I've often heard the criticism that I wouldn't know what it is like to have people question your heritage, or know how it feels to have wild accusations thrown your way for your identity and skin colour, nor understand how in some mixed-race families, siblings can have entirely different skin colours.
To this, I always answer 'you don't know me very well'.
In June of 2007, my wife gave birth to fraternal (non-identical) twins. A boy and a girl, who have taught me some of my greatest lessons in life. They share a birthday, and the honour of being million-to-one special - the apparent odds of having black and white twins. To be honest, those odds surprise me, it is hardly unheard of, in fact, there are no shortage of stories of the same phenomenon all over. Take a black skinned father, a white skinned mother and your guess is as good as mine what colour the child will come out.
The freak factor comes from the fact that when most people think 'twins' they think of identical twins, who almost always look so similar that you can spot that they are twins immediately. Fraternal twins on the other hand, come in all varieties - from those that look reasonably alike, right up to a pair like ours.
(Zeke on the left, Kyla on the right )
From pretty much the outset, my wife and I got a lot of questions. Everyone wanted to say something, or ask a question - and not always kindly. But, it never bothered me. I never felt offended when people asked questions, even the ones like 'are you sure your wife didn't cheat on you?'. The thing is, you can choose to feel offended by something like that, or you can stop and try to understand how that person came to wonder such a thing. I put myself in their shoes. I can get that people would be shocked that they look so different - if they weren't my own kids, I'd probably find them fascinating myself and have a few questions pop up in my mind that are not dissimilar to the ones I've had more times than I can count and will probably get again many more times in the years to come.
The trick is not to allow yourself to get a persecution complex. You see, the reality is, those people go away, live their lives, and I live mine. I can't control what they think, and nor do I care to do so. I know who I am, I know the life I have lived and feel secure in who I am. I don't need someone else to verify who I already know I am, and that is how I am raising my children to view their own sense of self. Along with knowledge of their culture, I am responsible for giving them a strong and true identity. This means understanding and accepting the fact that they are both part Aboriginal, and part 'dysfunctional white people' (my wifes contribution when asked how she'd like her family described in a few words) in heritage, but 100% Australian.
I look for neither child to have acceptance by some mystical 'Aboriginal community' that supposedly encompasses every person who is Aboriginal or of Aboriginal descent. No such thing exists, and they are accepted into the only community that counts, family and our circle of good friends. All that really matters in the end is that my black skinned family don't shun my white skinned son, nor do they favour or treat specially my dark-skinned daughter. My wifes white skinned family, the same. If either side were to behave otherwise, they'd be booted from our inner sanctum. Our children are special as individuals and when you look at them all the time, believe it or not, you stop noticing the colour difference.
This year, both children have started Prep - their very first year of school. Unfortunately, they are at two different schools, about half an hours drive apart. They are not separated because of colour, but, because of that all important word - NEED. My dark skinned daughter is doing just fine in a wonderful little semi-rural public school (she is quite the social butterfly and already has a best friend), my white skinned boy is making incredible progress at the closest special school to our home that is equipped for his needs.
Neither is disadvantaged simply because they have an Aboriginal father, and I'm on a mission to stop anyone who wants to try to fill either of their heads with such rubbish. They are not a stereotype, in fact, compared to the poorest Aboriginal kids in Central Australia and parts of the Northern Territory, they are incredibly well off and very lucky. How many kids out there with special needs have access to the type of care that my son gets? How many kids out there have parents that make sure they attend school with a packed lunch every single day? What percentage do you reckon have parents that are even functionally literate?
The children you see above get three full meals every day, and always have clean clothes to wear and sleep one to a bed - not 3 or 4 to a mat on the ground. We have access to good doctors and a hospital with tertiary facilities within half an hours drive. We have all the major supermarket chains within walking distance to buy fresh food, we have access to multiple types of public transport (trains and buses), and although my local police get a bad rap from time to time, I am certain that if I ever ended up in their cells (and I have seen the inside of a drunk tank more than a few times in my younger, wilder days) I'd walk back out alive.
Most importantly of all, my kids have me to protect them from all the horrors many of those children who are suffering for little more than an accident of birth (being born into a disadvantaged and dysfunctional Aboriginal family is nothing we choose) endure - the threat of physical and sexual abuse. Those who know me well or have much to do with me are well aware that my family is my life, and that if they harm my children, I will kill them and happily serve jail time for it.