Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Building the World We Dream About: An Anti-racism Multicultural Program

Handout 2: Parents Shouldn't Take Their Children's Race Personally

Joseph Santos-Lyons from The Arc of the Universe is Long (Boston: Skinner House, 2009). This was broadcast on KBOO 90.7 in Portland, Oregon, on July 19, 2006. Santos-Lyons was a founding member of DRUUMM (Diverse and Revolutionary Unitarian Universalist Multicultural Ministries) and a young adult leader. Used with permission.

This is Joseph Santos-Lyons, a People of Color activist in the Unitarian Universalist Church, and this is my Angry Asian Minute.

Coming of age I found myself thinking and living through a different racial lens than my childhood. I moved beyond an abstract, intellectual understanding of being a mixed race person, Chinese and White, and found myself identifying as, being seen as, and living as a multiracial person.

I am adopted, by White parents, who intentionally and unintentionally ignored any discussion about my racial identity. Upon reflection, they've shared that they had hoped that I would see myself as white, and were deeply perplexed by my wish to live as a mixed race person.

Why be proud of my racial and cultural heritage? Why give care and attention to the ancestors who have come before me? Why be concerned about my racial identity in such a deeply racialized society? These questions were important to me, and my attitudes and beliefs changed as a result.

My parents took this personally, in the sense that they had a personal expectation about how I would believe and live racially and culturally, and that my choice to live as I wanted to live offended them personally. They were unhappy with me, impatient with my explanations, frustrated with my developing sense of racial identity. It was a difficult time for all of us.

Parents shouldn't take their children's racial identity personally. We have a right to our racial and cultural identity, we have a right to interpret and define our existence. Racial identity is fluid and dynamic, race today defies the definitions of the 1960s.

My wish is for our parents, and our religious and social institutions, to support people who search for the truth and meaning of their racial identity in our racialized society. We seek this knowledge not only for our own dignity and self-respect, but for our health and safety.