My Kids Are Germishenglorean (But They’re Okay Anyway)

At a wedding

At a wedding

I’m a white dude. Well, more pinkish if we’re talking skin tone but you get the idea. German is the swarthiest blood in my veins, commingling with Irish and English – nothing below approximately latitude 48°N.  My wife is Korean-American. Now if you know anything about Korea, you’ll know that it’s in East Asia and that it’s largely racially homogenous. Yes, we’re a mixed-race couple.

I’ve never really given it much thought. We met, we fell in love, we lived together, we got married. Even early in our relationship I simply thought of my future wife as an intelligent, beautiful, perceptive and vivacious woman – the perfect woman for me, not the perfect Asian woman for me.

But oh, the tales I could tell of the discrimination we’ve suffered, how I could shock you with some of the outrageously racist comments hurled at our innocent heads. Trouble is, that’s exactly what they’d be – tales. Fictions. I would have to make them up, because there really haven’t ever been any.

I’m quite sure that there’s still a great deal of prejudice and intolerance out there, but from our own experience it would seem that interracial couples are pretty much accepted these days, and it is astonishing that as recently as 1967 interracial marriage was illegal in many US states. (Alabama repealed unenforceable anti-miscegenation laws only in 2000.)

U.S States, by the date of repeal of anti-miscegenation laws:Gray - No laws passedYellow - Before 1887Green - 1948 to 1967Red - 12 June 1967

U.S States, by the date of repeal of anti-miscegenation laws:
Gray – No laws passed
Yellow – Before 1887
Green – 1948 to 1967
Red – 12 June 1967

Even in the free-wheeling, free-loving atmosphere of America in 1968, many southern broadcasting outlets refused to air an episode of Star Trek in which white Captain Kirk kisses black Uhura (albeit under the mind control of evil aliens in togas). They were worried about offending viewers (and NBC originally insisted they shoot two versions – one with the kiss and one without – but William Shatner, who played Kirk, intentionally sabotaged all the non-kiss takes), but a letter written to NBC by a white southern male in response to the kiss reveals an air of ambiguity: “I am totally opposed to the mixing of the races. However, any time a red-blooded American boy like Captain Kirk gets a beautiful dame in his arms that looks like Uhura, he ain’t gonna fight it.”

The evolution of attitudes toward mixed-race relationships has been slow, coming in fits and starts, and it hasn’t really hasn’t been until this century that interracial marriage has become relatively commonplace in the US. Data from the 2010 census reveal that among opposite-sex married couples, roughly 10% are interracial, a 28% increase since 2000. In 2010, 18% of heterosexual unmarried couples were of different races and 21% of same-sex couples were mixed.

“We’re becoming much more of an integrated, multiracial society,” says demographer William Frey of the Brookings Institution. Not only are there more mixed-race couples, but societal acceptance of these couples has risen considerably. In 1987, a Pew Research Center study found that 48 percent of Americans agreed that it was “all right for blacks and whites to date each other;” in 2010 Pew put that number at 83 percent.

The recent study also showed that “more than four-in-ten Americans (43%) say that more people of different races marrying each other has been a change for the better in our society, while 11% say it has been a change for the worse and 44% say it has made no difference.” I consider 87% of the American public seeing interracial marriage either positively or indifferently as a fairly major victory for race relations.

Of course, hidden in those numbers are complex issues of gender roles and racial preconceptions and inequalities – not all poly-racial pairings are created equal. Many Asian parents, for example, are okay with their children marrying whites but not blacks. Twenty-four percent of black males marry outside their race, but only 9% of black women, while the reverse is true for Asian men — 17 percent are intermarried, compared to 36 percent among Asian women.

The kids, soon after G came home from hospital

The kids, soon after G came home from hospital

The issues become even more convoluted when you throw children into the mix. For us, the fact that our children would be mixed race was never a consideration, nor was it for my family. (My father, even before my wife and I were married, looked at us over breakfast one morning and said, “It’s none of my business, but you two have to have children. They’d be beautiful.”) And that’s the comment we get most about our mongrel kids, some variation of “mixed children are gorgeous.” Perhaps, but with all of these interracial marriages, there’s been a lot of press about children having difficulty “identifying” themselves with a particular race or culture.

The very handsome Keanu Reeves

The very handsome Keanu Reeves

Is Halle Berry black or white? Salma Hayek’s mother was Mexican of Spanish descent, but her father was Lebanese. What does that make her? Tiger Woods claims a mixture of African American, Chinese, Thai, Dutch and Native American descent (although if you ask me there’s got to be a smidgen of jackass in there somewhere). Then there’s Keanu Reeves, a Canadian born in Beirut whose genetic makeup is a cocktail English, Irish, Portuguese, Native Hawaiian, and Chinese. Is he Caucawaiianese? I’m pretty sure there’s no box for that on most standard forms. (Actually, on many forms these days there’s a boxed simply labeled ‘mixed.’ A straightforward solution.)

For many of these people, there has been considerable outside pressure to be one-or-the-other – to pick a side, as it were. I would argue that mixed children – and their parents – have the advantage of being able to choose aspects of their cultural and racial backgrounds that they deem important or just attractive, and ignore others. Aside from the discomfort of other people, there is no real reason to make a choice. When kids on the playground ask my children, “What are you?”, I hope they reply “My dad is white and my mom is Korean.” End of story.

Indeed, the trend seems to be toward a beneficial blurring of racial lines. Increasingly people of mixed racial heritage feel, like California lawyer Jonathan Brent, whose father was white and his mother Japanese-American, that “race is becoming a personal thing. It is what I feel like I am.” Articles with titles like ‘Time’ magazine’s “Are Mixed-Race Children Better Adjusted?” pop up on internet searches. I even read an article claiming that mixed-race children, like hybridized plants, may in fact be more physically “vigorous.” (The frequency with which my children fall ill would seem to belie this claim, but who am I to argue with purely speculative science?)

What is undeniable is the fact that the number of mixed-race kids is soaring, up in the US from approximately 500,000 in 1970 to roughly 9 million in 2010.

"It's not a traditional America anymore. The white establishment is the minority."

“It’s not a traditional America anymore. The white establishment is the minority,” says this guy.

Whack multiracial kids in with blacks, Hispanics, and Asians, and by 2020 they will represent the majority in the United States. The folks at Fox News are pooping their pants.

“The rise in interracial marriage indicates that race relations have improved over the past quarter century,” says Daniel Lichter, professor of sociology at Cornell University. “But America still has a long way to go.” Well, yes, certainly that’s true. But in this, at least, it looks like we’re moving in the right direction.

Census Bureau map of mixed-race Americans

Census Bureau map of mixed-race Americans

Are you in a mixed-race relationship, or the product of one? We’d love to hear your stories – good or bad.

16 thoughts on “My Kids Are Germishenglorean (But They’re Okay Anyway)

  1. Pingback: archived biyuti | My Kids Are Germishenglorean (But They’re Okay Anyway) | Field Notes From Fatherhood

  2. Dad was right you know!!! The boys are BEAUTIFUL and I don’t mean just outward appearances!!! Parenting is not easy, but you both are doing a tremendous job, and that is not just a biased grandmother’s opinion. Thanks for all the research Matt on mixed marriages. It was never an issue for us as Susan was loved and part of the family from day as you know! Mom

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  3. I love this blog! I live in a city that is very “hippie” and diverse and it is almost more common to see interracial couples than it is to see couples of the same race. I love that. I don’t see how anyone could see how these beautiful children from wonderfully diverse backgrounds could be a step “backwards” in our society. I grew up bi-racial (though I don’t look it), my mother’s family is German and my father’s family is Native American (still lives on the rez) and I grew up learning about each culture and how it was an integral part of my heritage and made me who I am.

    In today’s society it is absurd to put limits for whatever reason on love and family and most certainly in the name of race. There is nothing that separates us as people but ignorant thinking and small minded world views! I love my little “Native GerMexican” and wouldn’t change one thing about him to suit anyone else’s biases.

    Great post!

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    • Thanks, Amberperea! Your cultural background is really interesting, and I’m glad that your parents took the time to teach you about it. Thanks so much for your comments! Cheers.

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  4. My mother is white with flaming red hair and my father is East Indian (Dots, not feathers, as Robin Williams would say.) Most people can’t figure out what I am. When I was a kid and I’d be in the grocery store with just my mom, people used to ask my her if I was adopted–how nosy people are! That’s as bad as it ever got, and that was thirty years ago. (We do live in Southern California). I have my mother’s caucasian face with my dad’s eyes and coloring. My sister has strawberry blond hair, my mom’s face and the blue version of my dad’s eyes. We look remarkably alike in facial features, almost carbon copies if you really look–I even have a few freckles, but no one ever notices. The only notices that our genome chose different crayons to color us with. They always comment on how different we look. My brother and I share the same dark hair and “olive” skin, but for the most part he’s the spitting image of my dad, with the brown version of my mother’s eyes. Most people say we look like male and female counterparts of the same person. We don’t. When it comes to my siblings, people can’t see beyond the our color…it’s not a negative thing, just interesting.

    I married a guy that is half Macedonian and half Lebanese. I’m not sure what that makes our children other than beautiful and the best of four different worlds. We have tried to retain what we feel is the best of our distinctive cultures and traditions. These days we just call ourselves brown, eat a lot a great food, celebrate a lot of different holidays, and swear in a number of different languages. The only time I’ve ever felt any unease from people was during trip to Oregon two summers ago. We were in a small town and seemed to be the only people of any “color” in there. Even though we were driving a nice car, etc, the sheriff made it a point to introduce himself and inquired about what we were doing in town. The “townsfolk” did a great deal of gawking at us in restaurants, etc., but there was never anything overt. That’s the worst it’s ever gotten…and maybe the people were just admiring our beautiful children…

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    • You have a really interesting cultural background, and your kids have an even richer one. I love when you write, “These days we just call ourselves brown, eat a lot a great food, celebrate a lot of different holidays, and swear in a number of different languages.” I think that’s fabulous. Thanks for sharing with us!

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  5. Love how well put this is. My parents raised me pretty color blind when it came to race. They taught more of the “who a person is inside” method. But that is not to say that we ignored our culture or heritage either. My parents are Mexican born, and my siblings and I were born in the United States. We come from a big traditional mexican family. I have 27 first cousins just on my mother’s side. Of those cousins half are male and almost 90% of them are married. All my married male cousins (except for 1) married Mexican women. Of my female cousins, 70% are married and only 1 married a mexican man. The rest are either married to or in relationships with men outside their race. I have one cousin who is mexican on her fathers side and chinese on her mothers. She is currently engaged to man from Isreal. I have another mexican cousin who married a white male in a jewish catholic wedding. The wedding was held in a catholic church and presided over by a priest and rabbi. It was in 3 languages, hebrew, english and slanish. And it was a loving ceremony. The rabbi said how wondeful it was to see two cultures come together so happily. He said that this, bringing together of different people, in such a beautiful way, was real love. And I agree. We have not encountered racism or prejudice. Thankfully these mixed marriages have led to happy marriges and cute kids.

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    • 27 cousins just on your mom’s side! That’s awesome! I find it interesting that the almost all of the men married Mexican women but the women married non-Mexican men. I love the Mexican-Chinese-Israeli story, and the Mexican-Jewish-Catholic wedding. Puts me in mind of a cartoon that my kids watch – Phineas and Ferb – in which one of the characters is Isabella Garcia-Shapiro. Here’s a clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=utufTTAXQcc
      Thanks so much for sharing your stories!

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    • Thanks, kind sir. We definitely have a long, long way to go, but it’s nice to see the sharp distinctions of race soften and blur around the edges. Thanks for you comments!

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