent of being derelict in parenting the child because the child is Black child. This is the rock and hard place the White parent has in parenting the biracial child!
The parent must become a guiding parent who forces, pushes, pulls, and demands this/her child to achieve in a specific area. You decide early on what his future profession will be and help him decide on it as a worthy future profession. Do not talk options; instill specific values from the time his understanding awakens. Options come after he has achieved the lofty goals and he is a man with a profession and brilliance worthy of his potential. We have no shortage of hairdressers, barbers, or basketball players--we always need more doctors, engineers, lawyers/judges, scientists, etc. Place him in courses that prepare him for these fields in college. Make him know that college is a given, not an option; he is not to even think about a life without a good college education; such a reality does not exist for him.
He can find himself later; he can have fun later, he can hang out with his friends later, and all the confused chatter and rationalizations of non-achievement coming from the non-achievers to justify their non-achievements should be summarily and absolutely discarded. No rationale for being less than his potential-realized should be allowed. If he hates you for it now, that is the pain of parenting. Once his eyes have become open, he will love you for it. But now, you cannot allow yourself to be as blind as he is. You are the parent, he is the child, your eyes are open, and you love him too much to allow temporal gratifications to harm his significant well-being. He must prepare himself now to take his place as he honors you and his total parentage and history. Anything less than this in parenting demonstrates that you hate your child rather than love him.
Finally, one youth who had been at a number of treatment centers before coming to one of those I administered once told of a facility he was in; he said that at that facility the children could do anything they wanted to do. He thought for a moment, then said, "They didn't love us, did they?" His eyes had become open as he had matured, and he reviled his former caretakers for their failure to love their wards in a significant way.
The staff at that particular harmful facility wanted to be liked and seen as "hip" by the boys, but once a child's eyes are open, he sees the harm that has been done to him in the name of love, and he will be uncritical no longer--the harmful parent will be reviled for not adequately loving him. My use of the term love has nothing to do with being affectionate; instead, it has to do with a child's significant well-being.
I assured the ward that his reasoning was solid: that facility didn't love him. But since we loved the children in our facility, they would not be allowed any such foolish gratifications to harm their significant well-being. This is what parents do--White parents, Black parents, any true parents will not allow their children to fail. They will sacrifice the affection-standing they have with their children to insure those children's significant well-being.
A Black child, whether 100% Black or partially Black, has a rich and proud history from which to draw. There is a cloud of Black witnesses who have gone before him and who stand proudly today to lead the way for him.
Parents, it is not enough to give a child love, unless one understands what love is. Biracial children must be raised with special care because of the nature of this duplicitous society. 
**Yes, preparation for an adult life must start early, especially the educational aspect. Education is not only the route learning of basics but also the conceptual aspect that education is essential to their mature and adulthood.
***In short, White Privilege is a form of bias given to Whites and not given to others. It is a favoritism that extends preferential treatments, consideration, assumptions, breaks, privileges, etc., to whites only by virtue of being white-skinned. Of course, this practice makes no sense, other than the American sense of things. See further discussion of White Privilege in Gibbs and on the web.
****Martin Luther King, Jr., stated that systems of aggression have been set up against Black people. He was correct and those systems remain to this day.