Saturday, June 1, 2013

Something personal and the Cheerios ad

I didn't plan to blog about this. I try to steer clear of blogging about things such as race, religion etc because that's not what this blog is about. It's about writing and books and I never want to offend anyone, or cause any kind of drama. I talk to my family or my friends and they think, "Oh geez, here goes Nyrae again" but it works. I get it off my chest and they love me regardless because I know I get extremely passionate about things that are important to me.

But then my friend Steph told me about an article she read on Jezebel and I decided to share my story anyway.

I'm sure most of you have heard by now about the Cheerios ad featuring the biracial family and how they actually had to turn comments off because so many people were upset about it. Yes, in 2013, people were upset about a biracial family on a commercial.

For those of you who don't know, I'm biracial. My mom is white, my dad is black. That wasn't always easy for me growing up. My parents dealt with a lot. At one point, they tried to take my older sister away from my mother (she has a different father and is white) because according to the state we lived in, they weren't sure it was a healthy environment for my sister to live in because my black father was there (even had our yard set on fire. This was the 80's). My sister had to live with my mother's parents until we could move from the state. Now I was young, so I didn't understand everything that was happening, but to me that meant something was "wrong" with my family. What was wrong with my father and I? Why couldn't my sister stay with us?

So we moved and things were better, but then something else happened... My parents got divorced. My mom, sister and I moved to a different state and my father wasn't around for a while. Now I had to question why only I was different. I had different skin than my family and different hair than my family. My poor mom didn't really know how to deal with my hair very well because my dad's family had helped so much, so the black kids at my school teased me because I didn't know what to do with my own hair and the white kids just didn't know what to make of me. It would have been cool to see someone like myself on TV. It would have been cool not to feel alone.

As I got older things got better. We figured things out to do with my hair. We moved states again and even though I was in a city that was 99% white, I felt like I belonged most of the time. Sure there were instances where people assumed I was one of the "Smith kids" (name changed) because they were the only black family in town. I had to be a "Smith" since I was black--because that's automatically what I was. I wasn't biracial--I was black. And then when I met black friends from a town over I was never "black enough". So yes, I had friends and felt loved and look back on those middle school and teen years fondly, as a whole, but I definitely felt, that to some of the white people, I wasn't "white enough" because of how I looked, and to the black people, I wasn't "black enough" because I didn't know my black family and a lot of my history and I still sometimes had issues with my hair. Like that article said, I felt like I had to choose which race I wanted to be. That was hard and confusing.

Again, it would have been nice to see someone like me on TV. Just a commercial that was like every other commercial. Something that wasn't about race--but people. Everyday people and families who just so happened to look a little differently than each other.

My husband is white. Luckily my kids don't have to deal with the things I did. For the most part, no one second guesses anything. My oldest has really dark eyes and dark hair and olive skin. My youngest takes after her dad and she is blond (though it's getting a little darker as she gets older) and she has really fair skin. There was only once I've been asked who I was to her, to which I proudly said I'm her mom and my oldest looked at me wondering why someone would ask that. Things are better, but yeah, there is still progress to be made. The Cheerios commercial is a step in the right direction and I for one, love it.

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  1. I can't even believe this is an issue in 2013. Seriously.

    My Mom is half Puerto Rican and half white. When they moved from PR when she was 6 yrs old her school wouldn't let her speak Spanish, but she didn't know any English. She was very much ostracized because of her skin. This was in the 50's. Even when she got married my dad didn't want her to have pictures of her family up because they looked "black" with their dark olive skin. She didn't fit in with Latinos and not with the white kids. She was her own race.

  2. I'm half Puerto Rican and half white. Growing up I didn't speak any spanish at all b/c we have a mixed household and english was the primary language. Most people assumed I was spanish speaking b/c of my skin tone, and then when they found out I didn't speak it I was told MANY times that b/c I didn't speak the language I wasn't spanish. Yet I wasn't white enough to feel like I fit in with the white kids and I wasn't spanish enough to fit in with the spanish kids. It hurt a lot to not know where I belonged and to be told "you're not one of us". My family loves me and never made me or my younger brother feel like outsiders. Many people still do a double take and even ask "What?!" when my white mother introduces me as her daughter. My 4 older siblings are from a different father (also white) so we get the same reaction when they introduce me as their sister. I've learned to speak spanish in my adult life, almost perfectly, but now my 2 kids will have the same problem of not knowing where they belong as they do not speak spanish and definitely look the part.

  3. I seriously just want to {{hug}} you right now.

    I don't even know what to say to ignorance and prejudice. We have a biracial President, for crap's sake! All I know to do is to always speak up when I hear others spew it, and to teach my kids better. They have a biracial aunt, whom they love dearly, and only see her as someone they love. Kids are awesome. The parents who raise their children to love and respect all others awesome. You are awesome.

  4. Thank you for sharing this with us. Im still shocked when I am reminded of how ignorant some people are. I work with two girls with biracial children. Thankfully those kids are being raised around strong loving family members and friends. I wondered how my grandmother would react to news that one of my cousins was having a baby with a black man. Not because she has ever conveyed an once of racism, but because she's an older woman raised on a farm in Idaho surrounded by white people. I was so proud to hear her only concern was that other people would be cruel. I'm saddened that we still live in a world where people are so closed minded and nasty. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts. I know you like to use your blog to discuss your wonderful books, but this is just as important. xoxo

  5. It makes me so mad that this is even an issue these days! In fact, it makes me mad that it ever has been, but I can't change history.

    I'm so sorry that you had to deal with all that crap growing up. It's hard enough without adding ignorant peoples' attitudes.

  6. Wow. I hadn't even heard of this issue. People can be so stupid. Good for Cheerios though. And really, that commercial was terrific. Totally made me laugh.

  7. Oh my gosh, Kelley... I seriously love you SO MUCH. Blows my mind that this even has to be an issue--and I'm so sad that you had to deal with these kinds of struggles growing up. But I love the life that you've made for your beautiful kids. And you are seriously one of the most beautiful people I've ever met!!! <3

  8. I can't believe this ad is an issue. Seriously do they not know that the world has different races and gasp sometimes two people of different races come together and have children? I love the ad too it's sweet how the little girl wants to take care of her dad. Sorry about your rough times Nyrae but they only make you stronger. Enjoy your weekend and your lovely family.

  9. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

  10. Just watched the Cheerios commercial and I loved it. It's great to see interracial families on television. I'm white and Mexican, and my husband is white and black, so our kids are tri-racial, hehe.

  11. I saw the commercial one day and thought the little girl was adorable in her actions. I didn’t even notice her parents were different ethnicities! (Crazy right? To not notice that in 2013 :/). Then it happened: I got on Facebook. Comments GALORE defending the commercial. So I go to YouTube to try and find this controversial commercial. I rewatch the light humored commercial again, waiting for a racial slur to be thrown or a back handed comment... nothing. So I watched it AGAIN and then noticed it’s an interracial family. But surely that would not be a problem in 2013. Does race really matter if we’re all part of the human race? If people aren’t complaining, they’re not happy.

    I’m in an interracial relationship (BW/LM) and sometimes I wonder if love id really worth it with the stares, glares and whispered comments (deep South). Then I stop and remember they’re the problem, not me!

    I commend Cheerios for displaying a very common family dynamic. Just like without second thought I bought the Paperwhite because of the Amazon beach commercial.


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