Mixed Race/Culture Families

Thursday, December 19, 2013

(Flikr/Vox Efx/flickr)

NPR host and correspondent Michele Norris, who also leads the "The Race Card Project", an initiative to foster a wider conversation about race in America, takes calls about being in mixed race or mixed culture families.


Michele Norris

Comments [62]

I've dated women from backgrounds different from my own to wonderful successes and loves.

But -- ironically, if I've considered one of the interesting traits of that partner to be her difference from me in culture, skin color, religion, she may have been drawn to me in part on that same count -- or even as a way of escaping from what she considered to be her own oppressive culture or religion. So neither necessarily achieves the desired effect.

However -- each may end up appreciating their own background after seeing it from this fresh perspective.)

Feb. 10 2014 10:38 AM
MBE from LI from long island

We always joke about how many boxes to check on the ethnicity part of the census.

We are pragmatic about bigots because anyone can be a bigot, either deliberately or unwittingly, if given the chance.

We celebrate waaay more holidays than other families.

We like messing gently with people who assume we either can't "speak the language" or "appreciate the culture".

We love being able to fit in nearly anyplace at any time.

We consider ourselves citizens of the world.

Feb. 10 2014 10:13 AM

I HATE the race question on all forms, surveys and applications - including the Census. I NEVER answer this question (unless I have the chance to fill in "human.") When challenged by an insistent 'form taker" I make them fill in what they think my race is.

Feb. 10 2014 10:11 AM
Melanie Rock from Rockland County, NY

As a second generation mixed person, I can speak to whether "Mixed" is politically correct: it's fine. "Blended" sounds ridiculous to me. Maybe it looks prettier on a form, as a category/box to check, if you're not one of us... check out my mixed parenting blog:

It's taken me many (30+) years to get clear about self-identifying as Mixed. I'm sticking with it, and so do my young children. It would be inauthentic for them to call themselves anything else. "Blended" sounds like a fruit smoothie. No thanks.

Feb. 10 2014 10:10 AM



Feb. 10 2014 10:08 AM
Jason from Westchester, NY

I am the last callers brother. A mixed man who has no identity. As my brother Chris, I am a mulato. As a child, I scraped and fought my way through my childhood days. In high school I dated the richest white girl in the school. When her parents found out that I was mixed her father (who was a Cincinnati detective) and step father (rich) decided to have a convo with my former girlfriend. She did not fold and we dated for some time. Her "Rich" stepfather would ask favors of me. Please bring this up from the basement, please bring my girlfriend to ride her horse. i willingly did these things because this is who I am. Instead of a thank you and a sense of appreciation I would find $50 left for me on the table. I have since moved on, a degree from a private college and a wife and 3 kids who love me for who I am.

Dec. 19 2013 08:11 PM
Lewis from Rockland County

Why is it that liberals seem more concerned about finding ways to label people than independents or conservatives? Why can't people just say, in 6 words, "I'm (your first name here) and I'm an American."
The trend among people is that everyone is jumping into the gene pool, so why should we sweat about classifying people? If you have to prove that you are an accepting person by finding an acceptable label to put on others then maybe you aren't as accepting as you think you are.

Dec. 19 2013 04:53 PM
Agalma from NYC

Patricia, it was moving to hear you speak so authentically about your feeling of loss regarding your sister. As I listened to you I was thinking that, on some level, she must have experienced some loss of you too, though maybe not consciously. The qualities that went into your call, including an ability to reflect about yourself and your feelings, must be part of what she's missed out on in losing a connection with you.

I have a similar rift with a family member whose way of being also includes a nearly complete lack of self-reflectiveness, and since he's pathologically narcissistic, there's also no opportunity for other family members even to say on the simplest level something like: I miss the connection I feel we once had, and I miss you, and I'm trying to find a way back to some of that connection.

I guess I'm saying all this partly because I have a question for you: can you successfully share your feelings with your sister, letting her know that you feel a loss and that you care about her? By "successfully," I mean more or less: in a way that gets a baseline-respectful acknowledgement of your statement from her--rather than something painful like a brusque "I have no idea what you're talking about" or a defensive "great, so you feel superior to me," or a withdrawing, evasive shrugging-type response? Or (roughest of all) a more complex response that nevertheless amounts to one or more of the foregoing (yuck). If your answer to the question is "yes" or "maybe"-- that you can share this with some success-- then I'd like to suggest that you try connecting with your sister on the level of feelings, along the lines I mentioned. If your answer is No, I hope your draw support from your ability to relate within yourself (which may sound silly but IMO is nothing to sneeze at), and by extension to connect with others in the way that you wish you could with your sister.

Thanks for your call to BL. It helped me think more about my own situation and gave me a chance to put some of these thoughts together, and that's in turn a help to me.

May you be happy.


Dec. 19 2013 12:13 PM
Bonn from East Village

Patricia: Don't even try to talk about books and culture with your family. They will think you are a snob and you will make them uncomfortable. Believe me, I know. I just stick to family topics, gossip, joking, and I listen and smile a lot. Unfortunately, you will just have to "dumb it down" for their sake. They will accept you more. Keep your book talk for your friends.

Dec. 19 2013 11:56 AM
Lee Bartell from downtown NYC

I used to know a therapist who worked with mixed families (religious, ethnic, age, politically, etc) but said that the greatest mixed marriage of all was one with a man and a woman.

Dec. 19 2013 11:55 AM
dee from Nj ny

For Patricia and all in mixed families, its mostly about finding common positive themes. My husband is non vegetarian, me vegetarian, he is sciences, i teach arts etc. Yet we bind together as families or are born as because we love each is important to find that love!

Dec. 19 2013 11:54 AM
Fred Howard from bushwick

Brian!! You forgot the most obvious mixed family of all---the mixed urban family that many of us create over the course of living in New York City. Though I'm close to my own family, many of my friends here in the city are not, and over the course of the past 19 years of calling myself a New Yorker, I have a family of friends. We call and email constantly, celebrate holidays and birthdays together: when my father died my New York family was a source of incredible support. There's the old saying "you can't choose your family', but I think I'd have to disagree and say "you can"!

Dec. 19 2013 11:48 AM
Janet from Montclair

What about families where one person is neat and the other not. (Oscar and Felix?)

Dec. 19 2013 11:42 AM
@Salawm from Long Island

In a mixed race, mixed faith marriage. My wife and I are both Muslim (she converted a few years before we wed), her family is Christian. I'm brown, she's white. I say it is a mixed faith marriage because I'm close with her family. Things work out pretty well. I'm curious how it'll be when we have kids.

Dec. 19 2013 11:14 AM

@Bob from New York

"...or American-Afro?"

Where is Afro?

Dec. 19 2013 10:50 AM
Ihotu from Harlem, NYC

I was just listening to the show and was hoping to hear a mixed race woman call in on behalf of herself... Thus I'll write: My mother is Polish-Irish from Minnesota and my father Nigerian, and I was raised in Minnesota and have gone on to live in the Southwest, across Africa (Nigeria, Morocco, Congo) and now in New York City. I identify as slightly differently in each place, although mostly as overall "multicultural". People have identified me visually as pretty much everything under the sun - African-American, Brazilian, Egyptian, Somali - although I culturally feel Minnesotan and African. Being a woman makes it especially difficult at times since we are expected to "carry" the culture through cooking and family. For example, Thanksgiving is often a mix of rice and stew, turkey and stuffing, lefse and sauerkraut, and if not, something feels missing.

The beautiful thing about living in New York is that most people appreciate my culturally mixed background - I work in women's health and as a birth doula, and to date all of the families I've worked with are mixed race and culture in some way. Apparently we attract one another! It's just a broader perspective than you find in single culture communities. Most days, I feel like a cross between a chameleon and an undercover spy. :)

Dec. 19 2013 10:50 AM
Amy from Manhattan

To all the people saying this is pointless or worse, people who have mixed ancestry have to deal w/other people's assumptions about them & treatment of them based on their ancestry & appearance every day in real life. Just because you don't have to, that doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

Dec. 19 2013 10:49 AM

I'm a Protestant-raised black American woman married to a Catholic-raised white woman who has a mixed-race (blended?) daughter. We are often amused because some people have trouble understanding that my partner is the birth mother. I suspect people are uncomfortable with both our same-sex, cross-raise marriage.

Dec. 19 2013 10:45 AM

@bernie from bklyn

"BL Show producers- just so you know, anyone who's not in a "blended" family could care less about this segment in any way. hearing all these people call in with their mixed family stories really is a monumental waste of precious airtime. good job."

Bernie - Just so you know, any person who can trace there presence on this continent to before 1830 is likely to be 'mixed'. A majority of the people here since 1830 are (or prefer) to be treated as white have at least one minority great-grandparent. Since the importation of African slaves ended in 1808, over 80% of African-Americans have mixed heritage. In too many instances, the act of coitus which mixed those genes was not voluntary. Nowadays, it usually is. (thank god)

Science can distinguish no real difference in the races, yet our neighborhoods, our expectations and our eyes tell us that there is a difference. America's perception of race is too frequently used to camouflage real differences in income, wealth and education. To conjure Eddie Murphy, "Which are we going to believe? Science or our lying eyes." And when will America live up to it's founding words and treat all men as if they were created as equals?

It's only boring if you think you won't mix and you never will. Then you are just racist.

@john from office
Whether you know it or not, you are professing a monoculture. A monoculture could be admirable if it is not based on raising a specific sub-culture on a pedestal and putting down everyone else. Are you talking inclusive or exclusive?

Dec. 19 2013 10:44 AM

On the topic of religious upbringing and inter/intra faith marriage, has there been any measurement of correlation between attendance at worship services post-high school, either in college or early career, and likelihood of marrying in vs. outside the faith?

Dec. 19 2013 10:44 AM
Sequoia from Princeton

I don't understand some of the comments here saying that the topic is ridiculous when a Fox anchor woman just told the world sorry kids, "Santa Claus is white", a fictional character.

I am African-American, my ex-husband is Roman and two of my children were born in Italy. My daughters are literally Italian-American, but identify as African-American. When one of my daughters identifies herself as Italian based on her nationality her peers are incredulous. She is also fluent in Italian, so it has proven mind-boggling to her American peers even though we live in Princeton, NJ.

Friends who say that they're Italian because of a grandmother, but don't speak the language constantly try to challenge my daughter's identity because they just see her as black. To make things worse, my ex moved to Senegal years ago, so the girls also speak French. When they first arrived in the U.S. they called themselves African, but they got tired of students asking if they had lived in trees and just switched back to Italian-American.

Dec. 19 2013 10:43 AM
MN from brooklyn

I'm half Japanese and half Iranian and I feel that my identity has never been so emphasized until I moved to New York from Chicago. It's understandable, in a city where everyone is from somewhere else, I can't count how many times people expect to hear something different than "I'm from Chicago." Obviously I have a mixed look, and I'm very proud of my background. I've identified more with my Japanese side since I grew up going to Japanese Saturday school and I've visited my family in Japan several times. My Iranian father hasn't been back to his home country since the 1979 Revolution, nor most of my family. My Iranian side have all immigrated to the States and I have mixed cousins, but many of us don't speak Farsi to each other and we've never been to Iran. I think being culturally expressive is important and visiting the origin of your heritage puts a lot of things about yourself into perspective. I hope some day I can visit Iran with my father and my family.

Dec. 19 2013 10:39 AM
The Truth from Becky

...or I should have said multi-racial because people still try to hide under the "white" "caucasian" umbrella your heritage is what defines you where did your ancestors live? News flash wasn't America.

Dec. 19 2013 10:39 AM
thirtysomething from NYC

@ Nora from Brooklyn Heights
Later on in the 30 something show in the last season or so...Michael wants to give his son Leo a bris and Hope, Michael's Christian wife doesn't fully get why it's so important for Michael to circumcise Leo...Another good episode for an EXCELLENT TV show!!!

Dec. 19 2013 10:37 AM
Hector from Long Island

Typical unsubstantive npr drivel. No mention of how race is used as a tool of power, suppression and control. No questions about the legitimacy or illegitimacy of race. This program offered a tacit approval and acceptance of race being a normal aspect of life rather than something that needs to be continually challenged. As I listened to each caller's contribution it was evident, especially with callers who identified black, that interesting issues around power were embedded in their comments, but completely ignored by the host and guest whose perspective is backed by privilege and power.

Dec. 19 2013 10:36 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretenious Hudson Heights

blacksheartedocialist - you are such an idiot... and racist... so sad, so pathetic

Dec. 19 2013 10:35 AM
The Truth from Becky

EVERYONE of color is bi racial. There are no pure blood lines on this board clearly - I see at least three that are mixed with moron. The good thing is their generation of racists will soon be dead.

Dec. 19 2013 10:34 AM
Nora from Brooklyn Heights

I've just been watching the old television show "thirtysomething," in sort of an anthropological investigation into the 1980s :)
There is an excellent episode from the first season that explores the interfaith marriage of the two central characters, having a conflict over the holidays now that they have a baby.
It's beautifully done. I wonder if any of your older viewers remember?

Dec. 19 2013 10:32 AM
Bob from New York

Mixed Race Topic--

I don't understand why we should continue to compartmentalize different Ethnic groups. All it does is drive another wedge between all of us.

We are Americans.

This is the USA

For hundreds of years, people have come to this vast melting pot for a better life

Why does it have to be Irish-American?
Why can't it be American Irish?

or American-Afro?

Stop dividing everyone

Dec. 19 2013 10:32 AM

When my son was 6 another child asked if I was his mother. He answered yes. The other child then asked what's your father and my son said black. Finally the child asked what does that make you and my son responded Chinese.

Dec. 19 2013 10:32 AM
Amy from Manhattan

I can't remember who, but someone once said that instead of a melting pot, America was more like a stewpot--you could still tell a carrot was a carrot & an onion was an onion, but the flavors all mixed together & influenced each other. Maybe that was before there were as many "mixed-race" families; I still like it better than "melting pot," which sounds as if everything becomes homogeneous.

Of course, all this doesn't take into account the fact that for generations, "one drop" made a person officially black, no matter how they looked, so some people identified as "black" could be lighter-skinned than other people called "mixed-race."

Dec. 19 2013 10:28 AM
blacksocialist from BKbaby

Martin Chuzzlewit - you are such an idiot... and racist... so sad, so pathetic

Dec. 19 2013 10:27 AM
foodaggro from Brooklyn

Here are my six words:
Lehrer's pointless patronizing conversation wasted time.

Dec. 19 2013 10:27 AM

I have travelled extensively during my life, going to many exotic places over the years. I am offended by the fact that people take the negative point of view by becoming offended when asked where they're from or what their background is. I ask everyone where they're from, not to pidgeon hole people but out of true interest about their influences etc. When I worked in Great Neck, there were many Irani immigrants who were initially put off when I asked where they'd come from. These people suddenly became thrilled when I started speaking Farsi to them.

Dec. 19 2013 10:27 AM
antonio from baySide

Man, I know EXACTLY what the caller 'Chris' is talking about! Good call.

Dec. 19 2013 10:26 AM

Scientists say race doesn't exist genetically. One can be closer to someone of a different"race" than someone of the "same race". Mixed even more so, race is temporary, a few generations later and we'll be the same race.

Dec. 19 2013 10:25 AM

People tend to be disappointed I don't look Japanese. They seem upset that I don't fit their stereotypes.

Dec. 19 2013 10:24 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretenious Hudson Heights

How did DeBlaiso convince his now wife to "switch teams"?

Dec. 19 2013 10:23 AM
Adrienne from Connecticut

"Blended" families (like mine) have children from different parents living together. My husband and I are married, we have a daughter and 4 children from his previous marriage. Why would "mixed" race families need to re-appropriate our descriptor? Would you please like to at least offer us another term if you are going to take away "blended"? What is wrong with "mixed"? This seems a bit silly.

We are also a mixed family, politically. We talk about all the issues but avoid partisan tribal rhetoric whenever possible. It works great!

Dec. 19 2013 10:22 AM
antonio from baySide

@ Edward,
'Hell's Kitchen'...did I forget to spell it out? whooops, my bad...

Dec. 19 2013 10:20 AM
LAK from NJ

We are a mix that started in the 60s, from India and from Ireland. It's had its difficult moments, of course, from families abroad (both sides had long issues). And it still is awkward, as socially we don't fit on either side. Our children have taken up the cause, one married a catholic, another to a Jew, another (in Europe) to a German native, and the other still not married, but spends much time (including PhD research) in central/south America and is essentially a native speaker.

Dec. 19 2013 10:20 AM
bernie from bklyn

BL Show producers- just so you know, anyone who's not in a "blended" family could care less about this segment in any way. hearing all these people call in with their mixed family stories really is a monumental waste of precious airtime. good job.

Dec. 19 2013 10:19 AM
john from office

I cannot wait for when Dante gets arrested!!!

He needs a hair cut today!!

Looks like Michael Jackson in the 70's

Dec. 19 2013 10:19 AM
Alexandra Phillips from Brooklyn

I think this show has its intentions in the right place, but the beauty about being mixed blended biracial whatever you want to call it, is that you are able to have a BLEND a MIX, it is not required to identify one way or another because this is not the case. This topic, while being well intended also reinforces this countries obsession with labels. In that way the show itself subverts the value of having a dual perspective by requesting callers identify themselves one way or another or at the very least define themselves in relation to one race or another. I am a biracial person and I wonder can we not have a broader mind when dealing with this subject?

Dec. 19 2013 10:19 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ BK from Hoboken

How dare you call this segment "ridiculous", are you racist? This "conversation" justifies Michele Norris' entire career and since she is black you are clearly some sort of subconscious bigot. When a black person says something or someone is racist that's the end of the "conversation" permanently.

Dec. 19 2013 10:18 AM
Janerivers from New jersey

We are all blended. Why are we still talking about this? The bigger issue should be compassion, love and "live and let live".

Dec. 19 2013 10:16 AM
foodaggro from Brooklyn

john from office -

"We are strong because we mix into the culture and become AMERICANS!!!!"

- You just woke me up from this ridiculous segment.

Dec. 19 2013 10:13 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

"Chinaman is not the preferred nomenclature, "Asian American", please...

- Walter Sobcheck/The Big Lebowski

Common courtesy and tolerance is perfectly sufficient for any social situation. PC policemen are narcissistic, brain-dead boors ... spare us your penny ante "insight".

Dec. 19 2013 10:12 AM
BK from Hoboken

This is becoming a more and more ridiculous subject as time goes on and more people are mixed. Who cares? It is all just a label. A few stupid cases to consider: if Obama decides in 20 years to self identify as white, does that mean we never had a black president? My wife is half Turkish. Does it matter which side of the Bosporus her father was born on? Does she become European vs Asian depending on that narrow strait of water? Does anyone else see how ridiculous the idea of race or ethnicity identification is? Lets just end this.

Dec. 19 2013 10:11 AM
john from office

Wow, we are headed towards the most PC administration ever. This is sooo lame.

Blended ! mixed! and dont forget the LGBT nonsense.

Liberals will not be happy until America is balkenised into little camps. We are strong because we mix into the culture and become AMERICANS!!!!

Dec. 19 2013 10:11 AM

According to Brian: "serious" and "fraught" topic.

Maybe by angsty people hung up on differences of race and color of skin.


Dec. 19 2013 10:10 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretenious Hudson Heights

antonio from baySide

> When I say 'I am from HK

Hong Kong?

Dec. 19 2013 10:10 AM
foodaggro from Brooklyn

... (even bigger yawn) ... (louder, longer, more absent-minded-sounding sigh) ...

Dec. 19 2013 10:09 AM
Tara from NYC

I am mixed and have mixed children. It is true that society can make things difficult and complicated for us, but I refuse to give in to the "tragic half breed" stereotype. I also will not use the term mixed race as there is only one race and that's the human race. I am raising my children to be educated and proud of their entire ancestral heritage, but to see themselves as human beings first and foremost and to not allow anyone to place limitations on them.
Our mix is Caucasian, African, Native American. Cultures of origin are Irish, Cuban, Jamaican, Dakota/Cree.

Dec. 19 2013 10:09 AM
carolita from NYC

My mother is South American, and my dad is white. It never occurred to me that I was "mixed race" until I had to get my social security card and I had to choose a race or "other." I asked my mother and she said to "put white, because it's better." I never forgot that. Later, it turned out that my mother felt like she was discriminated against, and had fears that I would be discriminated against, too. She was for total assimilation, wanting me to go blond (I'd look ridiculous blond!), date only white men, never speak spanish.

In fact, I found it annoying that when I was in France, and my name was called out in consulates or other bureaucratic places (my legal name is not Carolita), and I would stand up, they'd say, "No, no, not you," in disbelief because my name did not match my physical appearance. That was what finally made me go by "Carolita."

White people think I'm Latina, and Latino people think I'm white. I was shocked when a kid in Washington Heights yelled "Hey, white girl!" at me, because I never thought of myself as a "white girl." I'm quite happy to be "mixed race." That's fine with me. I was always proud to be part of the "melting pot." But I feel neither Latina, nor German/Swedish (like my Dad). Yes, there are little bits of me that match the culture because I picked up tics from each of my parents, and that amuses me.

Dec. 19 2013 10:09 AM
Kim from Crown Heights, BK

I resent the use of the term "race" in general. As far as I know we are all part of the human race and unless you are discussing blended families, say martian and human, I believe the term should be something along the lines of mixed or blended ethnicity or nationality.

Dec. 19 2013 10:08 AM
Roberta from Brooklyn

I am white and I adopted my daughter from China. She went to daycare and then elementary school in Chinatown and we lived in Clinton Hill, which was a mostly black neighborhood.

When she was little, she referred to Chinese kids as either white Chinese (adopted kids with white parents) or black Chinese (Chinese kids with Chinese parents).

Dec. 19 2013 10:08 AM
antonio from baySide

While this is anecdotal:
When I say 'I am from HK, everyone jumps to visions of the Jets vs. the sharks, but it was really much more (of course..) Growing up in Hell's Kitchen in the late 70's-early 90's exposed me to the idea of diversity and a range of ideas and concepts early on. From the famous '9th ave. food festival' which happens every May, to the many sub-sections of the neighborhood (lower t& middle-class to the north, working class Irish to the west and all the rest every where else...).

Race was important to some, but it was mostly used as a way to know who you were. I am Puerto Rican and Haitian but look racially ambiguous which I think was the reason why I gravitated to 'nerd culture.' I didn't really fit in with the other major groups so I banded together with the other lesser groups in HK. D & D, drawing and comic book collecting was our past-times. But this really doesn't give my experience due, because like all things... it was really complex and varied...

Dec. 19 2013 10:07 AM
foodaggro from Brooklyn


Dec. 19 2013 10:06 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretenious Hudson Heights

Who is the new Mayor?

The guy with the Afro or the girl with flowers growing out of her head?

Dec. 19 2013 10:06 AM

Since I don't look like either ethnicity, I don't really belong to either group and people tend to just assume I'm hispanic because I look "Not quite white"

Dec. 19 2013 10:02 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

A phony topic that picks the low hanging fruit cliches off the tree.
Ideology and politics are what separate people now.

Being black or gay in a New York family is a yawner ...(perfect for kumbaya radio shows) ... try being a conservative or someone who doesn't swallow the prevailing left wing religion or ignore Obama's obvious incompetence in a brainwashed NY family. THAT'S HARD.

As the old Jewish comedian said on his deathbed... "Dying? Dying is easy, comedy is hard!"

Dec. 19 2013 09:53 AM

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