Dear Dr. Faizal,
My husband and I are in an interracial marriage. I’m Caucasian and he is South Asian. We have managed to work through our cultural differences but now that we are parents, our son seems to have trouble with his identity. Unlike his non-interracial friends, he feels like he does not fit in. To help our son feel complete, we feel that we should raise him in one culture so that he feels like he belongs in society. What do you think?
– Life from Two Worlds
Dear Life from Two Worlds,
Congratulations on achieving a successful interracial marriage! As you and your husband have been able to navigate through the cultural differences and form a relationship, I feel confident that you should be able to help your child to also form an identity for himself.
A sense of belonging, or the lack thereof, is a major issue for those born to interracial parents. As these children grow up, they soon recognize the differences between their parents in terms of how they look and act. By age two, around the time children begin to associate gender roles with parents, these children begin to also recognize racial dissimilarities between their parents, and between themselves and their parents.
In talking with children of interracial parents, I learned about the confusion of being raised in this type of environment. The main issue for such individuals is an unstable sense of racial identity. In other words, these children do not know to which race they belong.
I believe this sense of belonging, or not belonging, begs the age-old question of whether the glass is half-full or half-empty. If you perceive your son as inadequate or incomplete, he will internalize those vibes. If, on the other hand, you regard him as unique and special, possessing complementary traits from two cultures, he will celebrate his expanded sense of self. Your son could either see himself as a half-breed or he could celebrate having the genetic make-up of two different races. You and your husband could help him to accentuate the positives instead of being left to struggle with the internal conflicts.
To prevent your son from becoming culturally isolated, you and your husband must help him experience and rejoice both walks of life, including both races, cultures and traditions. By openly and non-judgmentally discussing your cultures and the many unique benefits of the way you were raised, your son will ultimately recognize that he has a deeper and far richer heritage than his peers.
Help your son appreciate that his acceptance of both cultures will lead to those in each culture accepting him. You and your husband could take your son to various local cultural events and celebrations, hoping to instill in him the respect that all cultures deserve.
Children of interracial parents who are encouraged to participate in the activities of both parents’ cultures are bound to accept both aspects of their genetic and social make-up. These children develop a sense of belonging to both parents and both cultures. In this sense, knowing your son has the best of both worlds will increase his self-esteem and self-worth.