I don’t want to make it sound like race is a dominant theme in our marriage or our life, but as an interracial couple (even one who lives in one of the most ethnically diverse and tolerant cities on the planet), race *is* an important part of our reality.
For the past couple weeks I was harboring a burning question deep inside of myself: What will Mariel’s skin tone be? What does each of us want it to be? And how will her race be classified on her birth certificate?
A few years ago, a Cuban-born woman was visiting us at home in San Juan. She was an acquaintance, not a close friend, and I was horrified when she asked whether Francisco considers himself Black or Cuban. I was so taken aback I couldn’t answer her and waited for him to re-enter the room. “I’m both,” he said, simple as that. Because it really is that simple.
But Mariel will be black, white, and Hispanic. And, as Francisco asserts regularly with pride, she’ll be American. And a New Yorker. Being American and New Yorker–though not unimportant–don’t seem to have quite the determining influence over so many aspects of our lives, though, as race. If we choose a single race for our daughter, how are we shaping her identity? How are we either creating or blocking future opportunities? How are we denying other aspects of her background?
There’s the temptation to choose “Other,” but something about that feels unsatisfying, too. We’d rather she decide for herself, but babies–blissfully unaware of race–can’t do that.
We haven’t arrived at any answers.