MEET THE THOMAS FAMILY
Kevin Thomas Jr, age 29
African American & Belizean/Garifuna
Nicholette Thomas, age 29
Polish, Italian, German
Lillian Thomas, age 5
African American, Belizean/Garifuna, Polish, Italian, German
Everett Thomas, age 2
African American, Belizean/Garifuna, Polish, Italian, German
WHERE DO YOU LIVE?
HOW DID THE TWO OF YOU MEET?
We went to high school together at Hutchinson Technical High School in Buffalo, NY. We were friends first and started dating at the end of our Junior year.
WERE THERE ANY SIGNIFICANT OBSTACLES IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP CORRELATED TO YOUR BACKGROUNDS?
More so when we were younger we heard a lot of negative things when we would walk around, take the bus, or go out together. We’ve literally had old woman yell at us and call my husband “O.J” in reference to O.J. Simpson. I guess they thought he was (allegedly) going to kill me because of our skin? Who knows. We used to get stared at all the time, you know… the basics of being in an interracial relationship.
WHAT TRADITIONS DO YOU CELEBRATE IN YOUR HOME?
Something that has been important to me is that our kids learn about their cultures. My mother-in-law is from Belize and is of the Garifuna people. This is very important to her and an integral part of who she is. I’ve made sure to try to learn some of her culture to pass along to our children. One of my favorite things from her culture is this DELICIOUS dish call Hadut. She taught me the recipe and technique. It’s a fish based dinner and it is amazing. She gave us this big wooden mortar and pestle that we use to make the plantains in…. It’s a beautiful piece to have in our home and we get to make it using the traditional methods. I’ve also tried to teach our daughter some of the words from her native language. I’ll admit they are hard for me to pronounce but I’m trying with the basics (i.e. the words for head, foot, mouth, etc).
In my family we didn’t really practice culture specific traditions. I would say I identify mostly with being Polish though as those that raised me were the Polish side. As a child we did a bit more, in regards to traditions. We live in Buffalo, NY and it’s the Dyngus Day capital. As kids we would get Pussy Willow’s and hit each other with them (sounds weird I know), wear beautiful crowns that we got from The Broadway Market, and garnish our Easter meals with our Butter Lambs (also from The Broadway Market.) My mom picks up a crown for my daughter to wear for Easter as well. I’ve been trying to teach our kids about our Polish culture though as I want them to know about all of their makeup. Recently I’ve started to tell them about Pierogis and how they are from their mommy’s culture. They look at me like I’m crazy and have no idea what I’m talking about… but it’s a start.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CULTURAL FEATURE/TRADITION OF YOUR SPOUSE'S RACE?
Oh! As I’ve said above I love my mother in law’s food! It is simply amazing. I’ve learned on dish and I want to learn more and incorporate it into our family. It’s so natural, flavorful, simple, but incredibly delicious.
IS THE COMMUNITY YOU LIVE IN DIVERSE?
It is but it isn’t. Buffalo, NY is very diverse, but unfortunately it’s still quite segregated by neighborhoods and towns. In our specific neighborhood we are on the border of the East Side of Buffalo and Cheektowaga. We specifically chose to live in that area so that we have access to a better school district for our children, but so our kids aren’t the only “brown” or “golden” (as my daughter says) ones in school. So far it’s been a good choice.
DO YOU OR YOUR PARTNER SPEAK IN MORE THAN ONE LANGUAGE IN YOUR HOME?
We both know some Spanish but definitely wouldn’t call ourselves bilingual. My Mother-in-Law speaks Garifuna and English so I’ve tried to learn some of the words to teach some basics to our children. I follow a facebook page that shares/teaches the language so I can learn more. I recently learned “Buiti Weyu” which means… Good Day! Part of my daughter’s middle name is from my Mother-in-laws native language. While I was pregnant with my daughter, my husband’s maternal grandmother and my younger cousin both passed. We combined a Garifuna word that means “granddaughter” and part of my cousin’s name to create her middle name. It’s very unique and special to us.
ARE YOUR EXTENDED FAMILY SUPPORTIVE OF YOUR MULTIETHNIC RELATIONSHIP?
They are. My husband and I literally have grown up together since we were 16 years old so we are a part of each other’s families. I call his siblings my sister and brother and he calls my sister his sister. It’s all love with us.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR PARTNER'S ETHNIC-CULTURAL BACKGROUND?
Haha… like I’ve said above… the food!! It’s tastes amazing, it’s all natural and so flavorful.
DID YOU FIND BIG DIFFERENCES IN THE WAY YOU GREW UP VS. YOUR SPOUSE DUE TO DIFFERENCES IN RACE?
The only real difference that I can think of is that my husband grew up in a two parent household. I grew up in a single mother household. This is opposite of what a lot of stereotypes would suggest. He’s had both parents for his whole life and my dad left when I was 4 so we struggled but my mother kicked butt and gave us the best life. Even though we were low-income she worked hard to make us not feel like that. He and I grew up in neighboring neighborhoods so we grew up similarly in regards to that so I can’t really think of too many other differences to be honest.
I would say though, that even though I am white, until high school I was the minority in school. My neighborhood was predominantly black so I feel that has had an impact on who I am for the better. This is from my perspective though… my husband might have a different viewpoint. I’m interested to ask him.
WHAT IS THE MOST SURPRISING/UNEXPECTED THING YOU'VE LEARNED ABOUT EACH OTHER'S CULTURE?
We are more similar than different. Love is love.
ARE THERE ANY COMMENTS YOU ARE REALLY TIRED OF HEARING FROM PEOPLE IN REGARDS TO RACE/CULTURE?
Ugh… I just posted about this on my fb page. There was an article titled (paraphrasing) “White parents who are the biological parents of Black kids.” That REALLY irks me. I get that society views those who have “brown” skin, and even “one drop” of black in them... As black. But! I grew my babies in my womb, I labored them, I almost died for them, I’ve breastfed them, and I’ve literally gave my blood, sweat and tears for them. When people say things like that it makes me feel like I don’t count. I don’t like that. My children are mixed, multiracial, multicultural, biracial, etc. But they are not just ONE race/culture. They are both my husband and my children. They are unique, special, amazing, diverse little people and ALL of them counts.
Also, my daughter has AMAZING hair. I hate when strangers think they can touch it. Just… no.
WHAT ACTIONS HAVE YOU TAKEN TO TEACH YOUR CHILDREN ABOUT EACH OF YOUR BACKGROUNDS?
I should’ve read ahead… Sorry! We’ve tried to teach them some of their maternal grandmother’s native language, some about foods from our cultures, and one day we want to visit Belize to show them where their grandmother is from.
HAVE YOUR CHILDREN ASKED ABOUT RACE?
My daughter has noticed it. I’d say she was around 3 years old. We just explained to her that some people are one color, some are another, and that we are all beautiful and special.
DO YOUR CHILDREN IDENTIFY AS MIXED OR SOMETHING ELSE?
According to my daughter, I am white, daddy is black, and she and her brother are “golden.” :)
HOW DO YOU RAISE YOUR CHILDREN TO HONOR DIVERSITY IN OTHERS?
Whenever my daughter brings something “different” up she notices in others (i.e. maybe a male with makeup on) I casually just remind her that we are all different. I try to not make it a “thing” and react. I want people being unique and different to be a normal, accepted thing for them. I try to use everyday moments as teaching opportunities.
WHAT UNIQUE CHARACTERISTICS DO YOUR CHILDREN HAVE FROM YOU AND YOUR PARTNER?
My daughter’s hair is AMAZING. It is incredibly long (almost to her knees when wet), and curly. I had really long hair as a child, but it was/is stick straight. My kids have my cheeks and my husband’s lips. They also have my hairline. We go back and forth with who we think they look like. We can’t decide!
WHAT DOES BEING MIXED MEAN TO YOUR CHILDREN?
My daughter sort of gets it. My son is definitely too young at this point but it is very important to me to teach them to be proud of who they are. I remind my daughter that she is amazing, and her differences make her unique and special. I try to teach her to love her curly hair and “golden” skin. So far I think we’ve been successful.
WHAT IS YOUR DREAM FOR YOUR CHILD'S FUTURE AND THE FUTURE OF AMERICA IN REGARDS TO RACE?
My dream is for my children to grow up loving who they are and being able to just be themselves. I don’t want them to have to “choose” a side and identify with one race. I would just love for America to understand that our beautiful, unique mixed babies are the future of the world. Love is love no matter the amount of melanin in our skin.
ANYTHING ELSE YOU WANT TO ADD:
You can follow me, My blog is themixedmamablog.com where I share tips, tricks, and tutorials for multicultural haircare. There will also be stories of our lives and the issues/situations we face as a multicultural family.
I also just launched an online store, TheMixedShop.com! The online store brings natural/multiracial hair care products, diverse toys & books, and other specialty items all into one spot.
I can be found on Social Media at: Facebook , Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I also have an online FB group that is sort of an online support group for multicultural families from around the world to share stories, pictures, get advice, vent, and just have a sense of community. That can be found here: The Mixed Mama Community.