What’s it like in Trump’s America as a Jewish man married to an African-American woman raising a biracial son? Just ask Alex Barnett—writer, stand-up comic, host of the Multiracial Family Man Podcast, and co-founder of Multiracial Media. In addition to sharing about interracial marriage and the challenges of mixed-race parenting, Alex shares three tips for talking to your child about race.
Multiracial American Is the New American
Alex is a modern American family man. Between spending time with his wife, Camille, and their young son, he interviews public figures in the multiracial community for his podcast, writes and edits content for Multiracial Media, performs and co-produces comedy, and works a 9-to-5.
But how can a multiracial family man also be a modern American family man?
According to the trends, multiracial is becoming the new normal in America. “Multiracial Americans are at the cutting edge of social and demographic change in the U.S.—young, proud, tolerant and growing at a rate three times as fast as the population as a whole.” —The Pew Research Center
Alex comes from a family of Jewish civil rights activists, and he has dedicated most of his adult life to advocating social justice, racial equality, and civil rights. However, when he married Camille, and they had their son, multiracial matters became family matters for him. Alex has been advocating and promoting awareness of multiracial heritage, rights, and equality through his many platforms ever since.
Intersection of Politics, Race, and Parenting
I asked Alex Barnett how he feels as a Jewish father with a black wife in a Trump world—if he feels his biracial son’s future is more secure or less so? He told me that being Jewish (a minority) and raising a person of color in our current racial climate gives him pause. He said that the aftermath of the election, as evidenced by what we see and feel around us and reported in newspapers, has exacerbated pre-existing racial tensions.
Alex believes not only minority parents and multiracial families should be concerned, but rather “everyone should be on heightened alert.” He made a point to differentiate being on alert from overreacting. And he cautioned, “If history has taught us anything, it’s that if you are not on heightened alert, you can be caught unaware to your own detriment.”
Multiracial Family Parenting Challenges
- Are you a mother that has ever been mistaken as your child’s nanny because your skin doesn’t match?
- Do you worry your mixed-race child doesn’t have enough diversity among his or her peer group? And do you hope for another mixed-race friend for him or her to identify with?
- Or maybe you fear one day your son or daughter of color will experience racism and, worse yet, reject your compassion, claiming you don’t understand.
The above are a few of the issues that Alex and Camille either face now or anticipate facing as their young son grows. And as a mother of color in a multiracial family, I know many of us face these challenges with them. In fact it’s a relief Alex shared them.
One of them I’d like to elaborate on: The Mommy-Nanny Mix-up. I experienced this for years, and it wasn’t nice. Mamas, once Baby begins to call you Mommy more, it gets a little better. As for anyone who assumes a mother is a nanny because her skin is a different color, you should know that this can have a negative impact on a mother’s identity and self-esteem. You should also know that behaving that way reveals your level of social awareness and racial education. If you’re not sure, act like you do when you don’t know if a woman is pregnant or not, just smile.
Three Tips for Talking to Young Kids About Race
For those who haven’t had that conversation yet, or are struggling with the subject, Alex offers these three parenting tips for talking to mixed-race kids about their heritage.
1. Don’t rush conversations about race with young children.
If your young child is not yet asking race-related questions or making observations based on race, Alex says wait. He does, however, advise parents to factor in the overall racial ambiance of the town or city you live in. Multiracial children living in areas less tolerant of minorities and mixed-race families may experience and/or observe racial issues earlier than kids living in a more liberal-minded environment.
2. Keep conversations about race with your child age-appropriate.
This is good advice for most conversational topics with kids. When dealing with a weighty subject like race, it’s especially important to be sensitive to your child’s maturity level and attention span.
3. When educating your kids about race, context and timing go a long way.
Instead of giving a surprise history lesson about slavery at snack time, look for opportunities to present themselves organically. Those are the best times to talk to kids about race. If your child asks about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., you can have a brief, age-appropriate conversation about racial equality. Or, if your child hears, or is the victim of, a racial epithet, you’ll want to use that teaching moment for obvious reasons.
Despite our current racially-charged climate, or because of it, civil rights advocates and multiracial tuned in parents like Alex Barnett promote racial diversity and multiracial awareness and education. I’ve been a fan of his podcast The Multiracial Family Man for a while now and definitely recommend it. I was even a guest on it last year—maybe you can be too! Check it out on iTunes.