"I’m Not the Nanny": Raising a Black and Asian Child
Raising children is challenging enough, but lately I’ve been learning about the challenges to raising bi-racial children. My children are not bi-racial, but they are a blend of my black American culture and their father’s British and West Indian cultures, which are very different. And even blending cultures is a unique experience.
But I was talking to my friend Onica Cupido, the founder and editor of EuphoriaLuv.com, an online community for black and asian families, about her challenges raising her beautiful 3-year old son, Daniel. Her son is Korean and black. Even before becoming a mom, Onica, or Nikki, to her friends, became an advocate and resource for black and asian relationships and families, when she was engaged to an Asian man and was looking for support in blending their lives.
Years later, Onica is a mom and a respected advocate for “Blasian” families and children. I sat down with Onica, who also blogs at Blasian Baby Notes, to talk about raising a black and Asian child and to hear the ups and down of her parenting journey. Onica says many of the comments she receives from strangers, reminds her of the challenges of raising a “blasian” child and how far our society really has to go.
Kimberly: What’s the most frustrating part of your parenting experience?
Onica: You would not believe how many times I’m asked if I am his mother? Is he adopted? Poeple think I'm the nanny or the grandmother. Pretty much anything except who I really am. I have to deal with questions, comments and stares which is surprising considering how many interracial couples and families there are in America. And because of that my “mother” title doesn’t come easy for me—I always have to prove or explain something that is rarely challenged for so many other people.
Kimberly: That’s deep. Has this been an adjustment for you?
Onica: Definitely. This is not what I thought it would be. I guess my first adjustment was when Daniel was born. Even though I knew I was having a biracial child, I always saw him brown and with curly hair—having more black features like me. So when he was born, it was difficult for me to adjust to a child who really didn’t have much physical resemblance. For example, I always thought if I had a son, I would braid his hair, I can’t do that with Daniel’s straight hair texture.
Kimberly: But Daniel looks just like you in the face. Only a lighter version.
Onica: Oh yes, definitely I see it now. But others only see the skin tone, not the features.
Kimberly: Are the questions from adults or children?
Onica: Both. The adults I can reason with and respond to. But recently Daniel and I were at the playground and some older kids started asking who I was and why I didn’t look like him, and then they began to tease Daniel, saying things like, “go back to China.”
Kimberly: Wow! How did you handle that?
Onica: I really didn’t know what to do. An adult I can respond to, but I’m still struggling with how to respond to kids. On that day, I decided that we should just leave the park.
Kimberly: It’s a shame, because children are learning a lack of tolerance at home. How do you try to support Daniel’s Korean culture?
Onica: Well, his father is not a part of his life, so I do a lot to take him to Korean events and stay connected to Korean friends. Daniel had a “Tol” which a Korean first birthday celebration (see picture). I try to tap into that, as I do for black and West Indian events, and keep him connected.
Kimberly: Do you ever wonder how Daniel will identify?
Onica: I do wonder but it will be his choice whether he chooses to identify as black or Korean or just American. Since I’m Guyanese, he’s been predominantly raised in that culture. I mean, he was eating chicken and roti before anything Korean, but it’s ultimately his choice.
Kimberly: In the big scheme of things, what do you want for Daniel?
Onica: I want my son to not have to explain as much as I have had to explain. What he chooses is his choice, but I want him to go into that choice fully confident about who he is. I also want more awareness from the general public that blasian children exist—blacks and Asians have been creating families for years, this is not something new. There is more awareness than when I started advocating for black and Asian families 10 years ago, but we have a long way to go about how we view biracial children. I hope this happens very soon for Daniel, and the many blasian boys and girls like him.