When I read this article on race and identity and the “changing face of America”, I was completely riveted. I sometimes talk here about my experience of being married to someone from another culture. It’s not for everyone, but it’s an adventure that I truly love. I also work with refugees and have two brothers from Uganda, so I spend a lot of time pondering diversity, cultural/racial heritage, the acculturation process, etc. Each of us has a complex and multifaceted cultural identity. My future kids will have two distinct cultures they can claim. We want them to know both and be able to weave them together in a way that makes sense for them. In the article, Michele Norris goes into the statistics on interracial marriage and discusses her findings on the experiences and struggles of people who identify with more than one ethnic group. I highly recommend reading it in it’s entirety (the pictures are stunning!!), but here is an excerpt:
Edgewalkers are like happy ambassadors who “move between cultural traditions and cultural communities with some level of ease, comfort and enjoyment.” Edgewalkers welcome questions, even when the query is boneheaded or uncomfortable (“Ooooh, is that your father?”). They are calm when people stare or ask about their suntans or light eyes. They enjoy confounding people. Humor is always in their toolbox. Patience too. They see these encounters as a chance to chip away at a tortured history.
Isn’t this what we want for all multiethnic children? Oh, that we could all be comfortable in our skin and well-adjusted enough to laugh ourselves when the occasion calls for it. (i.e. http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/) It’s a work in progress for many of us. We live in a fallen world, but, at our best, we are able to see the beauty in each other’s unique features AND our own and to laugh at the humanity that makes us assume things about each other, trusting that our assumptions don’t come from a place of malice. I will say that since changing my last name to Rodriguez, I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing some less-than-subtle surprised reactions when people who have seen my name meet me (with my blonde hair and blue eyes and pinkish skin) in person for the first time. It’s occurred to me that it would be really great to obtain a PhD and have a guest speaking gig where I was just introduced as Dr. Rodriguez. How many people do you think would be expecting a middle-aged Latino man to walk out onto the stage? Note to self: This is probably not a legitimate reason to pursue a PhD.
I am thankful for the diversity in the US. In my job, we talk about our mission to “welcome the stranger”. The US resettled almost 60,000 refugees in 2012. (from the ORR official website) People from Africa, Asia, the Middle East, South America and other regions who have been persecuted and endangered are brought here each year to begin new lives full of hope. They start businesses and pursue degrees and live out the American dream. I am inspired and privileged to watch this happening for my clients. Their children can grow up free to pursue their dreams and fall in love with anyone they choose.
Some of you may have heard about the Tumblr called “We Are the 15 Percent” that was started in response to the sweet Cheerios commercial featuring an interracial family. The 2008 US census reports that 15% of new marriages in the U.S. are interracial. My friend, Julie, and her husband were featured there, and I loved scrolling through and seeing the beautiful families. I submitted a photo of me and Bryan on our wedding day, and they published it on our anniversary. Here it is. I know I have a lot to learn, so here’s a shout out to the Edgewalkers among us. 🙂