Tag Archives: interracial marriage

We Have a Problem: 7 Year Old Girl Sent Home by Racist School Policy

Two months ago 7 year old Tiana Parker was sent home from school because her hair cut was considered “distracting.” What was her haircut? Thin dreadlocks tied back in a bow. The Oklahoma public school that sent her home has a policy that says “hairstyles such as dreadlocks, afros and other faddish styles are unacceptable.” Really? Could they be any more blatantly racist? Afros are the natural style of many black women’s hair and you want to imply it’s distracting?

MSNBC host Melissa Harris Perry decided to take up the cause on her show, especially after derogatory comments about black hair were made by “The Talk” co-host Sheryl Underwood (a black female herself) earlier in the week. Melissa addresses her segment to young Tiana, affirming that the little girl has nothing to be ashamed of – that her hair is not distracting but an homage to black heritage. Melissa names off several influential black artists and musicians who have also rocked dreadlocks – from Bob Marley to Whoopi Goldberg and more recently Willow Smith. She applauds Tiana’s parents for withdrawing her from that school and placing her somewhere where her natural beauty – her black beauty – is embraced. We applaud them as well.

This issue hits particularly close to home. As a child of interracial marriage (my dad is black, my mom white) my hair was often an issue of contention. I was born with a full head of it. My mother’s family has thick hair, especially for Anglicans, which combined with the kinky curls of my dad’s DNA lead to this:

Scan
That’s me on the left, age 4. Diana Ross ain’t got nothing on this, y’all.

It only got thicker and more out of control from there. I was 15 before we decided to try relaxing my hair. I grew up in the south so having my white mom take me to a black hair salon to get a perm was always a level of complicated that would take a text book to explain. It cost $150 and took three and a half hours (did I mention my hair is really thick?) of me sitting in a chair with my scalp feeling like it was literally on fire. That painful tingle was the feeling of some magical concoction burning the ethnicity out of my hair. That went on once every 3-6 months for 7 years.

Why? Because I never felt pretty with my hair natural. I often make the comparison that my hair without a straightener looks like someone shoved my fingers into an electrical socket. All of the popular girls at school at stick straight shiny hair that they could wear down any time they liked. All the lead characters on my favorite tv shows were the same way – even the black characters had their hair shiny and straight instead of natural. All the weather has to do is think about drizzling and my hair becomes a seeing hazard for anyone walking behind me. Like Tiana’s school is trying to preach – I felt like I was a distraction.  Even now I prefer my hair straight over curly (though to be honest, that also has a lot to do with the fact it’s cooler temperature wise if it’s not all bunched up on my head).

It’s because the message given to Tiana, and all other little girls attending that school, isn’t a new one. For generations little black girls, and minorities all over, have been under pressure to “white-ify” themselves to fit the beauty ideals we are bombarded with on a daily basis. From simple hair treatments like relaxers and extensions to the extreme of skin bleaching treatments. It’s often insidious – the fact we see so few black females rocking natural hairstyles in mainstream media. It’s a subliminal campaign. But this – Tiana’s case? There’s nothing undercover about it. We are telling girls in primary school that their natural beauty isn’t good enough, that it’s a distraction, that it’s ugly. And that’s a problem.

So take a second before you put on your make-up today. Look in the mirror, just look, before you style your hair. Tiana Parker isn’t a distraction. She’s beautiful. So are you, right now – naked and natural and flawless. Own that. You have to because there are a generation of girls growing up who are being told differently and we have to show them the truth. That job starts with us. Let’s do better than this.

Breaking News: Kids Are Way Less Racist Than Adults

In May, Cheerios released a commercial depicting an interracial couple and their daughter. It was cute, light-hearted, and apparently extremely controversial. The video itself is entirely inoffensive, but it seems the fact of the parents’ mixed race relationship was enough to spark the strongest of reactionary feelings among many who viewed the commercial.

Is this really the world we live in? Still? Here is the harmless and adorable Cheerios commercial, whose YouTube comments had to be disabled after so many racist and hateful messages were left:

According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, 8.4% of all current marriages in the U.S. are interracial, compared to 3.2% in 1980. In western states, 1 in 5 couples marry out of their race. Granted, “race” is still a dubious category, describing ethnic, regional, and cultural nuances that have no actual bearing on biology. But even as a cultural signifier, race has been used as a powerful tool for segregation – and it is heartening to see the gaps steadily closing.

For children growing up today, especially in progressive corners of the world, racism might seem like a thing of the past (if not altogether an unknown concept.) For their series “Kids React,” The Fine Bros decided to interview 12 kids, aged 7 to 13, on their reactions to the Cheerios commercial. When asked why they thought the commercial would be considered so controversial, not a single one of them could come up with an answer. This launches them into a frank, emotional discussion on racism, discrimination, and why everyone has the right to love whomever they want. Watch it here:

We don’t know where these kids come from, what their parents are like, or what kinds of beliefs they’ve grown up surrounded by. Regardless, their responses are heartfelt and unrehearsed, and it just goes to show much the adult world could stand to learn from kids like this.

At the bottom of their video, The Fine Bros link to the following resources for race equality, which we encourage you to check out:

http://www.adl.org/
http://www.hrw.org/
http://www.racialequitytools.org/intr…
http://itstopswithme.humanrights.gov.au/
http://www.standagainstracism.org/ind…
http://www.unitedagainstracism.org/

What do you think of the Cheerios commercial and of the kids’ reactions? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

Breaking Free of Family

February 15, 2011

Question:

I live in an English speaking country and I have read a response you had about interracial marriages however it was in response to someone who was already married and I am wondering in my situation, I am open to marrying any race/religion so long as the person has the qualities I believe will suit me and I who I feel is right for me and who I have chosen but how would I go about from breaking my parents wish? In another response you told a 27 year old that it was okay for them to leave an abusive father even if it meant leaving the mother as it wasn’t her job to protect the mother and that she was old enough to leave and live her life. Is that the same for someone of an Indian background?


Answer:

To be clear, I’m not encouraging interracial marriages for their own sake. If one’s heart leads you  to such a partnership, and your love is strong enough, then God bless you. But you are not even in a relationship and you are thinking about how to break the disappointing news to your parents.  You say you want someone that suits you and is right for you. Is there some reason you have decided that such a match requires someone of a different race than yours? Working out  the differences between two people in the course of a marriage is challenging enough even with similar cultural and racial backgrounds, why add to that challenge if you don’t need to?

Regarding the 27 year-old with the abusive father – I think you may have misunderstood my point. I encouraged her to leave because she wasn’t able to help or protect her mother.  She was postponing her own life to remain in a hopeless situation at home. And yes, this advice applies to Indians and non-Indians alike. Just because someone comes from a society with a strong family traditions and expectations doesn’t mean they should accommodate abusive behavior more than someone from a less traditional family.

Love,

Deepak

deepakchopra.com

 

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Interracial Marriage

 

 

Question for Deepak:

 

I would love to hear your thoughts on marriage between different races.
Being on the spiritual path we all know that everyone is equal, we are all connected to the one Divine Source and it is all important to see what is on the inside of a person rather than their exterior look. I am married to a man from Indian descent and I am from European stock. I have always tried to keep a high vibration of love and integrity around people that believe races should not mix but I must admit it has been difficult. Especially when some people hold very strong, old fashioned views and they think they have the right to express them. My question is, how does one live in a world where your heart and soul say one thing and society (loudly at times) says another?
 
Answer from Deepak:
I support all those who want to get married regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, or gender. The challenges of creating a married life together is hard enough, but doing it without societal support makes it that much harder.
 
But if it’s any consolation, every spiritual aspirant has to leave the comfort and approval of their tribe at some point as they outgrow the confines of the group they have identified with earlier in life. As the spiritual self expands, it no longer feels comfortable within the confines of the rules, beliefs, and orthodoxy of the various groups they belong to—such as nationality, religion, and culture. My advice for you is to make your marriage such a big, strong spiritual identity that you do not look for the approval of others, nor feel diminished by the lack of that external approval.
Love,
Deepak
 
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