By Francis Wardle PhD
Reviewed By Ishraga Lloyd
This book is a guide to raising biracial children with a positive attitude towards their identity. It stresses the importance of embracing and understanding all aspects of a child’s heritage and is aimed at parents (including adoptive experience as an educator and also as a parent of biracial children). His position is that biracial children should be fully integrated with their black and white families and appreciate the full range of their cultural background(s). The book deals mainly with black/white but there is a section on other backgrounds (e.g. Hispanic/black, Asian/white etc). Still, the basic message is: encourage them to feel and foster parents) and teachers. Francis Wardle draws on his considerable positively towards every aspect of their descent and not to identify exclusively with any one group. This is backed up by a number of practical ways parents and teachers can support biracial children towards this goal. The book is an easy read. The style is chatty, not cold and academic, and Dr Wardle peppers it with personal anecdotes.
Wardle deals with the situation in America, which is significantly different to that in the UK in some ways – particularly historically and politically. For example America had segregation laws, the one drop rule (one drop of ‘black’ blood makes you black) and slavery. Also, black and white sectors still tend to be far more separatist than in this country. That’s not to say this country is free from racism, far from it, but racism has not been enshrined in law and racial identity has not been legally binding.
This aside, the discussion and advice on child development is relevant to the British experience. It is common sense for people who want to bring up their children to appreciate and respect difference whilst understanding that all people are basically the same.
In Chapter 1, Wardle discusses child identity development and the stages at which biracial children ask questions about their identity – who they are and what group they belong to. He also explores a number of environmental factors which influence this development. There is a handy table with the child’s age along one axis and identity issues along the top. Parents can see the issues they are likely to be facing at each developmental stage and how to approach them. For example, “5-11 years – children this age need labels and words to help them. Biracial, brown, adopted all help. Help them articulate their identity and feel good about it.”
Chapter 2 is dedicated to practical advice – the need for open discussion; multicultural resources (books, dolls, toys); hair and skin care; choice of neighbourhood; dealing with school and other professionals. There is also a huge list of contacts and resources for support and further information at the end of the book.
There is a section on the special issues surrounding adopted biracial children. It is aimed mainly at white adoptive parents and points out the fallacy of current opposition to this: “Technically a biracial child adopted by a white family is no more a transracial adoption than a biracial child adopted by a black family.”
Tomorrow’s Children is a comprehensive discussion of the many issues surrounding the care of biracial, multiracial and multiethnic children (to use Dr Wardle’s own definitions). It guides parents and carers through the particular challenges and opportunities facing them and their families. It shows what you need to prepare for and how. But I think the real value of this book is that it says it’s OK to be both black and white (and any other description you want) rather than either or. In fact, Dr Wardle suggests that it is damaging for a biracial to identify with one background at the expense of the other.
I wholeheartedly welcome this book for promoting awareness of and supporting biracial families and children. Overall, Dr Wardle has produced a positive, helpful and much needed guide. He advocates celebrating diversity and highlights basic human unity. He strikes me as very sincere, sensitive and aware. And it’s a very big plus that he practices what he preaches.
Edited version of original review
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