Today’s Painting Pictures post comes from Angie Washington. Last year I received an email that changed my writing and online relationships. The email was from Angie and Laura Parker, the brains and vision behind the beautiful, uplifting, unique, and challenging website A Life Overseas. Through this site and other writing, Angie is serving and helping people around the globe. Here, she shares her life with wisdom and her colorful family brings an important perspective to the topic of race and racism, every day realities for families of mixed race and for people living in countries where their skin color draws extra attention. I am thrilled to host her voice today. Plus, she and her husband run a bowling alley. That’s cool.
Upon my shelf sits an extensive collection of Oz books. L. Frank Baum, the Royal Historian of Oz, takes you to worlds full of wonder, adversity, and fantasy. He worked closely with his illustrators in the creation of his stories. In the adventure called “Road to Oz” even the pages are different colors depending on which part of Oz Dorothy is wandering through. Her companion Polychrome – the Rainbow’s Daughter – goes with her to the green pages of the Emerald City, the blue pages of the land of the Munchkins, the purple pages of the North Country of the Gillikins, and the yellow pages of the Country of the Winkies, to name a few.
The fictitious worlds in literature and cinema tell the truth of cultural connections. They teach us to attend to, and thereby value, what makes us so very different yet, all the more, the same as one another. Music matters. Art matters. Food matters. Language matters. Race matters.
I am the Royal Historian of The Washington Family. As such, I keep alive the stories we live together as a family. My first three kids were 3, 2, and 10 weeks when we moved from the U.S.A. to Bolivia, South America. That was over 10 years ago and we have added two Bolivian born children to our family since. As the title Third Culture Kids implies they are growing up as multi-cultural humans. We knew that even if our dream to become missionaries never materialized that our children would be raised multi-culturally.
My husband is black. I am white. I have heard our children call themselves: white, black, pink, and brown. They compare skin color after a day in the sun. Then they add to the descriptive list: red, freckly, tan, and super dark.
We talk about race and racism quite often. Even in the tiny country of Bolivia racism has a hold. One taxi driver saw my chubby, light-skinned boy on my lap and told me I was “improving the Bolivian race” by allowing a white child to be born as a Bolivian. My kids notice it, too.
“Mama, they were talking bad about a kid at school.”
“Oh? Tell me what happened.”
“They were saying mean things to her because her skin is dark.”
“Yes. That happens. What do you think about that?”
“I am a different color than they are. I wouldn’t like it if someone treated me different because of my skin color.”
This was spoken by a little person who has only a textbook knowledge of their racial roots. They can watch youtube videos of the speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.; but they have yet to feel the pain of racial slurs. Concepts like slavery and prejudice have a unique skew in their minds because they are also mixed with the Bolivian history of conquistadores and colonialism.
Chronicled in the annals of mankind, lay side by side the embarrassing behaviors of racism next to the celebration of individuality. We mustn’t try to cover up one by exalting the other. Nor must we adopt the victim mentality of one and deny the redeeming power of the other. The stories need to be told.
My kids were born in a nation still figuring out what to do with their race. Now they have been removed from that tension. We have a new tension to manage. I am grateful for the third culture of “The Washington Family” so we have a platform to discuss things like race, pride, and nationalism. We can’t ignore it. We embrace it.
Parents, how do you experience, and talk about, issues of race with your Third Culture Kids? TCKs, how have you experienced and discussed race? What has been helpful/not helpful?
Angie Washington and her husband, DaRonn, have five children. Adoption is very close to her heart. One of their kids is adopted, but they also run an orphanage called The House of Dreams, located in Cochabamba, Bolivia, where they live. For over a decade she has been serving alongside her husband to establish and administrate: a church, the orphanage, a K-12 school, and a network to aid pastors and church leaders. Her passion for words takes form in writing, blogging, and teaching (all bilingually).