In-depth: Struggles of parenting biracial children in a society that mostly just sees black and white

The number of biracial babies has tripled over the past 40 years
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Posted at 1:31 PM, Aug 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-05 18:42:59-04

Being biracial can be difficult in a society that oftentimes just sees black and white, but being a parent to multi-ethnic children also has its challenges. Many parents of biracial children say strangers have questioned them about if their children are actually theirs.

ABC Action News in-depth reporter Anthony Hill spoke with several parents who have biracial children about their unique experiences in society and how people’s implicit bias about how a family should look affects them in everyday life.

The last time Pew Research Center conducted a survey on the number of multi-ethnic babies was back in 2015 and they found that the number of biracial babies had tripled between 1980 and 2015.

Richard King is the father of a biracial daughter named Zoey. He says one evening he called for a pizza to be delivered to his home and when the delivery person saw his children in the background, he called the police.

Here’s an excerpt of the 911 call:

“I have a semi-emergency. I delivered a pizza to that address and when he opened the door and stuff, I got kind of nervous… Like I said, it was a white man with, like, four African American kids and that’s not normal, with nobody else in the house. That doesn’t really happen that much.”

“I was numb. I was shocked. I was hurt. I was like, I mean, ‘why,’” said King.

King says police showed up and aggressively knocked on his door.

“She (Zoey) was holding on to my leg and the officer had seen it, and I said ‘Zoey, everything OK?’ and she said ‘yeah, daddy, and I said ‘you see my daughter. She’s not crying. Nothing is wrong with her.’”

He says this isn’t the first time he’s had the police called on him by someone who assumed his children couldn’t possibly be his.

“I also got the police called on me at Fort De Soto Park one time.”

That time, King says he was playing with his girlfriend’s children who are not biracial, but who he says he claims as his own because he helped raise them from the time they were babies.

“There was a lady jogger walking by and had seen me out there playing with my two daughters.”

He says that the jogger called the police on him and when the police arrived, they surrounded him with a line of invasive questions putting the onus on him to prove he was their guardian.

“I actually had to call the mother and put the officer on the telephone to say to him ‘yeah, that’s my boyfriend and he’s allowed to be with my kids and then they left.”

Terik Greensberry is a therapist at Dearly Loved Counseling and he says being a parent to biracial or multi-ethnic children can be psychologically damaging due to people constantly questioning if your children are actually yours.

“I would say that the feeling of inadequacy would be present of feeling that I will never be able to fully play the tune of the other nationality or heritage or culture that the kid is,” said Greensberry.

Greensberry knows this first hand because his sons are multi-ethnic.

“I could never be expected to be Hispanic as much as I love the culture, I’m not Hispanic. My son is, I’m not. And so that is a lot of pressure if someone made me feel that I had to keep up his Hispanic culture and heritage.”

Greensberry’s wife, Windaly Greensberry, is also multi-ethnic and she says her mother is sometimes questioned if she is her children’s biological grandmother.

“My mom being fair-skinned Puerto Rican, she’s been mistaken like that’s not her grandson. She’s the nanny and she’s like ‘no, I’m his grandmother.’ And she’s had, like, the reaction of when she speaks Spanish to our oldest because our oldest is darker complexion, people are like ‘he speaks Spanish?’” said Windaly.

To find out why societies tend to put people into rigid boxes, ABC Action News in-depth reporter Anthony Hill spoke with a professor of sociology who says people want to understand things in the simplest way possible, but by doing that, it doesn’t allow us to see the nuances.

“Humans' desire to understand the world requires us to come up with categories because we have to put things into boxes to understand what it is, and we create communities. So, when you create community, that implies an 'us,' but it also implies a 'them,'” said Dr. Shantel Buggs, Professor of sociology and African American studies at Florida State University.

As for Richard King, he says he advises parents of multi-ethnic children to continue to love them no matter what and to not allow outside influences to define them as parents.

“I want to teach her right and wrong. I don’t want to teach her color. I don’t want to teach her color because we’re all the same, man. We’re all here for the same thing: be happy.”

Dr. Buggs says one of the ways to understand families we perceive as different is to question our own implicit bias. Essentially asking ourselves, why do we hold the opinions and perspectives we have about families who may look different than ours?