NPR logo Alison Checks In: On Being Biracial

Maternity Leave

Alison Checks In: On Being Biracial

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I once overheard a woman ask her friend, "Why does Obama identify himself as black when he is half white?" Their discussion ranged from how Barack Obama's appearance led to assumptions about him, to how choices were made for him based on his looking like a tall skinny black guy, to the way race has historically been determined this country.

My husband and I discussed all of these above as we awaited the birth of our son, Isaac. How will we make sure he feels secure about who he is? Will he be clearly identifiable as either white or black? Will I have to wear one of those "I'm not the nanny" t-shirts? Will he have a bar mitzvah?

As he gets older, Ike is looking truly bi-racial. After seeing a recent photo, a 50-something friend of mine who is Japanese and Black said he was hopeful Isaac won't have to endure the difficulties he faced as a child. My friend wrote, "This is our time. Barack. Tiger. Halle."

Considering it was only eight years ago that the U.S. Census allowed you to check more than one box for racial identity, I can't help wondering what challenges lie ahead.