As a parent of mixed race Chinese and White children, I reviewed with great interest a preview copy of Raising Mixed Race: Multiracial Asian Children in a Post-Racial World by Sharon H. Chang. The author — a multiracial Asian woman, advocate and scholar – was frustrated at the lack of resources for multiracial families. As a result, she conducted her own research to fill the void. The findings are expertly compiled in her book which is currently Amazon’s #1 New Release in the categories of Sociology and Asian American Studies.
Chang interviewed 68 parents of 75 young multiracial Asian children about race, racism and identity. In this solid, well-written book, Chang uses both quantitative and qualitative methods to analyze multiracial issues in-depth. Excerpts from interviews with parents provide additional insight into the mindset of those closest to multiracial children. Although many of the study’s subjects were of Asian-White backgrounds, Chang does not ignore the historic experiences influencing Blacks, Hispanics, and others who are in racially mixed families with Asians.
This book is not just for academics and researchers, but also for families, teachers and students who want to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the mixed race children they may associate with, or who may be racially-mixed themselves.
One of the many findings that stood out was the invisibility of mixed race people in literature, media, and societal systems. The lack of representation is baffling given the shift in America’s racial demographics between the last two U.S. Censuses which showed a 32% growth in the “Two or More Races” category. Yet forms asking for self-identification historically offer only five racial categories, none which acknowledge mixed races. With this in mind, why must multiracial people choose their identities based on outdated categories that force them to select only one race when they are in fact not? Chang explores this, providing historical background about topics like the “One Drop Rule” and systematic racism that were created to uphold the privilege of those in power.
Another interesting finding was the discussion of race with children, or lack thereof. Many parents believe their children are too young to understand race. Others assume they will teach their children to be “color blind.” The reality is that race and color cannot be erased. Parents may pretend race does not matter, but the rest of society still sees it. My child could be the most brilliant, beautiful person, but one day someone is going to notice her tanned skin and darker features, put two and two together, and harass her. They may call her a “Chink” or tell her to “Go back to China,” just like the bullies told me when I was young.
Children at a young age pick up on racial nuances. Chang’s study showed that children “as young as 6 months and possibly earlier… [demonstrated] they notice and can sort people based on racial differences. By 2 years of age children can be seen using white racial categories and framing to reason about people’s behaviors.” The findings also indicated that of the 75 multiracial Asian children studied (most under age 6 and of Asian-White descent), at least half had experienced racism. These children also often had the unique burden of experiencing racism from within the home from relatives.
Talk to your children about race. It’s better to prepare them to deal with discrimination than to blindside them when racism occurs. Chang powerfully states in her book, “Silence about racism does not keep children from noticing it and developing racial beliefs, it just keeps them from talking about it with us and encourages stereotypes to remain unchanged.”
Raising Mixed Race: Multiracial Asian Children in a Post-Racial World is a fundamental book for all multiracial families who seek to understand the unique perspectives and experiences their children have or will face.
About Sharon H Chang
Sharon H. Chang identifies as a “multiracial Asian woman, married to a multiracial Asian man, and mother to a multiracial Asian son.” She has worked with young children and families for over a decade as a teacher, administrator, advocate and parent educator. She is currently a writer, scholar and activist who focuses on racism, social justice and the Asian American diaspora with a feminist lens. Chang holds a Master’s degree in Human Development with an Early Childhood Specialization where Raising Mixed Race was an idea that stemmed from her Master’s thesis. Follow Chang’s work on her blog, Multiracial Asian Families.