By German Diaz, WATG Board Member
I have to admit that the person who inspired me to write this article about the topic of identity was my daughter. Although she is only five years old, her unique inquisitive mind and her awareness about her identity continues to amaze me. I am married to a Puerto Rican woman and therefore, both of my children are bilingual, bicultural and multiethnic. They also have had the opportunity to travel abroad to various Latin-American countries. Therefore, their identities are a collage of various Latin-American cultures, and languages of which I am very proud.
A few days ago, my daughter told me, “Daddy, do you know I am Colombian, Puerto Rican and American.” As she was saying that, her face was full of excitement and I could not help but to reaffirm to her that being all of those was indeed a very, very special gift. A gift that often is not seen as such, in a society in which minority students are often seen from a deficit model lens.
The topic of identity is very complex. And therefore, it is something that many parents may not feel very comfortable talking to their children, especially if we add the issue of race. In a recent interview, Julie Lythcott-Haims, author of the book: How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success (2016), shared her own insights about the topic of identity by referring to her own experiences growing biracial. The word biracial first came to use in the late 80s and let’s keep in mind that not too long ago in the 1960s, marrying some from a different race was considered illegal in fifteen of the fifty states.
In this interview she discusses the fact that growing up, her parents did not protect and prepare her enough for when she had to be on her own. By this she meant that her parents felt short to protect her by failing to reaffirm her biracial identity. She argues that at times, parents of multicultural and/or biracial children are unable to have deep conversations with their children about their beautiful, yet complex identities. She mentions how growing up her parents reaffirmed her black identity, but fell short to expose her to black role models outside the family circle. Thus, she grew up affirming her blackness, while denying her whiteness.
Her story, makes me think back about my daughter’s own perceptions of being Colombian, Puerto Rican and American. And it makes me think that perhaps, as a dad I have done a decent job, reaffirming her cultural and racial identity as something worth celebrating. It is my hope that my daughter and other children alike will to have the opportunity to grow and flourish surrounded by parents, teachers, and a community that truly appreciate being diverse.