Photo: Jose Luis Pelaez Inc (Getty Images)
When Sonia Smith-Kang moved to California in the 1980s, it was at “the height of The Valley Girl,” she says. All around her, she saw blue eyes and feathered blonde hair.
“I was pretty much the antithesis of that,” Smith-Kang tells me. “I was brown with curly, wild hair.”
Smith-Kang’s mother is Mexican, her father is black, and she was born in Puerto Rico. When she married a Korean man, her experience taught her that it was only a matter of time before her kids were peppered with questions from peers who didn’t understand what it meant to be multiracial.
The number of multiracial children in the United States is in the midst of a boom. The Pew Research Center reported two years ago that one in seven infants born in 2015 were multiracial or multiethnic—nearly three times the number born in 1980.
And yet talking to children about being multiracial can still be complex. Because parents might not know what to say, they often avoid bringing up these conversations. And that can be damaging.
“What happens to children is they internalize it as, ‘There must be something wrong with me if I’m having these kinds of thoughts,’” Smith-Kang says.
So how do you bring it up? What do you say when your daughter asks, “Why don’t you look like me?” Or your son tells you the kids on the playground made a remark about his skin color?