White Mothers, Black Sons

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Kelley Ellsworth with her husband and four children.

Kelley Ellsworth with her husband and four children. Photo courtesy of Kelley Ellsworth hide caption

toggle caption Photo courtesy of Kelley Ellsworth

First, thanks to those of you who are already playing the name game. In last week's post, I invited our listeners to help us pick a name for the program. We had a slow start — I admit I was beset with the same insecurity I experienced right before my wedding ("What if nobody comes? Waaah.") But of course, you did not disappoint. Suggestions are rolling in and we love reading them. We especially love the spirit behind them. Keep playing!

And in another shout-out to listeners: This week's feature actually originated as a listener comment in response to one of our first podcasts. Before Christmas we did a program introducing a segment we plan to offer regularly: the Mocha Moms. They are a nationwide support group of primarily African-American women who consider themselves stay-at-home moms (an elastic term at best — one of them is a state legislator, for heaven's sake). But we think their common sense approach to parenting issues offers something for everybody. In response to our feature on making Christmas culturally relevant, we got a posting from a woman who described herself as a white mother who is part of a multiracial family. She had a number of thoughtful questions she wished she could discuss with the Moms.

That got us thinking about the particular challenges of white mothers raising biracial or multicultural children and so we organized today's program around that theme. We invited three white mothers (white Mochas! Just like at Starbucks!) raising biracial or African-American children who came to them either by adoption or biologically. We started out by focusing on sons just because the whole white woman/black man relationship is so fraught in our history — and, let's face it — the story about Madonna's decision to adopt was everywhere. But as you will hear, the conversation roamed far beyond that. And we invited one of our regular panelists, Jolene Ivey, a co-founder of Mocha Moms, to offer her take on what seemed unique to the multicultural family and what was just, well, family.

After we finished the taping, one of the Moms said, "I wonder how the kids would answer some of these questions?" Good question!

So we invited Rebecca Walker, one of the most thoughtful young writers on issues of race and identity, to talk to us about some of these questions. She is the author of the memoir Black, White and Jewish. Her mother, Alice Walker, also an author, is African-American and her father is white and Jewish. She also wrote the introduction to a new anthology of short fiction on the multiracial experience called Mixed.

We had also planned to talk with the editor of the anthology, Chandra Prasad, about her selections as well as her own experiences as a multiracial American, but she had the nerve to go into labor right before out interview! (We trust that all went well and we wish her and the new baby all the best!)

We love how you helped us brainstorm even though you weren't in the room with us. I've asked this before, but if you haven't weighed in, I'll ask it again: Would you have appreciated an opportunity to participate in this conversation somehow? Why or why not? And if yes, how? Would you like to have been able to call, or if we had posted the topic in advance, would you have e-mailed questions or comments? How about a post broadcast conversation? Would you find it interesting to have a Web chat with our guests after the fact? Finally, would you have liked to have heard from an "expert" — a psychologist or someone like that — to talk about the issues we discussed in the broadcast?

No need to answer all these questions unless you want to. You can pick just the ones that interest you. And thanks again.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

I am a bit reluctant to make any suggestions because I have yet to really understand what the show is about -- but what came to mind with what I have read so far was "Buffet" or some add on like "Rag and Bone Buffet" -- I am a music fan, obviously, but also like the idea of something where you take what you like and leave the rest. aloha JP

Sent by Jenny | 7:08 PM | 1-31-2007

I am an Indian-American woman married to a Scandinavian-German American man with 2 children who look nothing like me. Many assume that I am my childrens' nanny, or neighbor, or au pair. I try to brush it off, but quite frankly it is painful. When a white woman has children who are dissimilar in appearance, the assumption is that they are adopted, but when a darker skinned woman is with lighter skinned children , we are assumed to be the babysitter. There is a double standard.

Sent by Parul | 7:34 PM | 1-31-2007

What wonderful conversations to sit in on. I do hope that you will make the Mocha Moms a regular segment.

Sent by Taryne | 8:18 PM | 1-31-2007

Dear Michel, the name of your show is awesome and the motto "Nothing is assumed" is great! I appreciate the subject of your show on "Mocha Moms." I believe discussion on American multiethnicism is certainly appropriate at this time. I find the "American experience" in multiethnic families especially intriguing as identity in America is becoming less identifiable. I'm half Japanese, half w/White. Being "half" or "hapa" or "mixed" is always an adventure.

Sent by Victoria Kraus | 8:19 PM | 1-31-2007

I'm a mutt kid, so quite interested in this topic, however I didn't like the sound or feel of this show.

First off, the entire round table discussion didn't hold well for this sort of subject because you could hear people holding back the words they intended to say, but didn't want to sound (not sure the word). Anyways, the talk didn't sound genuine at all.

It also felt very academic, and didn't cut at the emotional part of the conversation at all.

Also, this story only pulled from the mothers side of the story, about their children, but never talked to the children. Few things are misquoted as bad a children, especially by their parents.

Again, I really would love to hear about the topic of mixed families, but I want to hear it from all sides of the story. I want to hear the kids problems growing up and how it corresponds with the parents idea of what is going on. Forget the live interviews. Give me something nicely edited and in depth.

Umm so yeah... first time commenter, long time listener. Ja ne!

Sent by Tri | 8:25 PM | 1-31-2007

I really don't understand why a child with one black parent and one white parent is automatically called a black child. Am I missing something? Does the black parent somehow contribute more genes than the white parent? Is the child 75% black and only 25% white? No. I think it's 50/50. So why black?
I sincerely hope our country can get to the point where race is no longer questioned or commented about. I hate it! Look at me for who I am on the inside--brains, personality and heart--and, for crying out loud, FORGET ABOUT MY SKIN COLOR!

Sent by Shannon Breland | 8:27 PM | 1-31-2007

Lise Funderberg wrote a book years ago called 'Black, White, Other' documenting her life experience as being of multiple races. I found it helpful (long before they had a term like Mocha Mom) when bringing up my son.
She would be a wonderful addition to the dialogue. She lives in Phila and wrote an article on our neighborhood in one of last year's O magazines. Mt. Airy is a long integrated "mocha' neighborhood........a good source of information on living in peace with others.

Sent by Penelope | 8:31 PM | 1-31-2007

Yes, I would have loved to weigh in. How did I miss it? Among many other things, I am a mother, and am therefore very passionate about any issue that pertains to this topic.

Clearly, "Rough Cuts" is not just about mothers, but about issues/topics that you don't see on the mainstream TV/radio stations (Thank God.)

What draws me to NPR is the coverage on a multitude of topics that I cannot receive on any other network or station.

So, please continue this new venture under whatever name it may eventually have.

Sent by Valerie | 8:36 PM | 1-31-2007

I am listening right now about the mother who trains her sons how to act around the police. That's a talking point that perhaps deserved more time. While the mother does not think that the police are bigoted blokes & gals, is there anything that she can do to train the police officers?

By the way, I enjoy how the segment focuses on how people are having diverse experiences. The focus is on the experiences, not attributes of the people.

Sent by Steve Petersen | 8:49 PM | 1-31-2007

I am a white American man living in Brazil and married to an Afro-Brazilian woman, raising a stepson and our biological son. Being able to enjoy NPR over the internet has been a wonderful experience for me, and allowed me to tap back into my own culture in a way I hadn't been able to previously. Race relations here in Brazil are quite different than they are in the US, and I have been struggling with many of the issues brought up in the program although often in a slightly different way- partly because I am a man, partly because I am living in a different culture, partly because I'm still quite new to the whole experience (I've lived here four years). However, I thoroughly enjoyed the segments and was motivated to sign up for the podcast.

Sent by Mark | 8:52 PM | 1-31-2007

"What's it like to be a child of a parent you look nothing like?" Who says because their skin color is different they don't look like the moms? "You look nothing like"...this is so racist, true racism! What about facial features, eyes, face shape, lip shapes, eye shapes, cheeks, etc.?? These photos aren't very big to really see details, but these kids sure look beautiful like their mom and dad and have features of both!!!!
Skin color isn't everything! Is it?

Sent by Suzanne R. | 8:57 PM | 1-31-2007

Wow. What a moving show. Brave and loving mothers. Years ago my husband and I wanted to adopt. . .we had no self-imposed limits. We live in a very rural area; they wouldn't allow us to adopta bi-racial child. They said it wasn't in the best interest of bi-racial children. I hope that has changed by now. How else will this world turn to it's rightful color--beige!

Sent by M. Christensen | 9:08 PM | 1-31-2007

I'm interested to see if the show will comment on white fathers, black daughters or make reference to white males fathering children they look nothing like.

Sent by Sheriece Matias | 9:43 PM | 1-31-2007

What a wonderful topic to embark upon. What speaks to me is the need to start highlighting all of these many shades of color in the United States. I am an Iranian-Hispanic woman married to an American Japanese-Scandinavian man. We often get asked about our children and ourselves.
I can't tell you how happy both my husband and I were when we were finally able to fill out what our ethnic/race backgrounds are in the last census.
We are a family that either fits in completely or conversely, we don't fit in at all.
There's nothing inbetween for our very inbetween family.

Sent by Andrea | 12:15 AM | 2-1-2007

This was so good. Such wonderful insights. I must admit to being shocked at what Jolene Ivey said she has taught her sons on how to act around the police. So many things you don't realize if you don't experience them firsthand. I, too, hope you will make Mocha Moms a regular segment.

Sent by Mary Frances | 5:55 AM | 2-1-2007

I am a European-American woman married to a Chinese-American man. Our children look mostly like him and it took me awhile to realize not every mom at the pediatrician's office was asked "Are you the natural mother?" As they get older, I wonder what my daughters will think of our different appearances and how we will communicate about their experiences related to race and ethnicity.

Sent by Tracy | 6:25 AM | 2-1-2007

I have been subscribing to roughcuts for about a month now and I have downloaded some of the previous shows. I was excited about the promises for something "different" serving "my needs". Instead I find the show centering around 2 main issues: women's and black issues. I do enjoy those topics, however when it is the same kind of issue everyweek, I find myself losing interest in your show. I don't think it can claim to be "different" when it is the same issues everyweek. You've lost one listener.

Sent by J. T. | 8:06 AM | 2-1-2007

This was a fascinating conversation for me, but not one I could take part in. My wife and I have been thinking for several years about adopting a child (likely of another race). This was a great insight into the difficulties I may face.

While originally this was to focus on the "white mom/black son" relationship, I'm glad it expanding to be mixed race families in general.

I don't think an "expert" is necessary for this type of story. When it comes to societial challenges, people who actually experience difficulty usually have more intersting things to say than "an expert". It is different then it comes to discussions about science or health (like the HPV show), when an "ordinary person" would only have a layman's knowledge of the subject.

As for "calling in", I never really liked call in radio and tv shows. They easily morph into shouting matches. It's much more interesting to just hear conversations like the ones in this past episode.

One thing to consider is the difficulties of other types of mixed families. What are the difficulties that a Christian and Jew see whn raising children? What about an atheist and a theist? In Ireland, especially in the 60's, a Protestant marrying a Catholic would even be considered a fixed family. Obviously race is the most apparent type of mixture, but there are others to consider.

Sent by Scott K | 9:11 AM | 2-1-2007

It was an interesting show. My only comment/isssue is the woman's response to the problem with police officers. I find it appalling that she finds it acceptable that black males are targetd by police officer. i find her stance problematic bc it seems her attitude is as long as it is not my child its okay, afterall the police didnt mean to do it or accidents do happen.

Sent by mg | 10:22 AM | 2-1-2007

I work and only get to hear this program occassionally. I found the segment on white women raising black sons very interesting. I am white of Scots/Irish and German descent. In 1960 I married a Lebanese student at OSU. His family was still in the old country. We had two sons. Like the women on this segment I tried very hard to teach my boys about their Arabic cultural heritage. They each have an Arabic name as well as a name from my culture and were sometimes teased about their names.
I am now married to someone else.
This is a great program.

Sent by Dottie Atkins (formerly Dottie Abass) | 10:53 AM | 2-1-2007

I don't know if this is the kind of comment y'all are looking for. But the post made me think how strange it is that children of a black parent and white parent are always considered black. It doesn't quite seem right, especially since they are usually lighter than their black parent. I just think it is interesting that we have a cultural mindset like that.

Sent by megan | 12:06 PM | 2-1-2007

I am mother to two half German half American children, both blonde blue eyed and as one of the mocha moms said of her son, polite like a 40 year olds. Your guest related her shock at how people reacted to her son becoming a young man I had to laugh: It is not race alone that makes people react unfairly towards young men. I have seen older people go out of their way to make life hard for my son, under the assumption that he is up to no good, just because he ia a large 16 year old. It broke my heart to see him wondering why he elicited such reactions, and I have had many conversations with him about preconceptions and false judgement.

You may want to think about not just mixed race families, but also mixed nationalities. We may look the same but are very different on the inside.
BTW we listen online from Munich, Germany!
I enjoy your show, keep up the good work!
Jennifer Packard

Sent by Jennifer Packard | 12:11 PM | 2-1-2007

The title doesn't make any sense. If the mothers are white, then their sons are not just black, they are white as well. Why is this concept so hard for people to grasp?

Sent by Tricia | 12:25 PM | 2-1-2007

I think it would be interesting to ask Rebecca Walker about living in Hawaii. Multi-racial people are the norm in Hawaii and it would be interesting to know her thoughts on the subject. It's not a topic that is widely discussed. But the treatment of multi-racial people in Hawaii is a good model for the country.

Sent by Jen | 12:39 PM | 2-1-2007

I have enjoyed reading the comments, and have not had a chance to read/hear the show although I am very interested in the topic.

I am a white American married to a Ghanaian American (he was born and raised in West Africa). We have been married 2 months but were friends and have known each other 4 years ... no kids yet. Our families love each other and I am blessed b/c both sides feel we are perfect for each other. The fact that both sides are Christian made our relationship have more similarities initially, and gave more common ground for the parents to start with, although we love and enjoy the different culture, stories, and foods.... We have a blast together.

I have visited Ghana and would like our kids to have some of the same memories/experiences Ato (my husband) has had. I want them (and myself) to speak fluently Fanti - his tribal language. I still have a lot of questions and would like to see more on multicultural families. I can see that there is a more extreme (assertiveness) attentiveness needed to make sure your kids are being given the same chances (at times) when you are raising biracial children. Also without my husband I hear many more ignorant comments than he does b/c people are only seeing me as another white person (why I'd have the same views just b/c I am white I have no idea...).

There is a difference in police experience and that is a topic I'd like to hear about also.

I would love to see more families discuss motherhood and family life as multiculteral family units. There is a lot to learn I am sure, a lot to love and a lot of fun to be had.

Sent by Sarah Korsah | 12:44 PM | 2-1-2007

Is this strictly about interracial families (black being a requirement) or is it about any type of interracial/interreligious families? If not, I would like to see that. Just bringing to mind a very famous person I know (not personally) that is half Jew and half Iranian. This makes for a very interesting paradox, wouldn't you say? There needs to be a focus on what the power of love can do, bring the most unlikely people together to a previously unimaginable level of understanding. Also, it helps us have the desire to understand one another, that is if we are not a member of a minority.

Sent by D R Canales | 1:10 PM | 2-1-2007

I really enjoyed listening to this piece. I got my BA in Communication and Culture and found this discussion to be interesting. I found it to be enlightening, engaging, and informative. I look forward to hearing more.

Sent by Whitney | 2:24 PM | 2-1-2007

I am an adopted child, now 26. My birth mother gave me up for adoption before I was born. She even selected exactly which family she wanted me to go to. My adopted mother is blonde and short. I am tall and dark skin and black curley hair. She has a hard time accepting that I am not white in MY opinion. When I came back from my first day in school,I told her I thought that I was black. I couldn't understand at the time why she didn't want me to be. I had found a group of other kids that looked like me and embraced me into their group. I felt like she didn't want me to be involved with other races. It's very hard for me to not know what race I am. I always check the "unknown" or "other" box on goverment forms. I wish I had more culture & history in my life.

Sent by Whitney Lamb | 2:58 PM | 2-1-2007

I am a white mocha and found this segment very interesting. It did, though, bring back painful memories of trying to raise my kids (son and daughter) as a single mom. I tried very hard to keep my children in touch with the African and Black communities in my home town only to be rejected by both. It was lonely and difficult, but it also made us a strong family unit.

Now I'm remarried (white husband and Korean son) which opened up our world, healed injuries, and fixed problems I wasn't even aware we had. We are very lucky and blessed that things have worked out the way they have.

But my reaction to this segment tells me that I have a way to go. My challenges aren't over yet.

I strongly encourage you to keep the mocha moms as a regular feature. Selfish reasons aside, it is a very rich and informative group. Announcing a subject beforehand and giving us a chance to e-mail questions would be great. That would avoid the scheduling issues discussions or during-the-show calls would cause.

Sent by Carol Lindsay | 5:13 PM | 2-1-2007

I'm thrilled that this conversation is happening! I am a "white" Jewish single woman and I adopted an African-American boy 19 years ago. It has been a tremendous learning experience raising and loving him and quite difficult at times. But, he is wonderful and I'm so glad I did it. I wish I had had more people to talk to through the years, though. I do belong to the Jewish Multiracial Network, which has been a great help. He is now in college (which did not happen easily) and reasonably happy and well-adjusted, I believe. I would love to be part of some kind of discussion group.

Sent by Carol | 5:42 PM | 2-1-2007

Michel Martin, This is a Great tool to start dialog with the rest of the Country. I Love the topic. I'm a Black man raising a Bi-Racial Daughter from my wife previous marriage (Wife is Black EX-White). I talk with my daughter all time about the world and it???s ways.

Sent by Proud Daddy! | 5:44 PM | 2-1-2007

I am really excited for this show to be on the air. We need more shows that create a dialogue about culture and society and examine our places in it. Please continue developing this show and talking about issues of race, culture, and class.

Sent by Becky Connelly | 6:03 PM | 2-1-2007

Thank you for your interviews with the Mocha Moms and Rebecca Walker. Please keep having these honest conversations about real life issues so that we as listeners can be exposed to the ways others see the world and hopefully be challenged to be more accepting and compassionate.

Sent by Elizabeth | 11:02 PM | 2-1-2007

I???m sorry I missed the program. I'm the white mother of two adopted children of color (now teens), and while I love the idea of light being shined on this subject, I???d be even more interested in finding support for my kids. Being white in America is no hardship, but our children face incredible burdens. I???m not dismissing the impact on mothers. The first time a five-year old refused to play with my daughter because of her ???hair??? ??? well, I knew what displaced hate was, but I was surprised to feel it flowing from me toward someone holding a Barbie. There???s so much to be shared and discussed ??? keep the conversations going.

Sent by L. Christopher | 10:20 AM | 2-2-2007

"We want to avoid the predictable"... one suggestion that might help you achieve this goal is to include some male voices in your explorations of parenting. Hearing fathers talk about their experiences of trans-racial adoptions would meet my needs as a listener. And, it might be a little less predictable! I am a gay white male, and I often imagine what it would be like to adopt a child of a different race. Also, I am interested in cross-spiritual families, because my boyfriend is Catholic and I am agnostic/buddhist/atheist.

Sent by Windswept | 10:31 AM | 2-2-2007

Personally, this is interesting because my black partner and my pale-skinned self are discussing kids, my sister and brother-in-law have been thinking about adopting a black child, my mom worries about how we will raise kids who will be seen so differently than we are, and lots of people have opinions how "black" you should raise a child in a white family--whatever that's supposed to mean. My partner's the child of immigrants who grew up in an a well-off bedroom community, speaks the English he learned there, doesn't know many black people outside of his family circles and has had a few difficult experiences with other black Americans who've thought he "acts white".. my sister-in-law is a southern black matriarch, speaks like one, cooks like one (bad for the diet), and proudly considers herself African-American. It seems to me that there are a lot of ways to go about being black in the US.

Coincidentally, I taught the first day on race in my intro sociology class yesterday. I wish you did have some sort of "expert." Maybe you talk with a psychologist about how people think about appearance or teenagers. Maybe you ask a sociologist to explain why, in the US, a child of a white mom and black father is so easily called black (do I need to mention that a whole lot of "black" people in the US have white ancestors?), and why it is so hard to talk about these things without the threat of someone thinking you're racist. And any expert worth her salt could talk the role our national history has played in these things. Maybe ask a historian? As someone said, experts don't replace personal experience--they can help place it in the context of the society we live in, though. It appears that without it you're leaving open a lot of questions about a topic that's very sensitive.

Sent by SMC | 10:42 AM | 2-2-2007

Incredible. Mocha Moms is a brilliant undertaking. My cut-to-the-quick eternal question: I hardly comprehend how anyone can not solely concentrate on only the inside of a person. Nothing else is relevant. What is so hard to understand that fact?

Sent by Tonya Oaksford | 10:51 AM | 2-2-2007

Great show! I appreciate the honest dialogue. I would like to agree with those who commented on wanting to hear from fathers. As a Mexican/Native American father (who can pass for white) who is maried to a black woman, I would like to hear how white (or white-looking) fathers have raised black children. What is it like to be white father raising a black boy in America? As a man of color who can pass, I want to be ready for a world who will perceive me as a white man who is raising a black son.

Sent by djj | 12:50 PM | 2-2-2007

I love your show! My husband and I are white parents of an adopted triracial child who identified as African American, or perhaps I should say "is identifed as." Please keep going. As other writer noted, I would love more on young men and authorities, police, teachers etc. I would love to hear from children, and I know my son would love this too. I am going to try to get him to listen to some of this show.

Sent by Martha | 3:26 PM | 2-2-2007

I am an Indian woman (raised in the United States) engaged to a white/Italian man. I missed the show, but I feel that if this were truly going to have a full perspective, women of color with white men should be included as well.

So many times these stories begin and end with the white perspective. I am not sure if it's because white folk need more structure and a safe atmosphere to even begin these dialogues, but I find it very biased.

Where are the fathers in this situation? In a culture where many fathers are raising children, while mothers go to work, I find the sole focus on mothers - and even white mothers - to be old news.

I would like to see programs focused on fatherhood. On people of color. Give us something new and refreshing.

This seems like a spin on the same tired subject.

Sent by Indian Girl | 4:09 PM | 2-2-2007

I was very disappointed in the segment on "White Mothers, Black Sons." I am the only white member of my family, and it never occurred to me to look at my children as anything other than individual people. No, I'm not deceiving myself about how other people might perceive my two boys (mixed black & white), but that is not part of the definition of who they are. Nor is their so-called heritage important. They are not their ancestors. I have always been bewildered by Americans who adopt children from foreign lands, feeling that they must give the child foreign language lessons and teach them their forebears' customs and traditions. They are Americans, plain and simple. To think otherwise is just another form of bigotry. Further, the lady who said her son bumped into an older woman in New York who assumed he was after her money: did it ever occur to her that the woman was not thinking that he was black therefore dangerous, but merely that he was a person who had bumped into her and therefore dangerous? This self-definition of a person of color makes the world perceive you that way. My husband does not see himself as black, he sees himself as who he is. And black is not part of that definition, and I hope it won't be for my boys either.

Sent by Xenia Black | 4:17 PM | 2-2-2007

I loved the piece on mixed-familes (white mothers of black sons). I listened to it on the Web. As white parents of an adopted black daughter, we are always learning new things (some good, some bad). My husband calls us "amateur african-americans" and our family as "Afro-Judea-Episco-pagan".

Sent by Catherine Beach | 4:42 PM | 2-2-2007

Hey! I enjoyed listening to the mamas talking about their babies. Bottomline - mamas love their children. The whole issue of being "mixed" is an interesting phenomenon. My mama is a white Latina and my Pops is Afro Latino (and a 60 yr. old hottie!). Anyhow, I'm a sort of cafe con leche complexion with wavy hair, the sister that follows me is a few shades darker with curly hair, and our youngest sister is a few shades darker with kinky hair. Depending on which daughter my mom is with determines the questions she'll be asked. As a "mixed" person, I have been mistaken for East Indian. I remember standing at the elevator in my East Side Apartment building waiting for the elevator when the East Indian guy from a local restaurant posed a question to me in what I surmised was some East Indian dialect. I replied, "I'm sorry, I don't understand what you're asking me." and he started yelling at me in accented English, "You should be ashamed of yourself, you don't know your language, you are ashamed of your culture." I was taken aback by this misplaced and false accusation and I said to him, "Hey man, get off my back, I'm not Indian, I'm Puerto Rican!". I am not, however, Puerto Rican, but I figured that was a quicker explanation than saying, "My dad is Dominican, my mom is Colombian, I was born in NY, grew up in Florida, lived in Argentina...etc., etc.". When it comes down to it, this is who I am: a mix of all of the people who have loved and supported me. I am the little girl of two amazing Latino parents who have lived, and worked, and believed in the American Dream; I am the kid that grew up in a Greek and Polish neighborhood in Richmond Heights back in the 80's; being a NYer I am a little bit Jewish (gimme a bagel wit schmear), a little bit Italian, a little bit Queens, a lot Manhattan; I am the FL girl who loves sunshine; I am Puerto Rican, Brazilian, Argentine, Polynesian and Mormon pioneer by association - lifted up by the cultures and the love in those people, the music, the rhythm. I am 100% American and so much more that what meets the eye. It has been my joy and sometimes a heartache to be "mixed". And now as a mama to two beautiful daughters who encompass a look entirely her own, my husband and I are raising the next generac??on of America.

Sent by Erica Reynoso | 7:40 PM | 2-2-2007

I enjoyed hearing the mom's talking about raising black boys. Because I have known only one black family with children it is something I wish to know more about and to hear it from the mom herself is wonderful.
It also reminds me how much we miss not hanging out with a diverse group of people from which we would learn what life is really like for individuals of different cultures.
As a mexican-american I bridge two cultures too but it's not as dramatic as being black, though there is some racism here, I have not experienced it.I look forward to other discussions from the Mocha Moms. Thanks.

Sent by Chris Maciel | 10:54 PM | 2-2-2007

Listening to the moms discussion brought to mind an incident my children recently shared with me. I have two children, a son age 25 and daughter age 23.
My son is olive complexion and my daughter???s has a beautiful milk chocolate complexion. When they where young I was more often aware of those times when either child was being harassed. As young adults, they very often do not think to let me in on the day-to-day nuisances brought about by the small mindedness of people they meet. However, one night as the downtown nightclubs were letting out and brother and sister sat in the car waiting for the traffic to move freely the following incident occurred.

A young African American man went to put an advertising flyer on my daughter???s car windshield. She asked him to just hand the flier to her instead of placing it on the window (she didn???t want to have to get out of the car to remove it when the traffic let-up and they started to drive to the highway). As the young man approached, he looked in the car and reacted to my son???s presence. He decided to put the flier on her windshield and as he did he told my daughter that he was doing so because she was with a white boy. She responded that she was with her brother, and the young man then went off on her in words I won???t repeat. In a nutshell, he took exception to their being bi-racial. Her impulse was to protect her and her brother???s dignity. So she got out of the car to challenge the young man. Luckily, her brother came around from the passenger side of the car to calm her down and the young man???s friends took hold of him and walked away.

They told me this story joking around, but the danger of her reaction was not lost on them or me. As a parent, I taught my children to be aware of the world around them in order to give them tools to respond safely. This was not the first time they experienced bigotry, but for some reason at this time in this familiar setting it caught my daughter unaware and she reacted emotionally.

True, the numbers of multiracial families are growing in this country. However, the mind set of people is slower to change.

Sent by dee | 3:00 PM | 2-3-2007

Mocha Moms is an enlightening lithmus test for those who need to encounter fossilized perceptions about race and family. What better way to be grounded than earth's emergent and diverse humanity.

Sent by James S. Lane, Jr. | 6:54 PM | 2-3-2007

I am the white mother of two biracial (black/white) sons, ages 21 and 16. There are so many sentiments in these comments that are probably a part of the histories of most moms like me. I remember pushing my son in a stroller and having a woman ask me, "What is he?" Another time, "Are you his biological mother?" My older son likes to stand with me in front of a mirror and point out our physical similarities. He refers to himself as "Halfrican American."

Sent by V. Waters | 3:47 PM | 2-4-2007

I am the white mother of two beautiful bi-racial children. Even though they are dark skinned and I am light they look a lot like me. No one has ever asked me if they were mine, or mistaken me for the babysitter. I am proud to be a mixed family. We learn so much from one another. My children are beautiful and will benefit from having many different cultures in their life. It is true that we are all different, but that is a good thing!! I teach my children that it would be a boring world if we were all the same. Variety is the spice of life, and we love it!!!

Sent by Wendy Knowles | 1:53 AM | 2-5-2007

Loved this show! I'm a pastor and I know some families with nontraditional structures; your show captured the courage and coping of the Mocha Moms very well.

I don't think a call-in segment would help much; the voices of your guests are really worth hearing.

One editorial comment: Michel, sometimes your voice on the podcast is significantly louder than your guests', and so easier to hear. You might ask your engineering krewe to work on this.

Sent by Ollie Jones | 3:58 PM | 2-5-2007

Thank you for the recent piece on sons of multi-racial parrents. I was born in the 1950s to a white mother from the midwest and a black father from nigeria.

They never talked about their experiences while we were growing up-I do not recall a single conversation about race during my childhood.As an adult I learned of the horrors they went through-from family, neighbors, the church, etc,etc. They strove to protect us from all of this and largely succeeded. I married a man from a mixed marriage-and his experience was more painful-his parents eventually divorced from the stress. My own kids are so much more confortable with diversity. I have worked hard to have them embrace all parts of their heritage and be accepting of everyone. Thank you again for an honest insightful view of this issue.

Sent by Elizabeth | 4:13 PM | 2-5-2007

I found this a very interesting piece. I am the child of a multi-racial family. We are a mixed white, Native American, Hispanic family. I'm also married to a wonderful man of mixed-race. I have the darkest features in my family and many people assumed me to not be related to my siblings at all or perhaps cousins at most. As someone who tended to 'look' Hispanic as a child, I found it extremely difficult to be accepted on either side. Perhaps as a result of the more pointed tensions between Hispanics and whites in Oregon. It was also compounded by the fact my mother is white and doesn't speak Spanish. My father does speak English and it became the only language of home. The only thing the piece lacked, was the views of other mixes. Different ethinicities and different languages can create their own mixture of difficulty. I constantly battled the conception that my only language was Spanish with both whites and Hispanics. Although my mother tried admirably, I found myself always in between. I think the Mocha moms are excellent, but don't speak to ALL people with the same issues. I battled stereotypes of a different nature than children who are black/white and so do many others.

Sent by Kara Helgren | 11:23 PM | 2-6-2007

To Erica Reynoso: all right! I've copied your comment to share with my daughter who works to make the same point with her friends.

Michel: I also shared this segment with my daughter. We talked about our experiences as mom and daughter and how being a white mom with biracial children has worked out for us. What a GREAT conversation. (The kids call themselves a bi-nority, btw.) Thank you for this opportunity.

Sent by Carol | 1:52 PM | 2-7-2007

Although I thought this was an interesting topic, I did not really think that it met the show's purpose to "highlight the unexpected" - Bringing in mothers to discuss interracial families is not so unexpected. I would have found the segment much more powerful if it had included both fathers and children actually in the round table itself. Society treats mothers as the ones who give their children a sense of history and cultural identity, leaving fathers out of the discussion means not pursuing a much less-discussed part of the equation. Shining some light on the differing roles of bothmothers and fathers in forming children's sense of cultural identity would have made the segment better.

I was also disappointed in the 2nd segment. The first segment had already covered issues of race. All of the conversation with Rebecca Walker centered around race, ignoring the opportunity to discuss her mixed religious background. As the daughter of parents of two different religions, I felt left out of this discussion of mixed families.

Sent by Natalia | 2:00 PM | 2-7-2007

First of all, thank you for the topic. As a bi-racial child (Mexican dad, white mother), I appreciate the discussion given to this issue.

Personally, I love being of two cultural backgrounds but was a hard adjustment when first leaving my very diverse Los Angeles enclave. In a city that was historically Mexican before it was American, my mix can be ubiquitous and sometimes it can even be threatening.

I enjoyed Rebecca Walker's poetic insights on the subject - and agreed with her words (and above comments) that bi-racial children can bridge cultures. I've learned that while I'm accepted, I'll always draw attention/questions about my background.

Ultimately, I enjoyed the podcast but found myself with more questions. Think the show only touched the tip of the iceberg (especially after reading comments above). I did have trouble keeping track of those mothers who adopted black/minority children and the biological mothers of bi/multi-racial children. There are overlapping issues but each issue could've been it's own show.

The show could also recommend organizations that support multi-ethnic families, such as the Association for MultiEthnic Americans (http://www.ameasite.org/), the Mavin Foundation (www.mavinfoundation.org/), which produced the movie "Chasing Daybreak: A Film about Mixed Race in America." There's also the UK-based InterMix

And for interested readers, a Los Angeles Latino magazine (called Cuidad) just published a cover story describing the New Angeleno as half-Latino [ http://www.laobserved.com/archive/2007/02/las_latino_mix.php].

Funny - in between listening to the podcast and reading the listener comments, I happened to read a quote by Harlem Renaissance writer Jean Toomer, who was also mixed (Black, Native American and White):

"In my body were many bloods, some dark blood, all blended in the first of six or more generations. I was, then, either a new type of man or the very oldest. In any case I was inescapably myself...If I achieved greatness of human stature, then just to the degree that I did I would justify all the blood in me. If I proved worthless, then I would betray all. In my own mind I could not see the dark blood as something quiet different and apart."

I liked his words "I was either a new type of man or the very oldest." It's easy to think that multi-racial families are new, but I'd be interested in a show that explored this issue historically - even discussing historical terms such as Creole, Mulatto, Mestizo and more recent ones, such as Hapa and Blaxican.

Again, appreciate the opportunity to offer and read the feedback. I'd recommend spending about 2-5 minutes summarizing various reader comments into the next podcast because (1) not everyone who listens to the podcasts will read the thoughtful comments and (2) quoting from the reader comments helps me feel connected to fellow listeners/readers who enjoyed the show from all over the world.

Sent by Victoria Bernal, Los Angeles | 3:26 PM | 2-7-2007

Very interesting podcast!
I too want to discuss the incident of the elderly woman who mistook the narrator's son for a mugger or pick-pocket. I found it rather self-centered of them to laugh about the incident or to be angry at the elderly woman. Her experience is of someone threatened by young men, be they extremely polite or not. Her response a survival strategy, not a slur.

Sent by R. O. | 3:35 PM | 2-7-2007

I really enjoyed this segment--it's always interesting to hear the perspectives of different families and how they experience the world. Hearing a variety of experiences enriches our understanding of our culture, and the challenges people's perceptions of race often pose for multiracial families. I love conversations like this! It would be nice to hear the children's perspective also, though, as an added angle.

Sent by Kara Eller | 10:48 PM | 2-8-2007

I would like to see this become a regular feature as I know several families who have adopted children from different cultural/ethnic backgrounds. Especially, I am interested in the white mom/black son angle as I believe this can be an especially difficult situation.

Sent by Susan | 2:29 PM | 2-10-2007

This story came at an interesting time because my 8 year old son just got diagnosed with autism. Before he was born, I thought the most difficult discussions with him would be about race and racial identity. Instead, his very literal view of life has made that discussion pretty low key (he and dad are "brown" and African-American, I'm white). Instead, the hardest discussions I'm having with him now are about what being autistic means. This is about this moment, ahd I will likely have more complicated and sometimes difficult discussions about race and a whole host of other issues with him as time goes on. When I pictured what I would discuss, I didn't think it would be autism, since my experience with that with my brother was, you couldn't have a discussion with someone who was autistic, so his being autistic but still being able to communicate with him is a surprise. Sometimes life doesn't turn out as you expect?

Sent by Alice M | 10:19 PM | 2-11-2007

As a white mother of an adopted African American son, two bi-racial sons and a a bi-racial daughter (including a set of twins), I think I've heard it all. From uncomfortable stairs to cashiers at a local grocery store commenting on how I can stand to babysit so many children.

Multiracial families are becoming less of an anomoly, yet not fully accepted. Racism is alive and well, and I am greatful that the subject is finally getting the attention it needs to introduce change in our society.

Sent by Cheri Staples | 11:49 AM | 2-12-2007

I am definitely looking forward to a show that deals with transracial and interracial subjects. I am not yet a mother but my child will be black and white so knowing how others deal with some racial situations is always great. I would like to hear more about the child's experience if possible. I believe that it is a parents duty to protect the child, but to know what a child will face and how they deal with the differences they encounter would be great. I know that every situation is different and I am sure that my experiences will help aid me in raising a child but what they need and how they see themselves is my biggest concern. I know that you must emphasize both cultures and tell them the truth about the world but how to encourage their individuality and pride in both cultures is my main objective. I think that tackling these racial topics is a great idea.

Sent by Jo Ann Murray | 4:40 PM | 2-14-2007

Your "advice" to multiracial families tends to emphasize forced hypodescent and implies that "white" is not an option as a racial identity. That is false. Let people know they have an option.

A.D. Powell
"Passing" for Who You Really Are

Sent by A.D. Powell | 10:08 PM | 2-18-2007

What about black/ minority parents raising white children? It's out there, I'm a school teacher and you see it.

Sent by RL | 11:50 AM | 3-1-2007

I am curious what i missed,the media White Moms, Black Sons is this a audio feed , or is it video? How many segments to date.etc. I am a 24yo single Italian American woman, my two boys are the light of my life. One ,my oldest is white, my newborn is black, Ive wanted a discussion forum/ support group for quite sometime now that is aimed for this challenge we have ahead of us raising our children to live in a racially harmonious community. Id love some ideas on where we can talk about this.

Sent by Lori S. | 9:30 PM | 3-2-2007

I am an African-American woman and the mother of a 4 year old biracial son. I myself am a medium brown complexion and my son (he has an Irish father) is VERY pale and has curly red hair and green eyes. He is starting to notice race partly because of others, some of the children in his preschool class want to know why he is white yet his mother is black. I've tried to explain to him that he is biracial, but I do not think he fully understands what that means. I am the only black person that he is around on a regular basis and that he really has a relationship with. All of the children in his preschool class are white with a few Asians and one Hispanic girl. We live close to his father's family, so he spends most of his time with his white grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins. My family lives far away. Though he has some interactions with my some of my close black friends and their children, they are not around on a regular basis. I am trying to figure out how to help my son deal with racial issues now while he is still young, rather than him hit a culture shock when he gets older. I have know idea what to do.

Sent by Lisa | 3:34 PM | 3-19-2007

Very interesting topic. My husband is biracial (African-American/Asian), but in this country viewed as African-American. I am Dutch. Because my husband at first glance does not look like his mother he asked me often, before we had kids, how I would feel about not looking like my children. I said I did not care. We now have 2 wonderful sons. And surprise, surprise, they look like two little Dutch boys. It is my husband who gets a lot of the stares mentioned in the program - why are you hanging out with these kids? Times when we are most uncomfortable are when my husband is traveling alone with the kids (Black man with two white kids?). What makes us hopeful for the future is to see how our children are dealing with all the different shades in our family (they are now 3 and 5 years old). To them it is normal and they will patiently explain the situation to anybody who is interested -- most often their friends. The explanations they come up with can be very funny.

Sent by Cotesia | 3:00 PM | 5-16-2007

We are visual people by nature. It really is that simple and people have their own notions on what a black person or white person looks like. I am a fair skinned black woman, with a fairer skinned black mother who looks white and a father who is light brown. My family members once consisted of very light skinned people on both sides who looked white. Since a child, in school I had been taunted about being what I was not and did not consider myself to be at all: White. I would continuously get the question, Is your mother White? and become frustrated explaining it...I can only imagine how my mother felt. Like a reflex, I automatically take offense inside when some one tells me I "must" be biracial just because I am light skinned and have keen facial features and straight hair. It is an insult to my Black heritage, family, and how I was raised, yet I can tell when a person doesn't know any better or not. Now it is when I tell you, and you do not accept it, that I grow angry. Friends tell me to "embrace" my multiculturalism (since this movement for multiculturalism has recently begun) because I look different, but I do not see myself as multicultural at all. Call this close minded, but I was raised as Black, have been through issues that only another Black person experiencing first hand can truly feel, and though there is definitely a large percentage of White in me, it honestly does not mean anything to me. At the end of the day, I am Black in a White world. Some one asked about why "biracial" kids who look Black or who have a Black father or mother, are considered "Black" when they too are white. I urge you to crack open a history book containing a thorough, detailed account of Black history (hell you can even google this) and read for yourself how racial constraints in the world and this country evolved. Discuss this with your children. Don't brush it off. The more you discuss "race" from different perspectives the more less screwed up your children will be. Saying that race doesn't matter and failing to talk about it is a big mistake.

I find the name "Mocha mothers" offensive to say that this is suppose to be a forward moving group. It isn't that far removed from "Blackie mothers" or "Whitie mothers" in my opinion. Perhaps a more inclusive, less sensitive name should be considered...just a suggestion.

Sent by Sheryl Fayre-Moore | 3:42 PM | 5-20-2007

I am a afro american female, and listening to this sometimes make me very angry.I am light skinned have light hair and identify as Afro American. Why? I am sometimes asked is that is the way america sees me,and I was taught that is what a afro american is mixed. I ask myself what is going on today with this whole MIXED MOVEMENT HERE!!!. Is this a joke
History has been here and done this already people. I am mixed with Scottish, Irish and native american. Most black's are. You guys talk about us black people like we are pure africans. My gene results came back saying I was 40% Black!!!. Please white americans look at the Whole racial system and not just your children. I is not going to work because you are just scratching the surface a big mountain call The USA racial catagories. In Africa I am WHITE, me white go figure!!!. Now I don't know why mostly white mothers want to call their children bi racial and the black parent black, if they where pure black then fine.I dare you to get you childs genes tested. My then you will understand when I am coming from. This is causing a riffed in the "black community" and you still don't get why do you. I know it is hard but look at black history and you will see the whole picture. Look up colorism have you ever heard of this?. If you do then you will realise why blacks are offened about what is happening today. Why blacks reject, not all but some "bi racial" children. We think what make them so special?
Do they really that know white people are not really going to let them in.
Being picked on is a part of LIFE!!
You are too fat, to skinney to light too dark. These comments in the black community alone!!!. So when I hear they pick on me because I am mixed It makes me sick to the stomach. I know black women with "bi racial" children and I have "bi racial" friends, the identify as Afro american for the same reason I do. When I see your show I am sad because you are putting a band aid over a bullet womb. When people ask me to identify the mixture of my family, I am happy to do so with no problem. But black OR white thing is not going away unless you get to the route of the problem. Or do you want to get to the root? or just get a pass for YOUR child. This is how the afro americans see it, we where not born black we were taught to be black. The same thing with affirmative action, we don't want you charity we want equality. I sounds simple but it not happening. When this happens then your children are safe. My eyes are open I see the big picture, but it is hard to belive you don't.

Sent by Alise | 6:51 PM | 6-1-2007

I am a black man who has a child with a white woman. I made a horrible mistake and slept with my daughter's mother knowing that there was no interest let alone a relationship between us. This woman had expressed a clear fascination with having a mixed child, but I had know idea that she would be willing to concieve a child on a drunk night stand. I did not want this child. And I did not accept that this was my child until after recieving the results of the paternity test. During this time my daughters mother sent out email blasts, called people, filed false police reports, passed out fliers, sued, and did everything she could do to let the world know that the child she was pregnant with was mine. She played the whole angry black man, drug addict, deadbeat stereotype up to the fullest. I'm writing this because I know that there are a lot of white women out there who romanticize about having a black or "mixed" child, but they still feel the same about black people as any other racist. Its almost like the birth of these children is being used to spin another set of negative psychological images about black men. At the same time these white women are almost enobled by their "bi-racial" black children. "Look at me, I'm not racist, I have a black baby", is the statement that seems to echo from the social cliche'. So these white women with black babies seem to cleanse the sins of their privilage and entitlement and at the same time confirm all of the suspicions about black men all in one fail swoop with the conception and birth of these bi-racial babies. I believe that women should take more responsibility for their own actions of concieving unplanned/unwanted children. White women should not concieve children with any black man that they are not in a commited relationship with. It is too easy for a white woman to pass on negative and racist stereotypes about the black father of their children that is not in the picture for her to just recklessly concieve with any black guy that will have sex with her.

Sent by PL | 2:47 PM | 6-5-2007

I think if the product of a black male and a white female was a white baby, you wouldn't have so many blacks making as many white women pregnant as they can, thereby increasing the black population and reducing the white population. Furthermore, why would a white woman want a black baby or a baby of such a low IQ? Perhaps because white women with black babies are usually semi-retarded?

Sent by Gunther | 7:39 PM | 7-17-2007

PL, apart from the (few)liberal maniacs who want to prove they are not racist, white women usually have black babies to rebel against their parents: they are usually disfunctional women from disfunctional families. Also, where I come from there are such things as condoms: they prevent pregnancy and are also effective against stds such as HIV. Where do you get the right to complain about making someone pregnant? It's the most ludicrous abdication of responsibility I ever heard of in my life.

Sent by Lorenzo | 7:52 PM | 7-17-2007

White women are not the only ones having bi-racial children, but like always women of color are left out. I am a black woman and my childen are of Mexican descent. I would love to hear topics on the nontradition (black&white) mixed children.

Sent by Cindy | 8:11 PM | 8-27-2007

Someone help me with this ? The man i fell in love with is white. I am white. My kids are bi-racial. He's trying to fit in with them but feels odd. He is afaid of what people might think of him. He has never been though this before and he's trying to work out his problems with it.

What should i say to him? He says its something he has never seen.

Is this common?

Sent by Tammy | 11:53 PM | 9-9-2007

I am a black man but farther is of mix race white,japanese,filipino,and puerto rican and my mother is black, white, and native american but I look more Indian

Sent by Chris | 12:04 PM | 9-28-2007

Today my 4 year old looked in an American Girl magazine to find the doll that most closely resembled her. When I pointed to the medium skin brown hair doll she said no mommy "I want to look like this one" she pointed to a darker brown skin doll. She continued "I want to look brown like you". I am a dark skin Puerto Rican and my husband is Polish/German with blond hair and blue eyes.

Sent by monica | 2:17 PM | 11-19-2007

What will really be nice is when dark skinned Blacks get a forum. The darker you are, the worse you are treated because gentlemen prefer blondes, white is right, yellow is mello, brown stick around but black: GET BACK! No one even cares when you're dark; your suffering is considered deserved or your fault (Remember Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans?) It's like they told Dred Scott: darkies have no rights the light ones have to respect.
Moca Moms don't speak for me because they have NO IDEA of what it is like on the dark side. They get occasional reminders that being Black is a liabilty in the good USA because light trumps dark, Brown is the New White, White Power and all of that jazz.

Sent by blackremnant | 9:44 PM | 11-20-2007

I have never heard such outright and blatant ignorance before in my life! I am a white woman with a bi-racial son whom I love more then anything in this world and not because he is half black or in spite of him being half black. Rather because he is my child! Hello all you indignant and ignorant individuals out there so quick to perpetuate the already out of control racism that already exists. I do not come from a dysfunctional home, I am not low class, I do not have a vendetta I am acting out against my white family by having a bi-racial child. I am educated and good natured and an excellent mother who fell in love with a man who happened to be black and now we have an amazing little boy whom by the way is not of sub par intelligence as I read by someone earlier with what I can only assume was posted by someone of extreme ignorance. I am so sick of society trying to malign white women and attaching stereo types that continue to stigmatize white women in black society and not to mention our children. Does anyone so boldly venture to make ignorant comments about black women who have children with white men? Let's get out of the 19th century here nobody is rowing fields of cotton anymore. We are all human and all individual and all deserve respect. And until all of the people who insist on perpetuating this hate and cynicism we will forever be a country of extreme racial injustice and stereotypes. Is this truly what we want our children to learn? OUR children of any color?!!! Remember hate is nurture not nature, nobody is born to hate anyone else. We teach that and replicate it disgustingly from generation to generation.

Sent by Holly | 1:25 PM | 5-22-2008


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