by Donna Scrafano
As a young social worker, in the 1980s, I had the grand opportunity to work with a wonderful psychologist. She taught me many valuable lessons. One thing she said continues to resonate in my mind: “God made mixed children extra beautiful because he knew the special challenges they would face.” Little did I know how close to my heart this statement would be one day.
In the ’60s and ’70s, my family and community were not accepting of interracial relationships, let alone the thought of having a biracial or “mulatto” child (the term used at that time). Although I was quite the rebel and had an attraction toward males who were not my race, I did not and would not act on it. There was just too negative a stigma attached to interracial dating. I recall being in the community library as a teenager, and a very pretty, well-dressed, seemingly educated woman came in with two young biracial daughters. Because of all the negativity that surrounded interracial couples and biracial children, I found myself being surprised and confused that this young woman, clearly in an interracial relationship, was beautiful, intelligent, and apparently a wonderful mother. I felt validated, but I still never acted on it.
Society’s frowning on interracial relationships was not the predominant factor that stopped me from acting on my attraction. It was my family of origin. As a pre-teen I watched my aunt disowned by our family for interracial dating. I was heartsick, as I was very close to her. She was only four years my senior, so we were more like sisters. I would sneak out to visit her but always got caught. I fought long and hard with my parents about continuing my relationship with my aunt, but to no avail. And unfortunately, she later went down a road that was indeed unhealthy and dangerous, thus validating my family’s fears and prejudices. The message was: This unhealthy and dangerous life style was because she was with black males, and if I acted on my attraction toward them, the same would happen to me, including family disownment. The ties between my aunt and I were once and for all severed, a very sad time for me.
Much much later, as a single mother of teenagers, both of my daughters began to date interracially. I too, at the age of 36, followed my desire to do the same. I remember my father commenting about my daughters, “Well let’s hope they don’t get pregnant or get on drugs.” My response was, “Yes Dad, because white boys don’t do drugs or have sex.” As the years went on, I fought the good fight and stood my ground. I made it very clear that, if need be, my girls and I would withstand the threat of disownment. And we did. In 1994 I was blessed with my first biracial grandchild. I’d be lying if I said that the announcement to my family went smoothly and was well accepted. On the contrary. But my parents finally came around. Since my daughter was a young single mom, my parents assisted monetarily, and my mother babysat her first beautiful great-granddaughter in order for my daughter to continue her education. Two of my three brothers accepted “my” interracial family as well.
My mother lived long enough to enjoy five biracial great grandchildren. I now have six grandbabies. Five are Black and Caucasian, and one is Latino and Caucasian. Their ethnicities include African American, Jamaican, Native American, French, Italian, Irish, English, and Puerto Rican. One has wavy hair, one has straight hair, two have tight curly, coarse hair, and two have soft, loose curly hair. There are blonde and red highlights and deep dark-brown shades. Their eyes range from beautiful dark brown to hazel to grey colors. And their skin tones are from fair to light tan to medium tan to caramel. Each and every one of these wonderful children are indeed “beautifully mixed.”
Photos: myajc.com, todaysparent.com, chicagotribune.com
Donna began her journey in Human Services in 1983. During the next 35 years she held various positions and formally retired in 2018. She writes on an array of social issues. Donna’s relaxation time includes walking her Lab, Roxy, having fun with her six grandchildren, writing, spending time with friends, and applying self-care. Her current full-time position is care-taking her 90-year-old father.