WASHINGTON (NNPA) – After he was blistered with criticism for not marrying an interracial couple, Justice Keith Bardwell of Tangipahoa Parish, La. made a statement that he is not a racist, but that he knows biracial children suffer through hardships in life.
Bardwell’s theory that being mixed with Black and White races can cause a child to suffer emotionally and mentally has brought national speculation over whether such a statement is true.
“They end up being president of the United States,” said Dr. James Salvage, a psychologist in Northwest Washington, D.C. “Or the mayor of Washington, D.C.” he said, referring to President Obama and Mayor Adrian Fenty.
According to Dr. Salvage, biracial children do not go through any more hardships than people who are White or Black.
“If mixed race is going to account for hardships, how do you explain why you have extreme poverty among White people? He can see that there are Whites that are in Louisiana that are dirt poor and that are uneducated,” said Salvage.
According to the National Center for Health and Statistics, biracial children represent a growing number of America’s diverse population. Between 1978 and 1992, the number of biracial children born in the United States increased more than 50 percent and has continued to increase since then. However, based on a 2000 census, the number of biracial children was estimated between two and four million. The current statistics remain underestimated because many biracial children identify with the parent of color which skews the actual results.
Dr. Daniel Williams, a psychologist from East Orange, N.J., said Bardwell had no right to assume hardships for the couple’s future children – in part because, “Race is defined sociologically and not biologically.”
Also, Williams explained, “It has always been said that if you have one parent that is Black, then you are Black.”
Because of this assumption, some bi-racial children have difficulty with self-identification, says Dr. Clifford Greene. They may have problems being accepted while figuring out which race they want to identify with the most, he said. These problems start in the mid teens when they are trying harder to fit in with peers. If caught in this identity crisis, some biracial children may get criticized from Blacks about not being “Black enough,” while Whites may still consider them to not be “pure,” Greene says.
A psychologist from the University of Los Angeles, Gail Wyatt said that there is no empirical evidence that biracial children have a problem adjusting to society.
“They have to identify who they are the same way that Blacks and Whites go through a process of self-identification. It is about how the parents raise the child that eliminates any confusion,” she said.
Dr. Wyatt said that Justice Bardwell’s comments are absurd because it “flies against the history of this country where over 400 years ago, our women were raped.”
Co-founder of The Black Think Tank, an organization aimed at promoting better Black female/male relationships and several other black-related issues, Dr. Nathan Hare believes that biracial children do not suffer that much, rather, they have the best of both worlds.
“Mixed kids don’t suffer as much, but they have more of a dilemma,” he said. Dr. Hare did his own college dissertation on Black male and female relationships.
“When Barack Obama lived in Hawaii, he realized for the first time that he was alone when he heard his grandmother complain about a Black man,” said Dr. Hare. “He’s not Black, he’s not White, but he still loved his grandmother. His mother would have him listen to speeches by Martin Luther King, Jr. so that he could learn about how beautiful Black was.”
Erica Robinson, a senior at Howard University who is racially mixed says that people who are mixed or biracial do sometimes have identification problems. However, she urges that people who are feeling left out or confused to do research on their family history.
“It is okay to accept both cultures,” she said. “Society makes us choose, but you have to be happy with who you are and there is nothing wrong with sitting with your parents and asking them to teach you more about who you are.”
Dr. Julia Hare, a San Francisco-based psychologist, who co-founded the Black Think Tank with her husband, Nathan, also gives strong advice:
“Please do not let terms and names and labels define you. The only person that can define you is you. It isn’t what people call you, it’s what you answer to. You’re going to have haters out there [who] will prevent you from getting far, but you’re the captain of your own ship.”