When I last shared my thoughts on whether or not my son will identify as a Latino man, a commentator said that if my children are born in America, then they are American first.
Her point was that it's great of me to share their heritage with them, but that I should stress to them that they are American, with a Puerto Rican and Trinidadian background. She was concerned that by putting labels on them on being Latino or being Black, we as parents were setting them up and doing them a disservice. They would be seen as minorities their entire lives, if we went down that road, she said.
Let me tell you that no matter how much I tell my children that they were born in America and thus are American, believe me, no one is going to look at my kids and think "Look at that nice American child!" That is not how they'll be seen. They'll be seen first as Black, or maybe Latino, or perhaps people will be puzzled and wonder.
In fact, no one looks at me and says "She's American!" Instead they ask me, "Where are you from?" They often assume and more often than not ask me if I'm Indian (as in East Indian). They act shocked when I tell them I'm Puerto Rican, because to them I "don't look Puerto Rican!" So, I'm often told.
Because society is going to make up their minds about my children from just looking at them, it doesn't much matter if I stress they are American. I would much rather they know who they are, where their families come from, their rich cultural heritage, and traditions. They will inherently know they are American just by having been born here, and growing up in the United States.
The truth is that they are getting a mixed culture just by living here. As much as we tell them about Puerto Rico and Trinidad, share traditions with them, speak to them in Spanish, listen to music and eat food from our countries, at the end of the day, it's not the same as growing up in those countries. They will always have that as a secondary experience, because their own experiences will be full of American culture.
That is precisely why we do expose them to their cultural backgrounds. They will not learn about it otherwise. By learning about their heritage, I truly don't believe I am setting them up to be seen as minorities. Society has made that decision already.
Melanie Edwards is the founder and editor of ModernMami.com, an award-winning lifestyle blog, and owner of Ella Media, whose focus is to connect businesses with today’s digital Latina. Married 9 years, Melanie is the proud mother of a 6-year-old girl and 1-year-old boy, who are being raised in a bilingual, multicultural environment. Originally from Puerto Rico, Melanie now resides in Orlando, Florida.
Melanie Edwards is the founder and editor of ModernMami™.com, an award-winning lifestyle blog, and owner of Ella Media, whose focus is to connect businesses with today’s digital Latina. Married 9 years, Melanie is the proud mother of a 6-year-old girl and 1-year-old boy, who are being raised in a bilingual, multicultural environment. Originally from Puerto Rico, Melanie now resides in Orlando, Florida.