While making breakfast in my kitchen one Sunday morning, I got the idea to write this topic. As I pondered about the topic, I realised that it is strange phenomenon that seems to have taken the world by storm. It is a phenomenon that not only affects women but also men and I call it—“for the love of mixed race babies”. You might ask, what does “for the love of mixed race babies mean? Well, this can be identified as an extreme fondness or love for children or people that are of mixed race heritage or ethnically ambiguous”—which means that they can’t be easily identified by a particular race or ethnicity based on their physicalities or features. This type of affection towards mixed race children prompts some women or men to marry and/or have children with someone of another race, solely for the purpose of having mixed race children. The belief is that children of mixed heritage are more beautiful, attractive and/or exotic than children who come from one racial group. A second reason, primarily given by women (particularly black women) for wanting mixed race children is that their hair is much easier to manage than black hair. For more on the dynamics of hair within the black community, check out my piece on The resurgence of the Fro
This is a phenomenon that cuts across people of all races. In other words, it is not restricted to only one racial group seeking out another for the purposes of procreating mixed race children. Secondly, it is also not restricted to women alone. Men may also seek out women of other races in other to have mixed race children. For example, a black woman may seek out a white man just as much as a white man may seek out a black woman for this reason. Similarly, an Indian man make seek out a black woman just as much as a black woman may seek out a Chinese man, all in the name of having mixed race babies.
Where does this mindset come from?
Having said this, it is important to trace where this mindset comes from. A few months ago, I wrote a piece on “black is beautiful: why skin lightening is a really bad idea”. Although this topic is somewhat different from the piece I wrote, I find that is valuable in understanding why some people feel the urge to have mixed race children. However, these reasons may vary from one race to another.
Within the black community, the fondness for mixed race children is directly linked to skin colour. For decades, it has been purported that a person who is light skinned or fair in complexion typifies the ideal standard of beauty. People of mixed race heritage are generally seen as “ethnically ambiguous”—which means that they can’t be easily identified by a particular race or ethnicity based on their physicalities or features. For this reason, many people believe that mixed race children are more beautiful because of their skin colour and physicalities. This mindset has also been purported through the media. Whether TV commercials, movies, music videos etc, we are constantly shown imagery of light-skinned women, who seem to typify the standards of beauty. Eventually these imagery starts to shape perceptions and perceptions later translate into actions. Some people also feel that mixed race children are more likely to have better opportunities in society than children who originate from one racial group. The belief is that people will judge us on the colour of our skin and because of this, mixed race children are more likely to forge ahead because people feel that their heritage makes them more “socially acceptable” and “worldly” in the sense that they have been exposed to different cultures, ideas and thinking than their non-mixed race counterparts.
Colonisation is another important factor that continues to influence the black community and particularly Africans. The history book tells us that when the colonialists came to Africa, they were more inclined to favour Africans with lighter skin tones than those who were darker in complexion. This was particularly rife in Francophone Africa (African countries colonised by French speaking European powers such as Belgium and France), where lighter skinned Africans were generally given more prominent positions of authority than those who were darker in complexion. Historians have argued that colonialists adopted this attitude because fairer skinned Africans were more similar to the Europeans in terms of skin colour, which served as grounds for favouritism. Some evidence suggests that the differential treatment between lighter and darker skinned Africans by colonialists in Rwanda (the horn of Africa) may have contributed to the 1994 genocide of the Tutsi people by the Hutu population, as the latter believed that the formerly were disproportionally favoured by European colonialists. This caused a long-standing rivalry between the two groups, which later culminated in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, where close to 1 million Tutsi people were massacred and killed within a 3 month period.
Socialisation and peer-pressure is another factor that influences some people to pursue someone of another race for the purposes of having a baby with mixed heritage. This is generally shaped by the perception we have of ourselves and outside influences, be it family, friends or our environments.
Challenges faced by Mixed Race Babies
Mixed race children tend to face particular challenges linked to issues of race and identity in their formative years. It has been reported that many mixed race children experience difficulties while trying to connect with their peers of non-mixed race heritage. This is because mixed race children are sometimes marginalised by their peers for being “different”. Some mixed race children feel like they don’t quite fit in with their peers because they look different from them and feel that they are judged for being “different”. In these situations mixed race children can become withdrawn, or only seek friendships with other mixed race children who are more accepting of them.
Often, mixed race children tend to identify with one race over another. While this may occur for any number of reasons, it definitely makes them feel like they are in a “tug-of-war” with themselves or experiencing an internal battle within. Some may even refer to this feeling as being “cultureless” (as harsh as it may sound), because they are constantly trying to figure out who they are and where they belong. These issues may even become more prominent in adulthood, if a strong sense of identity is not established at an early age. This is not to say that children from a single racial group do not experience challenges of their own regarding race and identity, (especially in a world that is constantly trying to stereotype and label people), but to highlight that it is an issue that has been identified, particularly among children from mixed heritage.
The panacea: be accepting of yourself and each other
We live in a world that is constantly trying to define us based on our race, ethnicity, colour and physicalities etc. While we cannot escape the label that society places on us, we can choose how we view and identify ourselves, which is the first step in addressing vein societal standards. We need to understand that we are all beautiful, regardless of our race, colour, ethnicity or physicalities. As the old saying goes, variety is the spice of life, without which, we would live a monotonous existence, to say the least. I feel that as a society we have come to a time where we need to stand up for each other and celebrate our differences rather than spurn them. It is time that we dictate the social agenda to the media, rather than have them continue to dictate what is “in” vs what is “out” to us. This is the only way we can hope to change the social agenda and perpetuate the message of acceptance rather than exclusivity.