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toward EQUALITY : EXPLORING A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE : Teaching Our Children : Lack of Understanding Creates Special Problems for Biracial Family

February 13, 1989|STEVEN SEILER | Times Staff Writer

When my wife Lucy and I first adopted a little boy from South Korea in 1982, it did not occur to us that we had become a biracial family. In the intervening years (and two more adoptions from South Korea) that fact has been hammered home to us.

While there have been a few incidents with racial overtones, most of them have been innocuous and in some cases quite funny.

In one incident about four years ago, my wife and I were approached by a middle-aged couple while shopping at a local mall with our two oldest children, David and Nancy. The couple looked at us and asked if they were our grandchildren? We were so stunned that all we could say was, "No, they are ours." We were both a little miffed; we were only in our early thirties at the time.

About 18 months later, while waiting at the international terminal at Los Angeles International Airport for our newest child to be processed through immigration after arrival from Seoul, a young man from South Korea asked us about the children and became irate that we were adopting children from South Korea.

Fortunately, the children were young enough not seem to understand or care what the man was saying.

What is bothersome and somewhat concerns us are strangers who walk up and start asking questions in the children's presence.

If we are both there, one of us will walk the children away and the other will answer the questions. However, when only one of us is available, we tactfully try to put off the questions. When this doesn't work, we either walk away or bluntly say we don't discuss our children in public.

The sad part is that these people don't mean to be offensive. They're just curious.

It's not that the children aren't aware that they are adopted; we just feel that there is no need to grind that in or the fact that they don't look like us.

Sometimes we get strange looks and stares when we dine out, especially in Chinese and Japanese restaurants. The stares generally aren't hostile but mostly curious, as if to say, "What are these two Caucasians doing with these three Asian children?"

My wife and I notice, but the children seem oblivious to these stares.

What brings home the fact that we are a biracial family are questions and comments by our own children, especially David, who is 6 1/2 years old.

Recently he made the statement that he wished he had "blond hair" so he could be "an American and be President." I suggested to him that blond hair had nothing to do with being American. I told him that he already is an American, though since he is naturalized, he is ineligible to become President.

A few days later when my wife asked him who he would like to look like, he piped up that he wished he looked like his best friend Sean, who is black.

From time to time well meaning individuals will say things like, "Your children aren't Oriental. They just look like it." We try to correct this kind of comment: These people simply don't understand that they're being, at best, insensitive.

My wife and I agree that we are fortunate to live in a multiracial community where biracial families are hardly unusual.

While there are uncomfortable situations from time to time, we generally have found little in the way racial bigotry. However, we are always on guard for situations that might be unsettling to our children.

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