The sexualization of multiracial youth

 

As we move out of the early years, through the middle years, into the teen and young adult years, I wonder how the objectification I wrote about years ago will impact my children. As they move from hearing stereotypes like “Mixed kids/babies are SOOO cute!” (I’m sorry, but they’re not all cute) to “Mixed guys/girls are so HOT” (or exotic or striking), I wonder how to prepare them for the harsh reality of interracial dating, which will be much different for them than it was for me. I think it’s obvious in  “Post Racial America” how deeply stereotypes are imbedded in our subconscious; when you couple that with a pop culture that objectifies women in general, particularly women of color, and romanticizes abusive relationships (from cliques to intimate partner abuse to domestic violence), I find myself worrying more about teen dating violence than teen pregnancy.  

As our children grow older, and going beyond the social interactions of elementary school, what do relationships look like from junior high through adulthood, if our children don’t feel comfortable setting boundaries?

 Thinking specifically about my children’s African ancestry, I’m reminded of an article I read titled Trying to Break A ‘Culture of Silence’ on Rape: Group Part of Movement Tailoring Recovery Efforts to Minority Women where psychologist Carolyn West explains,  

There was that belief that black women were unrapable,” West said. “Legally, it wasn’t a crime to rape black women, literally for hundreds of years.  

Going back to Does Anybody Else Look Like Me?, author Donna Nakazawa writes,  

Biracial girls are often considered beautiful objects of curiosity because of their exotic looks, this attention does not necessarily translate into dating partners.  

 The National Institute of Justice report Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Rape Victimization: Findings From the National Violence Against Women Survey indicates that women and men of mixed race are at higher risk than either white or black women and men, or of any other race with the exception of Native American. Psychologist Willie B. Garret cautions that failing to set boundaries early on might contribute to  

“setting a child up for a pattern of allowing themselves to be mistreated by others who also don’t respect their boundaries.”  

At what point does the constant violation of a child’s personal boundaries turn into a rape statistic? It’s frightening to think of being raped myself. To look at these two beautiful girls and know that they are twice as likely to be victims of sexual violence than I am, is terrifying. Talk about white privilege.  

Zooing can be hard to define. It’s important that we instill in our children the confidence to establish, articulate, and enforce their personal boundaries. One of the most profound ways that we can do this, is by modeling this behavior for them in our interactions with strangers who wish to pet them or ask us (or them) to justifytheir existence with an explanation. Given the risks our children, particularly our daughters, are subject to, objectification, no matter how well-intentioned, isn’t something we should teach them to tolerate, much less thank people for.  

I’ll be having ongoing conversations about not only establishing personal boundaries with my crew, but also how to identify a potentially unhealthy relationship. Here are some resources if you’d like to do the same:  

Dating Abuse Fast Facts

Understanding Intimate Partner Violence

Intimate Partner Violence and Healthy People 2010 Fact Sheet

Intimate Partner Abuse and Relationship Violence

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE FACTS

Teen Dating Violence Facts

  1. temple
    September 2, 2010 at 7:10 PM

    I want to comment on this w/o seeming judgmental or accusatory (because that’s not the intention). My brother visits often, but not on a schedule. The last time he was by, he said ‘there’s a huge spider web at the top of your steps.’ Well, I checked & he was right. Then I wondered why the heck was he the only one that noticed? Answer: he needed to turn the light on to go upstairs, but I never have to do that since I know my home & don’t have a need to turn the light on. Turning on the light gave me an unshadowed view of my landing.

    So, I tell this story to get to: How has your belief in equal humanity changed or adapted because you have biracial children? Hope this isn’t intrusive or insensitive.

    • September 2, 2010 at 7:43 PM

      Well, the last comment that I moderated (right into my spam folder) was from someone who disagreed with my critique of the Reebok commercials, which apparently makes me and everyone who agrees with me a jealous cunt… so in the shadow of that, you’d have to get pretty beligerent to look bad :)

      It’s going to take me a minute to answer with the depth I’d like, but wanted to at least comment that I think that’s a great question, and say I appreciate the analogy you started with.

  2. temple
    September 3, 2010 at 9:02 AM

    Wow, all that over a sports apparel company. Thanks for the reply & I look forward to your further response.

  3. September 8, 2010 at 10:42 PM

    I think I have a lot to say in answer to your question… but every time I get started with a response, I get tongue (errr… finger) tied.

    I don’t know if I could even begin to say how much I have learned, how my beliefs have expanded or how much I have adapted as a result of having multiracial children, except to say that fourteen years into it, I’m still learning, expanding, and adapting, and I think I will always be. Most of my attempts to answer your question have been along one of those tangents, but that’s not what you asked me, soo…

    I was born at the end of the flower child era, and was given the message early on that people were people. As a military brat, I grew up attending schools on or near military bases that tended to be more diverse than the average, particularly the four years my dad was stationed in Germany, so I had personal relationships throughout my childhood with other children of various racial, ethnic, & cultural backgrounds. I think those relationships, coupled with the message from home, are what cemented my belief in equal humanity in childhood. While the same can’t be said about my understanding of racism and privilege, I don’t know if my belief in equal humanity has changed or adapted. It’s certainly been affirmed… it’s certainly stronger, but for as long as I can remember, it’s been central to everything I believe, and I can cite it as being at the core of who I choose to date, where I choose to live, what church I choose to attend.

  4. temple
    September 9, 2010 at 8:14 PM

    Thanks for taking the time to respond thoughtfully, curlykidz.

    • September 9, 2010 at 11:09 PM

      I meant to say in my response to you, that the analogy you used to preface your question was (in my opinion as it pertains to my personal experience) very descriptive of my understanding of privilege/racism. You may have been surprised that the spider was there and you hadn’t seen it, but you weren’t shocked by the existence of the spider itself. I knew that racism existed, but it wasn’t on my porch, it was on someone else’s. I remember the first time I read an essay about white privilege, I felt relieved, because I knew it existed but I’d only caught a glimpse of it so I couldn’t fully describe it and I certainly didn’t have the language to articulate it. Geez, this could be an entire blog on it’s own.

      If you feel comfortable sharing, I’d be interested to know what prompted the question, and whether my answer is what you expected?

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