The pregnancy announcement from Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, sent the multiracial community into proud cyber-auntie and -uncle mode. We are so excited to welcome one more into our fold as we continue the distinction of being one of the fastest-growing populations according to the U.S. Census Bureau. A 2017 study published by the Pew Research Center shows that 11 million marriages in the United States are interracial, making up 10 percent of all U.S. marriages.
Despite this, the mixed-race community is underrepresented and misunderstood. We love seeing accurate reflections of our cultural reality in media, pop culture, books and toys. Seeing positive stories helps bring awareness to our community as we continue to advocate for inclusion and help to change mainstream narratives to include our stories.
Growing up biracial has been one of the best aspects of my life. Having an African American father and Mexican American mother allowed me to see and learn about the beauty and richness of both cultures. I am a proud military brat: My parents were stationed on the U.S. territory and island of Puerto Rico, where my sister and I were born. Then we were transferred to the island of Oahu, where my brother was born. Being multicultural has given me the ability to connect with diverse cultures. It has made me empathetic, as well as open to and welcoming of different ways of life, cultural traditions and celebrations. Being multicultural, though, is not without challenges.
Although there is a bubble around the royal family, Harry and Meghan may quickly learn that having a child of mixed heritage can bring a new set of challenges. Being multiracial has made me keenly aware of microaggressions, stereotypes, prejudices and racism. Much work needs to be done.
When my Korean American husband and I started having children, like most parents, we sought out parenting websites to answer some of our questions. I looked for advice on aspects such as what diapers to use, the best age to start solid food and what car seat to use at each stage. But the parenting sites lacked the information my community and I needed on issues that were harder-hitting. For instance: when and how to talk to kids about ethnicity and culture, fostering a positive identity during these divisive times, or parenting a child of mixed heritage.
Finding insight online and in real life by setting up a judgment-free zone is important. Opening ourselves up to suggestions and supporting one other as we gain knowledge is one way that has helped me be a better parent.
And so I asked my community to share what they have learned as either multiracial individuals or as parents of multiracial children. Here’s some advice from parents who have been there, done that.
Find books and media that look like your child
“There are two tips that always come to mind when I’m asked about raising mixed children. First, find books with characters that look like them and/or your family. There isn’t a huge plethora to choose from, but they’re out there. My kids loved seeing characters with similar skin color and hair. Second, learn about their hair. I’m not kidding when I say I’ve easily watched enough hours of videos and read enough books to have completed a college course in “Hair Care.” And guess what, I’m still learning! My daughter is 9 now, and it’s a never-ending journey. Just when I think I’ve learned it all, her curl pattern will change, or her texture will slightly change, or a product that has always worked won’t do what it used to. I currently have four heads of hair I’m taking care of on a regular basis, and none of them are the same. My kids’ hair is so very different from mine, and the only reason I know what to do with it is because of the amazing women (and some men!) that share their tips and tricks via social media. I totally get that this can be overwhelming, because it is. But you’ll learn, even if it’s just enough to put their hair in a style that keeps it detangled and hydrated.”
— Kelsey Bunker Robertson, writer at Kelsey and Co.
Find a community
“My advice for this new multicultural family is to seek out other families with a similar mind-set. It doesn't matter if they look like your family or have the same background, just that they have the same goal of raising world citizens. To me, this means that they foster pride in all aspects of their family's diverse heritage, as well as seeking out relationships with people from other cultural backgrounds, in an open, respectful way. If you are lucky enough, you can create these relationships in your own local community. Even if your own town isn't diverse, thankfully, we also have access to online communities where you can network with other multicultural families."
— Leanna Guillén Mora, founder, Multicultural Kids Blogs
“Find and support communities and organizations like MultiCulti Corner and MASC (Multiracial Americans of Southern California) that support, advocate and create space for diverse individuals and families. As a multiethnic woman (African American, Native American, Caucasian) and mother to a multiracial child, I feel it is important that we collaborate in supporting and creating an inclusive community where this new diverse generation of multiracial children have literature, film, events, organizations and tools to help them in celebrating their own heritage; a heritage unique from being identified solely as any one background, but instead by any of the many ethnic and cultural backgrounds that make up the multiracial community, then and today.”
— Delia Douglas Haight, marketing and publicity at DDH PR
Talk about their cultures
“My son is black and Japanese. Like many cultures, Japanese people can be a little ethnocentric. My son has been exposed to a lot of the Japanese culture. But my son is also African American. This is important to point out because I have to teach my son, as an African American male, how other people may look at him. It really has nothing to do with him. I will pause here for emphasis. It’s a reality that can’t be ignored or erased. People’s lack of exposure, openness and willingness to get outside of what is familiar to them is real. So I have to educate my son on behalf of them. Racism is something we can’t wish away. I know that even though he speaks fluent Japanese, he is still a brown male who will be treated as such. I am not multiracial, but I raise my son the way I was raised: as a citizen of the world, a person with respect for himself and others. He is special, and at the same time, not special at all. He is different and not different at all. Just like everyone else.”
— Tam Luc, author, speaker and coach
Participate in tradition
"It is of utmost importance that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle provide opportunities for their multiracial child to be exposed to all parts of the child’s culture — including those not normally present in the royal family. It is an imperative that the child is enriched with the exposure, familiarity, pride and joy that comes from recognizing all parts of oneself.
The child may grow up ignoring or becoming distant from the parts of identity that he or she is not in contact with. As a multiracial parent, author, educator and community advocate, I have seen firsthand how crucial the formative years of a child are in formulating a healthy and strong sense of identity, self-confidence and belonging. Just as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have been intentional with infusing culture into their lives — like their wedding ceremony, event celebrations and the launch of Meghan Markle’s cookbook — that same appreciation, respect and inclusion of culture can strengthen their child’s multiracial identity and foster awareness of the gloriousness of multicultural families within society overall."
— Farzana Nayani, parent educator, author, diversity and inclusion specialist
Explore the world
“My family consists of three, and we are multiracial family. I am Mexican and my husband is primarily Sicilian but also has some Polish and Lithuanian. Although our ancestries are from countries outside of the United States, we were both raised in California and find it important to share our cultures with our daughter. As an interracial couple, we have taught our daughter that it is important to embrace where you are from and to learn about where your ancestors came from. . . . My tip is to start them early and integrate your culture into their experience within their everyday life. For us, that came across by way of her grandparents. She has learned the culture through them, through where they live, and, most importantly, through traveling with them. Travel is not only a way to learn about their culture, but it will also forever change the way they see the world."
— Laura Medina-Filipowicz, founder, Family Vacation Hub
“Raising multilingual and multicultural children is a gift. When children grow up appreciating their mixed cultures, they become empathetic, tolerant, kinder and accepting of other’s differences. They don’t see themselves as different. Their heritages become part of their normal, everyday life, as it should be. We want to raise children who are comfortable in their own skin and feel pride for who they are. . . . Children should learn to be proud of their background, their roots. It is woven into the fabric of their identity. My best advice is to talk to your child [in your native language]. It is the single best thing you can do to help her acquire language skills, and in the process, she gets to learn about her mixed cultures!”
— Maritere R. Bellas, book author and bilingual-bicultural parenting expert
Voice your opinion
“Finding shows that represent diversity in their cast, ... writers and crew is important. Seeing interracial couples as leads can help normalize our existence. Talking with your kids about the diverse cultural representation on the shows you watch is key. You can also write to the studios and explain to them to explore universal themes among families, however you define it. Let them know that although we may be different culturally, or we may have a different upbringing with our parents and/or as parents ourselves, green-lighting shows that show differences and illustrate the universality in the story line make good sense. We may look different, but we can find similarities in the stories and experiences depicted on the show.”
— Joël Lëoj, digital media content creator and strategist
Like us regular folks, Harry and Meghan will find their stride. Parenting is about patience, learning, loving and growing. I continue to raise my four children as mini-global citizens, living an intentional life by pointing out our similarities with other cultures and celebrating our differences. I truly believe that — royalty or not — we all want our children to be healthy, happy, safe, kind, honest and loving individuals who will grow up to appreciate one another’s cultures as we all learn to share this beautiful world we live in.
Sonia Smith-Kang is the founder of Mixed Up Clothing. Sonia calls Los Angeles home, where she is married to her Korean husband and has four multiracial, multicultural and multilingual children. You can find her sharing all her mixed-up musings on social media: @mixedupclothing.