MEET THE FISCH-FITTZ FAMILY:
Jen, age 37
• White / I am mainly Scandinavian from both sides (Swedish, Norwegian, Danish), as well German, Luxembourgish, Welsh, English, Italian, Spanish, Polish and a touch of Irish. A Euro mutt basically:)
Kaia, age 11
• Biracial / Kaia recently did the Ancestry test so we have her whole breakdown. She is 55% European. My part of that is mainly Scandinavian and smaller amounts of Italian and Iberian Peninsula. From her father she is 41% African most of that coming from Nigeria and Mali but also small percentages coming from Togo, Ivory Coast and Cameroon. Then to round all of that out she has small percentages from Great Britain, the Pacific Islands, Asia and West Asia.
IS THE COMMUNITY YOU LIVE IN DIVERSE?
Yes very! We live in Marina del Rey which is on the Westside of Los Angeles. I moved into that area specifically for Kaia’s former elementary school because of its excellent reputation as well as its extremely diverse student body. Prior to L.A. we lived in Santa Fe and Denver. Santa Fe was diverse with the large populations of Latinos as well as Native Americans however, there were not a lot of Mixed children in my daughter’s school and I didn’t want her growing up being the only mixed kid in her class, so moving somewhere with a diverse community was my first priority.
DO YOU SPEAK IN MORE THAN ONE LANGUAGE IN YOUR HOME?
I speak some Spanish, enough to get me around but I need to practice more! Kaia just started Spanish in school this year using the Duolingo app. Kaia also has a half brother who lives in Sweden so she likes to learn some Swedish phrases on the app as well.
IS YOUR FAMILY SUPPORTIVE?
Yes my family has always been supportive, as is my ex husband’s family.
WHAT TRADITIONS DO YOU CELEBRATE IN YOUR HOME?
My family has a lot of traditions centered around holidays that come from my Scandinavian background. For Christmas especially we go all out with Scandinavian cooking (Norwegian meatballs, sandbakkels, spritz cookies, lefse, krumkake). My mom has almost a dozen Christmas trees, many of them representing Scandinavian culture as well as the many states we have lived in.
Senga, Kaia's other Grandma always sets up beautiful Zwanzaa displays in their home and has also done larger installations for the entire community in Colorado Springs.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR FORMER PARTNER'S CULTURAL BACKGROUND?
Kaia’s father, Sanza, comes from a very art-centric family which I love. Kaia’s grandmother is artist Senga Nengudi, who was a key figure in the avant-garde black art scene in the 60s and 70s. She continues to show in major museums and galleries all over the world. One highlight was when Kaia and I were able to see Senga’s work in MOMA in New York City as well as the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. Kaia’s father is also a very talented illustrator so art is in the genes!
DID YOU FIND BIG DIFFERENCES IN THE WAY YOU GREW UP VS. YOUR FORMER PARTNER DUE TO DIFFERENCES IN RACE?
I’m not 100% sure, but I know that Sanza’s family moved from Los Angeles to Colorado Springs when he was relatively young because his parents were concerned about the violence in L.A. during that time period (early 1980s). While not at the level of L.A., Colorado Springs is a pretty diverse city due to the Military bases in the area. I grew up mainly in a small city in Connecticut called Glastonbury during my early years, which was not a very diverse place. Then we moved to southern California for my high school years where I was exposed to a lot more diversity.
HAVE YOU FACED ANY OBSTACLES AS A MIXED RACE FAMILY?
Nothing major, but we do get some looks and annoying questions from time to time. My biggest pet peeve is that people always look at my daughter and I and then ask “is she yours?” or “are you mom or the babysitter?”. My daughter is literally my brown twin so that always bugs me. It happens at least once a week, usually while we’re checking out at a store. I have also received a couple racist Facebook messages in the past, all from men. The only time I really experienced overt racism to my face as a mixed couple was when I was pregnant and my ex husband and I traveled to Atlanta for a photoshoot I had for work. We were not treated well at all and had multiple incidents over the course of a couple days. In all my years on the West coast I have never experienced any significant racism.
WHAT ACTIONS HAVE YOU TAKEN TO TEACH YOUR CHILDREN ABOUT EACH OF YOUR BACKGROUNDS?
My dad is big into genealogy and has been for over 30 years, so he has shared a lot of stories with Kaia about where our side comes from and he has also been researching Kaia’s father’s side. Also now that she is at an age where I feel like she can really remember travel we plan on visiting Europe and Africa before she graduates high school so she can experience first hand where she is from.
HAS YOUR CHILD ASKED ABOUT RACE?
I have always spoken about race to Kaia since she was very small. I have a lot of friends with mixed children, so she was also very used to being around a variety of people. I do remember her asking why she was brown and I wasn’t (she was probably 4 or 5), so I explained that her dad was black and I was white so she was a the perfect mix of both of us. It is a concept I introduced to her very early though, even when she was a baby she had a onesie with a chocolate and vanilla swirl ice cream cone on it:)
DOES YOUR CHILD IDENTIFY AS MIXED OR SOMETHING ELSE?
She identifies as mixed and is proud of it. I would guesstimate that about 60% of her friends are also a mix of some sort so it is something that is very normal in her world.
HOW DO YOU RAISE YOUR CHILD TO HONOR DIVERSITY IN OTHERS?
My goal is to raise a true global citizen. I have always tried to expose her to different cultures, foods, and we have traveled to different places. This child was eating sashimi before she even had teeth!
I have a lot more travel in store for her, in fact my dream is to take her to a different country every summer from now until the time she is 18 so we can experience other cultures. I also, as I mentioned, value diversity in her education and actively chosen schools for her where she will be surrounded by kids from all races, cultures, and walks of life.
Overall it has never been interesting to me to surround myself in "sameness". I love meeting people who have walked in different shoes, experienced life in a very different way than myself. I will encourage Kaia to do the same because it has brought so much to my life through both friendships and relationships.
WHAT UNIQUE CHARACTERISTICS DOES YOUR CHILD HAVE FROM YOU AND YOUR FORMER PARTNER?
Kaia’s face looks very similar to me, but with brown hair and brown eyes which she gets from her dad. Her personality is a mix of both of us. She is introverted like her dad, but also confident and stubborn like me. Her love of art and creativity comes from both sides.
WHAT DOES BEING MIXED MEAN TO YOUR CHILD?
Kaia is very proud of being mixed, she thinks it is funny when kids are surprised when her blonde mom comes and picks her up. She has been asked if she is Mexican, Hawaiian, Asian, and many other races but is always proud to say she is mixed white and black.