Saturday, 9 March 2013

Lessons of a pale son

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.


(Finishing Kinder)

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.


29 comments:

  1. Both of these children are beautiful, and you posted a wonderful, thought provoking, and inspiring story.

    And I fully support your last paragraph.

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    1. Wally, I had hoped that by sharing our 'unique' family a little, it would help add another dimension to this whole debate and give some food for thought.

      Thanks for your support as well, I hesitated for half a second before using the words I did, but I want people to be under no illusion. Abuse ruins children, and those who perpetrate crimes against children deserve no sympathy, and no second chances.

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    1. Read Doctor Sowell's latest?

      http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/342691/intellectuals-and-race-thomas-sowell

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    1. Best job I've ever had, though the 'on-the-job training' can be brutal at times.

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  4. It's great to have you back on line Dallas. Make the most of the data while you have it. Regarding your article, I heartily support your view on this one. Lately I have been wondering about the current absolute obsession with identity. I thought perhaps it was a "black" thing, but none of my family find it necessary to run around declaring they are indigenous, or wearing aboriginal colours, and now you are echoing my sentiments so obviously it's not.
    Like you I am puzzled by this need to force your cultural identity on the population. You know who you are, your family knows who you are, as do your friends so who gives a damn what anyone else thinks.
    Unfortunately we seem to be in the minority, at least amongst urban dwellers. This is born out by comments on SBS's Living Black page on Facebook. Any article on identity or benefits draws a large number of comments, yet a few days ago, when an article that commented on the huge level of child abuse amongst the indigenous community came up there were only 6 comments, and one of those was mine! It seems the rape, abuse and neglect of helpless children doesn't require the time and attention that obsessing over identity does. Yet child abuse is a huge problem and is actually one of the few that can be helped by individual efforts.
    If indigenous people are really genuine about wanting to improve the environment for their people they need to spend less time trying to improve their own image and more on an area it is desperatly needed.

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    1. I've got some half finished blog posts I am working on putting up, I wrote a few things down while I was away and am now in the position of having a bunch of drafts to finish. Should be an interesting month...

      I don't feel disheartened by the comments on the Living Black page. As is probably your reality, on the ground, the most disadvantaged people don't have internet access, nor the education and level of literacy that affords itself to posting in a debate on a Facebook page. I have plenty of relatives who use their mobile phones to get on Facebook, but they don't use it for intelligent debate, rather a purely social escape. None of those people who posted on that debate in vocal opposition appear to note the stunning lack of traditional black voices in the debate. Most just wanted to find offence where there was none, and shout down opposition to their point of view as being racist. Just because you speak the loudest, doesn't mean you are right.

      My favourite, by the way, was the woman who was railing against all the racism in her town. She mentioned how hard it is to get a rental if you're Aboriginal, and as such, she doesn't mention her 'identity' when making any rental enquiries or applications. If that is her biggest worry, well, lucky her.

      It is so frustrating for so many people to miss the point. When you mention that it doesn't seem right that thousands of Aboriginal people are living in utter poverty and hopelessness, yet are reliant on the same streams of funding that the 'well to do' (by all comparisons) distant cousins have access to - you're branded a racist. When you mention that Aboriginal children are still being neglected and abused, it is a wall of silence.

      It has become a Victim Industry, and there is a lot of money to be made from continuing the suffering, feeling offended and segregating yourself from the rest of society as 'different'. A lot of people are reliant on the cycle of disadvantage to continue, they've made a lot of money from it - but unfortunately it is always at the expense of someone who has less power, and far, far less of a voice than they do.

      I know we'd both like to see that change.

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    3. Oops - am new to this and had heaps of typos. Here we go (again.....)

      Astounding! Finally, voices of reason...

      Please stay vocal, keep writing. You are articulating what a lot of people with different coloured eyes, hair and skin think but don't say for fear of retribution.

      Me - first and foremost I identify as a human being on planet Earth.

      Keep up the great work - you give me hope :)

      9 March 2013 23:35

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    4. Thanks Ann, I couldn't agree with you more and am proud to stand beside you as a fellow human being of planet Earth.

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  5. Brilliant article. I reckon "being offended that someone questioned my heritage" should be added to those first world problems :-)

    And what gorgeous children you have.
    Margaret

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    1. Couldn't agree more Margaret, and thank you for your kind words.

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  6. A very thoughtful, kind and intelligent article. Reading it gives one a great deal of food for thought. What cute little children they are too.

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  7. Well put, You write better than most academics.
    I have bookmarked your site
    Peter

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  8. "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. "
    So true. The key to happiness is having confidence in your own decisions, taking responsibility for them and not worrying about what others think about you...

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  9. Dallas, I think you would be a very worthy recipient of a nomination for Father of the Year. When nominations open up for 2013, I hope that you can be considered for entry.

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    1. Thanks Cameron, but I think I'll aim more for 2023 - I have 3 kids yet to start high school and puberty so if I survive that, I promise I'll nominate my bloody self!

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  10. Mate, I love reading your blog - everything you post educates me; for that and for the stories I am truly indebted.

    Cheers
    Andrew Mills

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    1. You are most welcome Andrew - thanks for the kind words

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  11. I have fraternal twins too. My daughter has dark olive skin with black curly hair and my son has fair skin and brown straight hair. Their father is Japanese, and I am Australian. I think my daughter inherited Asian genes as well as recessive Spanish genes as my great grandmother was Spanish. At one stage she was much darker than her Japanese siblings who live in Japan. People used to ask me very rude questions too and stare at them every time I took them out. My daughter got even darker if she went to the beach and my son made some very unkind comments about her colour when he was angry. Strangely my son has just had twins of his own, and both are white. One has blue eyes and the other light hazel eyes. I think this is extremely rare too.

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    1. Thanks for sharing that Margaret, it is always nice to hear from other parents of 'not very alike' twins - having someone else who understands just where you are going and have been is priceless.

      Congratulations to your family too - it must be something in the water, my niece gave birth to twins as well last week!

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  13. Glad to have you back Dallas. I agree Parenting is brutal on the job training sometimes :)
    Keep up the great writing and welcome back.


    kind regards
    Jason B King

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    1. Thanks Jason, its good to be back and glad to see you here too.

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  14. A Maori friend of mine had twins, one white, one brown; and singles, one white and one brown -- she used to constantly be asked if she was baby-sitting.
    The irony is that now, the brown-skinned kids look like their white dad, and the white kids look like her!
    I guess as humans we are very curious about anything that is different -- our brains are hard-wired for it -- the shame is that so many use that curiosity to be mean-spirited.
    Your kids are cuties, by the way -- and I can see a similarity in their smiles!

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