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,
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: