The Longest Shortest Time

EPISODE #59: Mama Don’t Understand

People who identify as multiracial are the fastest growing demographic in the United States. Still, it can be hard for parents to figure out how to talk about race and ethnicity with their mixed kids. In today’s episode, two daughters tell their moms that they don’t get what it means to be mixed.

Our first story is about Sapna McCarthy, an Indian woman who married an Englishman named Kieren.

Sapna + Kieren on their wedding day

Sapna + Kieren on their wedding day

Sapna and Kieren have two daughters. The older one, Raina, is four.

Raina calls herself

Raina calls herself “white” and her mom “brown”

And she says her dad is "pink"

And she says her dad is “pink”

One day, Sapna was playing got-yer-nose with Raina, and Raina made the game about skin color. In our interview, Sapna tells the surprising story of what went down, and puzzles over how to talk to her young daughter about her heritage. (If you have ideas on this, please leave them in the comments below!)

UPDATE 7/23: This is a fuse bead family portrait that Raina made. Sapna sent it to me. Check out the skin tones!

Sapna-fuse-bead-800x600

Our second story is about performer and cultural educator Kirya Traber. When Kirya was a kid, she’d record her stories, songs, and tantrums on this one 90-minute cassette.

Kirya-cassette-issues

The most coherent song on the tape: a freestyle rap called “It’s a Black Thing.” Which she sang to her single white mom at the age of six.

Kirya + her mom around the time Kirya sang the rap

Kirya + her mom around the time Kirya sang the rap

Kirya + her mom in 2012

Kirya + her mom in 2012

In this episode, Kirya tells me what she was thinking when she sang the song to her mom, and how her racial identity has changed throughout her life. Plus, she gives me a *great* idea on how to help my daughter wrap her head around her own mixed ethnicity.

P.S. For any parents having trouble with your mixed kids’ hair, Kirya has offered to give advice! She’ll be checking the comments.

How do you talk to YOUR kids about race and ethnicity?
Or how have you talked to your parents? What books, movies, websites, experts, and experiences have helped you to unpack this extremely complicated topic? Leave your answers below, and talk to each other!

McCarthy wedding photo: Peter Kwan; Kirya cassette photo: Amy Pearl

Our sponsors for this episode are Thirdlove , Cellscope, Little Passports and Crane and Canopy. Use the promo code LONGSHORT at checkout for a special discount.