Being white in a multiracial family

Written by Rorri Geller-Mohamed, LCSW

July 27, 2019

The first time I ever had the feeling of being different because I was part of a multiracial family was in high school.  My brother who is brown and Mexican was adopted into my white and Jewish family when we were both teenagers through foster care to the adoption process.  The difference I felt when I attended my almost all-white school with only a handful of students of color was related to this new racial awareness that I developed.  (Although it’s something that I should have learned growing up, I didn’t.) My brother remained at the school that he had always been attending so no one would have known anything changed in my life. But yet I felt so different than the other kids that I was sitting next to in school.  

I remember feeling that other kids didn’t see the world the way I was seeing it now.  I felt that friends that I used to be close with could no longer relate to what was going on in my life.  It became clear quickly that my brother was being treated differently than I was in our very white community in the suburbs of NYC.  Since we were close in age, the contrast between the ways we were treated was clear. While both my brother and I drove, he would be stopped by the police a lot and I was never stopped.  He loved to go walk around the mall and window shop but would be treated very differently in stores than I was. When he would occasionally smoke marijuana, I would fear that he would be arrested despite plenty of white kids my age smoking and nothing happening to them.  I felt a crazy amount of anxiety that something would happen to him at any moment.

When I would go to school or when I was around white people it felt like living in an alternate universe. It was like I knew something and felt something that they had no idea was happening. In many ways it was a very lonely and isolating feeling. It made it hard to connect with and trust white people. I didn’t believe anyone could relate or understand. Looking back, I know that I didn’t have the support or community I needed to help me navigate this. I know that the adults in my life also didn’t have the tools, knowledge, or skills they needed to guide me or my brother. This is why I prioritize as a therapist and parent coach. This is why when I work with parents now we always use a multi-level approach focused on identity, belonging, and social change. As parents raising kids of color and multiracial children, we know early on this feeling of not having anyone that can really relate to what we are going through. It often can feel that we are advocating and fighting for our kids on our own. We are very familiar with the anxiety and worry of our kids being treated differently because of the color of their skin or their background. We sometimes second guess ourselves and aren’t sure if what we are seeing is reality because it’s so crazy that it’s happening. We often aren’t sure the best way to approach or deal with something in an effective way and may avoid or wait too long to address it. We often get labeled by our families, kid’s school, and in our community as “that” person. The one who always has something to say about the way things are being done related to race and racism. For many reasons, it’s a label we should be proud of but it often feels negative, like we are an annoyance. These are the reasons we need to stick together and continue to work together to create change. We need to be around other people that “get it.” We need to connect with other people that also walk in our shoes. We need to find our place and do our own continuous self-reflection work. We need to know other amazing parents that are making changes in their community as well as amazingly navigating hard and often uncomfortable topics with their kids and families. Can you relate to feeling like this? How do you handle it? How have you tried to connect to other parents like you? To growing together,

If you are looking for more support, want to connect with other moms working to overcome the same challenges you are experiencing, and want to strengthen your skills to navigate race and racism with your children and family, I would love to have you join our Parent Coaching Program. 

It’s a 10-week program for busy parents where you will learn our unique step by step framework so that you can feel more confident, connected, and empowered to guide your child and change your community. It also includes interviews from adults that grew up in multiracial families.

THRIVE Parent Coaching Program

If you are interested and want to hear more about it, we can schedule a time to talk and see if this program is a good fit for you and your unique family situation.

Related Articles

How to maintain hope (even when it feels hard)

Have you been finding it hard to stay positive and optimistic lately?  If so, know that you are not alone.  We are living through challenging times and sometimes we have to make more of a conscious effort to be hopeful and believe that change is possible.   I’m part...

This 1 thing changed my anti-racism approach

I first got involved in anti-racism work in my late teens mainly because of the personal pain I felt from my brother's experiences of racism as a person of color. It's actually one of the main reasons that I become a social worker because I saw it as an avenue to...