Home > Mom's Life > Family Relationships > Nontraditional Families > Inventing Identities: Raising Multicultural Kids
|

Inventing Identities: Raising Multicultural Kids

Thirteen-year-old Paul Yem picked up his pencil but didn't know what to write down on the form he was handed in health class.

"It asked, 'What nationality are you?'" he recalls. "I put down 'Asian,' but I wasn't really sure."

That's because Paul is, by his family's own description, "Kmer-ican." It's a name they invented to describe their unique cultural heritage. Paul's dad is Cambodian; his mother is white. Although many psychologists warn that children of mixed races or cultural heritages can suffer identity problems, Paul reacts to questions about his race and ethnicity with a shrug. When asked, "Who are you?" he simply tells an interviewer his name.

"I like being different, actually," he says. "If you look into a crowd and someone sticks out, you sort of want to go up and talk to them."

Paul's sense of who he is represents a decidedly new take on a centuries-old issue. During the pre-Civil War era, southern states adopted a "1-drop rule," requiring the mixed-race offspring of slaves and slave owners to be identified as Negroes in order to keep them categorized as property. Today, while many mixed-race adults and children continue to identify with the race of their minority parent, some, like golfer Tiger Woods, choose to embrace the totality of their heritage (Woods' father is black; his mother is Chinese.) Still, the fact that society continues to ignore parts of who they are grates on many members of multicultural families.

"It bothered me (filling out census forms)," says Paul's mother, Susan Yem, author of All Kinds of Families (New Hope Publications.) "It gave me the sense that my children were inferior because I had to invent a category for them."

This year for the first time, the federal government is allowing people to check off more than one category in the census section on racial identity. But some critics say the change is insufficient.

"Ultimately there shouldn't be any categories," asserts Francis Whardle, Ph.D., director of the Center for the Study of Biracial Children in Denver, Colorado. "But until we get there, what happens is educational models like curriculum guides and textbooks get written according to census categories. So 99 percent of multicultural materials don't include any mention of children of mixed heritage! And that means our kids end up invisible, at worst, or at best are forced to reject part of who they are."

|


stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Twitter icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks

thanksgiving crafts & recipes

Make this Turkey
Day fun for the
whole family with
these essentials.

GO

highlights

3 Fun Thanksgiving Games for Kids
Looking for some great Thanksgiving games to play with your kids? Print our free Pin the Feathers on the Turkey game, Pin the Hat on the Pilgrim game, and Thanksgiving Parade Bingo game for loads of laughs this Turkey Day!

Kindergarten Readiness App Wins Gold
Our Kindergarten Readiness app won the Gold Award of Excellence in the educational category at the 2014 Communicator Awards. This valuable checklist comes with games and activities to help your child practice the essential skills she needs for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

Top Family Movies in Theaters for the Holidays
Taking the kids to the movies is a special family treat for the holidays! Don't miss 2014's best family films in theaters from Thanksgiving through Christmas.

Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books!
Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our new Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme, and create reading lists for kids!