Discussing race often brings people discomfort. Dr. Francis Wardle, The Center for Biracial studies founder and expert, gives several suggestions for raising biracial kids and how to talk about race with them. His book, Tomorrow’s Children, outlines several suggestions for raising healthy, self-assured biracial children.
As you can see, my book is now falling apart at the seams. As I was thinking about this next post, I considered reaching out to him to see if he would be interested in allowing me to interview him. I found his contact information on his website, The Center for the Study of Biracial Children. He emailed me back quickly with his home telephone number and we scheduled a date for the phone interview.
If you’re unfamiliar with the expert on biracial studies, here’s a brief bio: he has published eight books, two on multiracial children. He has also published about 400 articles in journals, national and international magazines, trade publications, interracial organization newsletters, and popular newspapers, on a variety of subjects including interracial families, play, young children, playgrounds, and education. He received his Ph.D in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus on Early Childhood from the University of Kansas in 1983. Since 1997, he has been teaching at Red Rocks Community College in the Early Childhood department, serves as a teacher/mentor at the University of Phoenix School of Advanced Studies, and last but not least, he is a writer.
All About Dr. Wardle, the expert
Diedre: Good evening! I’m so excited that despite your busy schedule, you’ve opened a spot for this interview. How are you?
**Dr. Wardle has a strong British accent. For those of you who don’t know, I like to practice my British accent in my free time. He got bonus points just for being British.**
Dr. Wardle: It’s no problem.
Diedre: Can you tell me how you met your wife?
Dr. Wardle: I was living in Kansas City, Missouri. She was living in the south part of town working on her Master’s degree in Special Education. I was teaching at an alternative school. We were in a church basement and she was folk dancing.
Diedre: Was it love at first sight?
Dr Wardle: No, we got to know each other and we’ve been married for 41 years.
Diedre: Wow, you almost don’t hear that anymore. When you decided you were going to marry her, did you think about the challenges of raising biracial children?
Dr. Wardle: No, we didn’t. It wasn’t until our 5 year old came home in tears after an argument with a Mexican boy from downstairs. He told her that she was black and he was not. She was very upset and asked “How come I’m Black and he’s not, when he’s darker than me? We’re realized that we needed to figure out what to do. We were both educators, but never talked about racial identity.
Diedre: What other challenges did you face?
Dr. Wardle: Schools. Filling out forms. There was no choice for biracial. We refused to fill out black like people told us to do. One teacher told our daughter Maia to choose other. She said, “I’m not other, I’m a somebody.” No support in general.
Diedre: Parenting itself is a challenge. What additional challenges did you have raising biracial children?
Dr. Wardle: We talked to other educators and other people with biracial children. Several educators said, “We don’t know. We don’t have the research, so you have to wait.” Everyone said to raise them as black. Child Psychologists told us that as well. Our good friends Pat & Wolf helped us understand that if we raised our children as biracial, it would help them have a strong understand of both of our cultures.
Diedre: In your book, you say that biracial means both, not half and half. Can you speak more on that?
Dr. Wardle: To say that a child is half & half means that they are less than whole. You can’t tell a child that they are less than whole.
Diedre: Everyone calls Obama the first black president. What do you think?
Dr. Wardle: Well he’s not. He’s biracial.
Diedre: You say that all parents of biracial children must decide on the racial identity of their child. Why is that?
Dr. Wardle: If they don’t someone will do it for them.
Advice for parents straight from the expert
Diedre: When should parents talk to their children about race?
Dr. Wardle: When they start asking. Typically this is around ages 4–6 when they start comparing themselves to others.
Diedre: How can educators make themselves more aware of issues surrounding biracial and multiracial students?
Dr. Wardle: By deconstructing everything they know about race. Colleges teach from a one race perspective. Read about mixed race people in history. Fredrick Douglass was biracial and his second wife was white. They can read statistics about mixed race families in this country.
Diedre: Thank you so much for your time. It was a pleasure talking with you.
Dr. Wardle: Your welcome.
“Children raised from the early years with a pride and appreciation of their total heritage have the best chance of developing into secure adults.” –Dr. Francis Wardle
What did you think about the interview? Do you agree with the points Dr. Wardle made about biracial/multiracial children?
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