50 shades of brown: Mixed Kids and Colorism in the Black Community

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Colorism in the black community happens all the time but how does it affect mixed race and biracial families and kids? It has a devastating effect among siblings and can affect families even more…

Butterscotch, chocolate, vanilla, hot fudge and caramel. No, not the local ice cream shop menu, these are the five sweet sensations my four year old uses to describe her family’s skin tones. It’s cute because she’s sort of matter of fact about it.

Just as ice cream comes in different flavours, so do we.

Fortunately for my daughter, she started to become aware of skin colour in a country where the majority were dark-skinned black. We were living in Nigeria when she had just turned two, she went to an international school where many children were from mixed cultural backgrounds and it was normal to have parents from two, sometimes 3 or 4 different racial backgrounds. So she had a very healthy sense of diversity.

Unfortunately, however, I soon discovered a new ‘ism’ that is not far from racism in its harmful effect.  And it’s what awaits her as she does become more conscious.

Colorism in the Black Community

‘Colorism’ is the term widely used to describe what happens within non-white racial groups when lighter skinned people are favoured, considered more beautiful and often more successful because of it. It is just as pervasive, if not less subtle, as discrimination is in the northern hemisphere. And just as painful to witness.

Our experience in Nigeria on the whole, was positive but it did have its setbacks. My daughter was noticed by Nigerians everywhere, not because she was smart or funny but because she had ‘beautiful long curls’. After my second daughter was born however, we experienced something slightly different. My middle daughter has auburn hair and lighter skin. For a mixed child, my older daughter is relatively dark. When the comparisons started, right in front of both of them, I started to become conscious that even within the black community, there will be questions.

To be honest, I’d never even thought about different shades of brown until I had my first child. It was soon after her birth here in England that the comments came. Nothing negative but certainly people noticed and commented that she is darker skinned, a recessive gene inherited perhaps from my biracial background being half Persian.

A year later, we travelled to Nigeria on holiday and I was waiting in the airport with my daughter. A woman approached and asked if she was mine. I answered yes. With a look of disapproval, she sneered that my husband must be ‘very dark’. I didn’t understand what had just happened but soon realised I was meant to take that as an insult. For me, it was perhaps just a fact. ‘Thank you’, I said naively. That was my first experience of colorism in the black community.

Colorism still exists… no matter how far we’ve come

Skin colour politics still dominate many developing countries left over as it were, from colonial or even slavery days in America where lighter skinned folk were favoured by colonials and often educated and bestowed more prestigious jobs. While darker skinned people were given the back breaking work. The legacy of their colonial pasts still persists in places like India, Latin America and Africa where you might see lighter skinned celebrities and news readers. Even soul-destroying skin bleach products are still in rampant demand. While more labour intensive jobs remain mostly filled by darker people.

In the West, it’s definitely more subtle and only persists, as far as I can tell, in the positively spun comments made about mixed race babies being the most ‘beautiful’ and ‘so cute’. Understandably, there is a still a lot of anger about colorism within the black community that the concept of beauty is still very much dominated by light skinned black folk with loose curls. Colorism in the black community still very much exists today.

I can say that my daughter is singled out here but more so because of her curly black hair which ‘drops’ while my middle daughter’s hair is a much thicker texture and grows more like an afro style might.

All of my three have different skin shades and I love the way my darling daughter describes us in delicious flavours. But I’m also very aware that she is beginning to notice skin shades in greater depth.  She notices that many of her role models are ‘vanilla’- her mother, her teachers, her swimming instructor, Elsa and Anna… Sure, she has a few black mentors but her life is dominated by folks who don’t look like her.

My sister’s children, who are mixed South Asian, Iranian and a quarter white are both very light skinned. Her oldest is even able to pass as white. This, in itself, brings with it other issues where people assume a darker skinned mum might be the nanny and not her parent.

How do we encourage our children to love the skin they’re in?

Living in London is probably one of the most diverse places we can go to expose our children to people of all different ethnicities, skin tones and racial backgrounds. Although white people are the majority, with effort, our kids will have many people to which they can associate positive attributes to darker skin: their dad and extended family being major players in that.

When my kids ask the inevitable question about why they don’t have lighter skin, I want to have an open discussion about colorism and why that’s important to them.  We’re conditioned from a very young age to see skin colour. And that’s okay. But the social meanings and how we educate our children is up to us.

Raising Mixed Kids in a Colourism World

mixed race kids10 things to consider interracial relationship pinterest

 

21 Unusual Ideas for Kids Advent Calendars

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Are you looking for an alternative to the usual chocolate kids advent calendar this year?

I love Christmas and I love the countdown but I do feel as if the chocolate can get a bit much. Plus, though they love opening up the little windows, it’s just nice to shake it up a bit every couple of years and see how creative you can get.

Thus began my search to find out if there were decent kids advent calendar alternatives that were as exciting as chocolate for three expectant little girls looking for their chocolate fix.

Thankfully, I wasn’t struggling for inspiration. There are loads of alternative kids advent calendar ideas.  From diy-ing it yourself to religious inspired pin ups, candle lighting, crafts and more.

Last year, I was so inspired in fact, I decided to do two. For the visual countdown that both my two year old and four year old could understand, I decided on a Santa’s beard calendar. Each day, they glued on a cotton ball to Santa’s beard marking one more sleep closer to Santa’s arrival. Click the photo below for an instant printable.

Kids Advent Calendars

 

 

 

 

 

 


Playmobil Christmas Nativity Stable with Manger

Then, to add some meaning to our Christmas and in hopes that the girls understood the Christmas story, we bought them the Playmobile Nativity scene. It doesn’t actually come as an advent calendar so I have been boxing one piece for them everyday to create the scene. But, it was a real hit and it was great to see the three of them excited to find what was waiting for them each morning, then being able to play with the miniatures each day.


Advent Around the World

Here is another idea from Thirdculturemama which is about exploring advent globally and remembering others across the world.

Kids Advent Calendars
“So, each day in December, we will locate the country on a map, the kids will get unwrap one small object (tiny items from around the house..surprise, that’s where your toy orange was!) and if we can get our act together, we’ll complete the activity and outreach as well as pray for people we know in that country. You can see how this thing took on a life of its own. Oh dear. Time to recenter on the advent season again.”


Playinchoc Kids Advent Calendar

Kids Advent CalendarThis PLAYin CHOC advent calendar is sooo cute! The advent contains 24 drawers, each calendar drawer contains: 10g organic chocolate with coconut + 3D puzzle & fun facts card. A sweet little 3D puzzle that the kids can play with and put together makes this soo worth it! Once each drawer is removed, replace back to front to form a new picture which will be completed on Christmas Eve.


Disney Snow White 12 Days Beauty Kids Advent Calendar

Kids Advent CalendarsMad Beauty’s Snow White Advent calendar features 12 individual products to enjoy as each window is opened featuring a range of bath and body products all with the a fresh apple fragrance. A great gift to give or receive with classic images from Disney’s’ iconic Snow White & the Seven Dwarves. Open a window a day to enjoy one of these hidden surprises – hand cream, body lotion or body wash, lip balm , bath fizzers , nail file or a body puff.


Coppenrath Victorian Christmas Chest Large Advent Calendar

Kids Advent CalendarsThis Victorian Christmas Chest Large Advent Calendar by Barbara Behr is full of festive fun. The countdown to Christmas begins here with traditional Christmas images the whole family is sure to enjoy.


LEGO City Advent Calendar Construction Toy

Kids Advent CalendarsCelebrate christmas with this LEGO city advent calendar 2018. The set includes five LEGO minifigures (including Santa) and a husky dog figure. Features 24 different buildable gifts including vehicles, seasonal items and more. Open a door each day to reveal the day’s present and collect all minifigures to add to your building sets. Celebrate the spirit of the season in LEGO city with the newest, fun advent calendar.


Gemstone Geological Advent Calendar

Kids Advent Calendars

A unique and original Advent Calendar with a difference. Our Gemstone Geology Advent Calendar introduces a new gemstone every day – educational and fun. An alternative advent calendar. The personalised box is full of 24 individually packaged and numbered gemstones and fossils, all with an information card. One to open for each day of advent. There is also a drawstring cloth bag to keep the contents in once opened.


Pins And Patches Kids Advent Calendars Christmas Stocking

Kids Advent Calendars

This Pins And Patches Advent Calendar is something completely new. It is a ‘treat’ calendar, but one which doesn’t contain anything edible.

This badge and iron-on embroidered patch calendar is full of daily fun (all the badges and patches come on a backing card with a fun fact or joke), and on opening each day the contents can be used to create something original and useful.


Disney Christmas Advent Book

Kids Advent CalendarsIf you are looking for something a bit different than chocolate to countdown to Christmas this year, then this Disney Christmas Advent Book is perfect! Great value and fun, this lovely advent gift features 24 different mini-books from the Disney storybook collection in a cased wallet. Great for children aged between 6-10 years, this will be sure to give them hours of fun this Christmas!


‘Christmas Reindeer Balloon Kids Advent Calendars

Kids Advent Calendars

A fun and unique balloon advent calendar, the perfect way to count down to the big day! The advent calendar is made up of 24 5-inch balloons each pre-stuffed with a Christmas chocolate. The kit includes the gold cord, 24 red mini balloons pre-stuffed with Christmas chocolate and 24 gorgeous red nosed reindeer’s ready to be inflated to create this unique Christmas Advent Calendar with.


Mouttop Kids Advent Calendars ,24 Charms DIY Necklace Bracelet 

Kids Advent CalendarsEach day has a number and when you open it, there are have 24 pcs differnt charm for the charm bracelet & Necklace. Great advent calendar for adults or kids advent calendar. A fun Christmas countdown calendar. When you wear it, it promotes beauty, health, good luck, and healing. It is a great gift for your best friend, significant other, or anyone who enjoys handmade fine jewelry.


Christmas Gingerbread House Kids Advent Calendars

Kids Advent Calendars

A large 3D gingerbread house advent calendar with 24 cubby holes to fill with treats for the christmas countdown. This large wooden gingerbread house is painted in traditional reds and greens with a sparkling snow trim. It is decorated with lots of fun sweetie detailing from candy canes to sprinkles and gobstoppers on the roof.


The Colour In Christmas Kids Advent Calendars

Kids Advent Calendars

Open the door to days of crafty Christmas fun, with this colour-in advent calendar with a difference. Inspire a crafty Christmas! Children will love the visual representation of this advent calendar.  With each day of advent the calendar fills with colour and adds to the excitement of ‘how many more sleeps there is to go’! Choose the personalised option, making this advent extra special and a keepsake memory for years to come.


Joe & Seph’s Popcorn Advent Calendar 2018 (Contains 24 x 5g bags of popcorn)

Kids Advent CalendarsA giant book advent calender filled with 24 bags of 12 different Joe & Seph’s customer favourite flavours. The advent calender is designed as the Joe & Seph’s popcorn shop, open the shop to see the jars of popcorn with 24 windows each revealing it’s own secret flavour.

 

 


Christmas Activity Kids Advent Calendars

Kids Advent Calendars

A set of 24 Advent Activity Cards. A fun pack of high quality cards for toddlers and children to celebrate the countdown to Christmas. This unique set of cards is a lovely way to prepare for Christmas in a fun and thoughtful way. Each card states an activity for your child to do that day.


Advent Candle

Kids Advent CalendarsA grown-up version of the traditional advent calendar – the advent candle is lit every day on the run up to Christmas and burnt down to the following date. A lovely tradition for those chilly winter evenings spent in front of the fire. Small red glass Candle holder also available.


VTech Toot-Toot Animals Kids Advent Calendars – Multi-Coloured

Kids Advent CalendarsCountdown to Christmas with the fabulous Toot-Toot Animals advent calendar. 24 fun play pieces including a cute Toot-Toot Animals Reindeer and baby, Christmas decorations and more. Reindeer includes 3 Christmas songs, 6 festive melodies and lots of fun sound effects. Reindeer responds to SmartPoint locations with different phrases, sound effects and more on all Toot-Toot Animals play sets.


Crayola Christmas Kids Advent Calendars Kit

Kids Advent CalendarsKeep kids creatively engaged as they wait for Santa with the Crayola Christmas countdown activity advent calendar. This kit includes a 24-day calendar of surprises that offers a daily dose of creativity for every day of the holiday season. Packed with craft projects, homemade gifts, finger puppets, and coloring activities, this set helps kids get into the spirit of Christmas and provides a positive outlet for their yuletide excitement.


24 Pack Item with Kids Advent Calendars 2018 Geocaching

Kids Advent CalendarsContains 24 geocaching parts) + 24 bags and 24 number stickers

 

 

And finally… I couldn’t leave this one out!

Multicultural Book Kids Advent Calendars: Books for STRONG Girls

Kids Advent CalendarsFirst of all, If you haven’t done a Book Advent before, you have one book for each day of your countdown to the holiday of your choice. You can buy the books, check them out from your local library, or simply incorporate book titles already in your home library. If you want to add an element of surprise, wrap and date each book and let your child(ren) open one each day. These books are also critical for raising boys who believe in gender equality. Teachers and parents: we need to be explicitly teaching gender equality through reading aloud and the books we share with boys and girls. Every child needs to see everyday female role models, as well as on TV/movies. By doing this, we teach tolerance and empathy, while breaking down harmful stereotypes. This multicultural book advent list below is appropriate for ages 0-10.


50 Acts of Kindness by Kids for Advent

Kids advent calendarsFinally, this year I want to incorporate more of the giving part of Christmas than the receiving.  I found this list of 50 acts of kindness for kids at advent on pinterest which is great. It includes ideas like: bake  goodies and give them to your neighbours; write a letter telling your brother/ sister how much you love them and; make a christmas card for your teacher. I intend to add a few of my own and make it personal to my child(ren).

Happy making and buying and do share some of your own ideas for your kids’ Christmas countdown this year!

Check Out These Incredible Black Greeting Cards Featuring Mixed Race Girls!

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So when I’m onto something great,  I want to share it with my mixed race community. Within a few short days of launching this blog, I met Joanne, an artist who was creating something similar to what I wanted- something that inspires our biracial girls and boys to feel good about who they are and to be represented.

These black greeting cards are so inspired and creative that you’re not going to want to stop at one.  Joanne creates cards and wonderful wall art that you can put up all over your child’s bedroom.

Joanne’s story is inspiring. With two little girls of mixed heritage herself, Joanne quit the corporate ladder to pursue her artistic talent. Her paintings as well as her line of mixed race and black greeting cards are incredible- the reason I’d like to share her website so you too can be inspired!

Visit her shop today and see for yourself what being represented can look like…

https://www.etsy.com/shop/jostevensoncreative

 


Check out more from Mixed.Up.Mama…

GUIDE TO MULTICULTURAL TOYS AND BLACK DOLLS WITH NATURAL HAIR

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO DIVERSE CHILDREN'S BOOKS with multiracial characters

Complete Guide to Ethnic, Mixed Race and Afro Dolls

Taye Diggs had the audacity to call his son ‘mixed’

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Attacked this week was Hollywood actor Taye Diggs over his mixed race son, Walker (6) whom he shares with his former wife Idina Menzel. Menzel is caucasian and so it follows their son is biracial. But Diggs had the audacity to say he is mixed.

To Americans, this is equivalent to Diggs denying his own black identity, refuting his history and ignoring the one-drop rule which has defined American race politics and identity. The likes of Tiger Woods and Lewis Hamilton are often slammed for their refusal to identify solely as Black. Instead, they purport they are indeed mixed.

Tiger who is one-quarter Chinese, one-quarter Thai, one-quarter African American, one-eighth Native American, and one-eighth Dutch jokingly refers to his ethnic make-up as “Cablinasian” (a syllabic abbreviation he coined from Caucasian, Black, (American) Indian, and Asian).

Obama, however, perhaps for simplicity’s sake when running for American president knew that identifying as one-half anything would hurt his political ambitions. He opted early on to adopt an entirely Black identity. And without any of his white relatives alive to contest, he’s been largely accepted.

Although the one-drop rule was invented by white segregationists who were keen to keep their racial blood lines ‘pure’, African Americans themselves are fierce critics of the multi-racial category. To this day, only 7 percent of Americans identify as multi-racial (when many believe the numbers are much higher).

American sitcoms, dramas and day time soap operas still exhibit same-race couples. And when there is an exception, it’s usually a show looking to make major ripples (like the sitcom Ellen in the early 2000’s when they featured a same-sex kiss). British tv, on the other hand, features inter racial dating as naturally as any other couple. It’s refreshing to see.

To me, the one-drop rule seems outdated and completely against an individual’s right to define his/herself. I get the argument that yes, he will  be seen throughout his life as Black and his experience probably largely defined by living as a Black man in a racist world. But, we have to start somewhere don’t we? Walker will be influenced by both his parents and that will complete his identity. He shouldn’t be forced to choose just because the world does it for him. Let me know what you think by commenting below.

Be sure to read Diggs’ latest book ‘Mixed Me’ which is about a biracial family. I’ll be ordering it soon for my little ones and I’ll be sure to include a review.  Well done Taye for stepping up, speaking out and writing about it.

For more about mixed race families, read Are Multiracial Families the New Normal?

mixed race taye diggs
Mixed Me!

“Mummy, I hate my sticky-out bum”: Teaching Our Girls a Healthy Body Image

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Teaching a Healthy Body Image to our Girls

“Mummy, I hate my sticky-out bum!” Those words were uttered by my oldest daughter followed by floods of tears on her way home from school. “Why can’t I have a ‘flat’ bum Mama?”, she asked through sobs.

I can’t tell you how much pain I felt in that moment. My daughter is four years old.

Teaching our Mixed Girls a Healthy Body Image

I mean, I knew it was coming. I have three daughters. Indeed, body image and consciousness sort of go with the territory. But I expected it later, much later- when we’ve put in the groundwork.  When she knows that yes, she may be curvy and more shapely than the stick thin models she sees in magazines and online, AND she is beautiful.

In that moment, I panicked. I didn’t know what to do. You see, to a 4 year old, most 4 year old girls, their most important role model is their mother.  It’s why my little one tries to play house and mama to her babies and tell off her sister, and plays kitchen and… the list goes on. Her mama who has ‘vanilla’ skin, a ‘flat’ bum (much to my dismay), and straight hair. In other words, I look nothing like her.

I thought about the millions of pounds men and women spend on bronzing their skin, on adding volume and curls to their hair and, more recently, to inserting bum implants to achieve the curvaceous figures sported by the likes of Beyonce, J-Lo and Shakira.

But I couldn’t really say all that. Talk about too much information.

I just had to hold her. And validate her. And tell her over and over how beautiful she is. All in the middle of the street as I promised to buy her a new P.E. kit that wouldn’t accentuate her derriere.

A friend of mine pointed out angrily, why do we even engage? Should it matter? Because when we do, we’re just reinforcing the point to our daughters that looks matter. Why are we talking about their beauty and how they look at such a young age. Her boys never look in the mirror and strike a pose or ask, ‘how do I look Mama?’ So why do mine?

I stopped engaging in the nature vs. nurture debate a long time ago, beaten as it were by nature. I was a tomboy and wanted my first born, whatever the gender to follow in my footsteps and love sports- most of all, football. As God would have it, I have the most girly girl daughter you could have. From a very young age, she was choosing pink, asking for princess dress up outfits, posing in her tiara and insisting on wearing high heels. Whether or not she was pre-destined to be like that I can’t answer but I can say that I did fight it tooth and nail.

My Suzy Q will never have a flat bum. I don’t think she’ll take after her Dad and have a stick thin figure either. But she needs to know that she is beautiful. She absolutely has to. I will never forgive the magazine and advertising industry for letting my daughter doubt her sense of self so early on in her little life. (I have to admit, I unashamedly resorted to showing her pictures of Beyonce and Shakira in poses from behind).

But I know now, I have my work cut out. I can never slack. Exposing her to as many amazing strong black female role models that look like her is important. Not just because she’s a girl but because she’s black and mixed and deserves much more than the world has shown her at 4.

At at time when parents are spending more time than ever with their children, if you were ever in doubt, here’s the reason why we need to be there for our daughters at every moment, no matter how old they are.

If you’re looking for resources or books that reinforce a healthy body image for your sons or daughters, check out these books:

Clothing and accessories for your Mixed Curly Kids are now available! Visit our shop today! Dismiss

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